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The Embodied MindCognitive Science and Human Experience$
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Francisco J. Varela, Evan Thompson, and Eleanor Rosch

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780262529365

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262529365.001.0001

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The Cartesian Anxiety

The Cartesian Anxiety

(p.133) 7 The Cartesian Anxiety
The Embodied Mind

Francisco J. Varela

Evan Thompson

Eleanor Rosch

The MIT Press

This chapter examines directly the feeling that arises when one senses that one can no longer trust the world as a fixed and stable reference point. The nervousness that one feels is rooted in “the Cartesian anxiety.” The anxiety is best put as a dilemma: either one has a fixed and stable foundation for knowledge, or one cannot escape some sort of darkness, chaos, and confusion. Ultimately, this feeling of anxiety arises from the craving for an absolute ground. When this craving cannot be satisfied, the only other possibility seems to be nihilism or anarchy. The search for a ground can take many forms, but given the basic logic of representationism, the tendency is to search either for an outer ground in the world or an inner ground in the mind. By treating mind and world as opposed subjective and objective poles, the Cartesian anxiety oscillates endlessly between the two in search of a ground.

Keywords:   Cartesian anxiety, absolute ground, nihilism, anarchy, mind, world

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