The Flight to Objectivity offers a new reading of Descartes’ Meditations informed by cultural history, psychoanalytic and cognitive psychology, and feminist thought. It focuses not on Descartes’ arguments as “timeless,” culturally disembodied events, but on the psychological drama and imagery of the Meditations explored in the context of the historical instability of the seventeenth century and deep historical changes in the structure of human experience.
The study includes textual and cultural material that together comprise a gradually unfolding psychocultural reading of the Meditations. Descartes’ famous doubt, and the ideal of objectivity which conquered that doubt, are considered as philosophical expressions of a cultural “drama of parturition” from the medieval universe, a process that generated new forms of experience, new cultural anxieties, and ultimately, new strategies for control and mastery of an utterly changed and alien world. Themes that figure prominently in recent literature on seventeenth-century philosophy and science–the birth of the mind as “mirror of nature,” and the “masculine” nature of modern science, the “death of nature”–are explored with reference to Descartes as a pivotal figure in the birth of modernity.