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Poe and the Cogito

Poe and the Cogito by Jeffrey Folks With his famous theorem, Cogito, ergo sum, René Descartes initiated a modern conception of individual consciousness that signaled the divorcing of mind from a physical world that was now comprehended only by way of a method of doubt. In its dualistic conception of existence, Descartes’ theory split the individual mind from the world of nature and society, resulting in a growing sense of uncertainty and isolation. In the decades following Descartes’ death in 1650, European and American ph- i losophers attempted to come to terms with the difficulties posed by his famous theorem and with the reliance on rational analysis that it implied. Among these philosophers, Pascal, Spinoza, Rousseau, Franklin, and Jef- ferson arrived at differing conclusions, but whether they experienced the Cogito as liberating or enslaving, each was profoundly affected by the challenge to conventional truths that it entailed. Edgar Allan Poe’s philosophical leanings, while hardly systematic and shifting throughout his career, ree fl ct a context of epistemological doubt of the sort that Descartes set as the starting point of his inquiry. Poe fol- lowed Descartes in pursuing a basis of certainty in the face of this con- dition of doubt, and he sought http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png The Southern Literary Journal University of North Carolina Press

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Publisher
University of North Carolina Press
Copyright
Copyright © 2009 the Southern Literary Journal and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Department of English.
ISSN
1534-1461

Abstract

by Jeffrey Folks With his famous theorem, Cogito, ergo sum, René Descartes initiated a modern conception of individual consciousness that signaled the divorcing of mind from a physical world that was now comprehended only by way of a method of doubt. In its dualistic conception of existence, Descartes’ theory split the individual mind from the world of nature and society, resulting in a growing sense of uncertainty and isolation. In the decades following Descartes’ death in 1650, European and American ph- i losophers attempted to come to terms with the difficulties posed by his famous theorem and with the reliance on rational analysis that it implied. Among these philosophers, Pascal, Spinoza, Rousseau, Franklin, and Jef- ferson arrived at differing conclusions, but whether they experienced the Cogito as liberating or enslaving, each was profoundly affected by the challenge to conventional truths that it entailed. Edgar Allan Poe’s philosophical leanings, while hardly systematic and shifting throughout his career, ree fl ct a context of epistemological doubt of the sort that Descartes set as the starting point of his inquiry. Poe fol- lowed Descartes in pursuing a basis of certainty in the face of this con- dition of doubt, and he sought

Journal

The Southern Literary JournalUniversity of North Carolina Press

Published: Jan 27, 2010

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