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How a Fiction Became the Truth: Five Thesis on Cogito, Imagination, and Modernity

Nicholas Veroli


No one name can sum up the project of Modernity. No one individual – intellectual, politician, or businessman – can convincingly be claimed to have embodied its essence. That being said, it is still possible to suggest that Rene Descartes (1596-1650), the 17th century French philosopher, more than any other perhaps, expressed some of modernity’s central assumptions, was caught in some of its most devastating aporias, reflected some of the most abiding tendencies that have characterized it as an historical formation. In fact, there is a long-standing tradition in the history of Western philosophy to see Descartes, in one way or another, as describing or revealing the paradigmatic experience of European modernity. Hegel was perhaps the first to proclaim the universality for our époque of the Cartesian experience and to celebrate it. Nietzsche mocked that experience altogether and Heidegger deplored it as a terrible mistake. Foucault ruthlessly dissected it. Nonetheless, all agreed that Descartes was, at the very least, a particularly convenient tool for mapping out the experience of modernity as such. Could Descartes be a useful synecdoche for Modern Times?

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Ijele: Art eJournal of the African World. ISSN: 1530-5686 (online).
Editor: Nkiru Nzegwu; Film Review Editor: Phyllis J. Jackson; Exhibition/Curator & Book Review Editor: Azuka Nzegwu

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