The Imaginary and Descartes’s Paradoxical Rationality

The imaginary plays a distinctive role in Descartes’ writings. While its place is often articulated in negative terms (as that which is illusory or deceptive), it nonetheless serves as an important ground for the Cartesian project to unfold. Descartes’ search for clear and distinct ideas takes place through reason’s interplay with the imaginary. While its reliability as a source of knowledge is ultimately dismissed, the imaginary is that which is never truly mastered or overcome. It is a source of dread and anxiety; which reason seeks to mitigate. This essay explores such interplay between the real and the imaginary, between reason and “unreason” in Descartes’ Meditations as well as his Olympica, which contains some precursor themes and tropes to The Meditations. While the Cartesian project seeks to separate the real from the imaginary and reason from unreason, I argue that the manner in which his discourse unfolds reveals their inextricable tie.
Citation Formats
F. İbrahimhakkıoğlu, “The Imaginary and Descartes’s Paradoxical Rationality,” pp. 37–50, 2018, Accessed: 00, 2021. [Online]. Available: