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Chiasms in Meditation or Toward the Notion of Cartesian Fiction

Juan Carlos Donado’s “Chiasms in Meditation or Toward the Notion of Cartesian Fiction” appears in Telos 162 (Spring 2013). Read the full version online at the Telos Online website, or purchase a print copy of the issue in our store.

In constant friction with readings that are either completely oblivious of the notion or merely mention the fictional aspect of Descartes’ Meditations, this essay attempts to philosophically thematize the concept of fiction, based on a now famous interpretation by Michel Foucault. We will attempt to make a robust case for constructing the concept of Cartesian fiction as a philosophically crucial category, which cannot be absent from an analysis that pretends to capture the thrust of Descartes’ writing in the Meditations. We will address how fiction plays a determining role in defining certain philosophical pillars of Cartesian thought, such as the concepts of radical doubt, truth, and the extension of rationality itself. We will closely read various key moments of Meditations I–II to illustrate why fiction can be viewed as the hermeneutical catalyst that unlocks the interpretation of certain “chiasms,” which Foucault well identified within the Meditations as the crossing between two discursive lines, that of the system and that of the exercise. At the same time and by the same token, the focus on the concept of fiction will serve to provide our own interpretation of the meditating subject’s encounter with madness, an encounter that spurred a heated debate between Foucault and Jacques Derrida.

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