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Document Details :

Title: The Problem of the I
Author(s): MOMMAERS, Paul
Journal: Bijdragen
Volume: 56    Issue: 3   Date: 1995   
Pages: 257-285
DOI: 10.2143/BIJ.56.3.2002448

Abstract :
In this article a particular approach is presented to the problem of the human I. The starting-point is an 'interdisciplinary' question: I wonder whether nowadays we can - imbued as we are with post-cartesian criticism of the I - still be interested in mystical descriptions of the 'way inward', in particular those of Jan van Ruusbroec. I then try to develop a positive answer in three steps. First, it is shown that we do well now to get acquainted with Descartes' original experience of I think, therefore I am. As M. Henry has pointed out, this primary intuition should be taken into account as a fundamental element of modern philosophical reflexion on the I. Secondly, we come to see that the first cartesian insight in the proper reality of the I does not lay itself bare to the usual post-cartesian criticism. The reason for that immunity is rather obvious: the main targets - that the human I is a self-founding reality, that it is a substrat-substance and requires a 'robust' dualism - do not appear in Descartes' original self-experience. These three points are being elucidated by regular flash-backs on Augustine's self-analysis: the affinity between the original cartesian intuition and the augustinian view of 'interior man' is unmistakable indeed. By so looking back on Augustine we get, in the third place, a foretaste of the 'turning inwards', inkeeren presented by Jan van Ruusbroec. Of course, there are quite some differences between the inner exploration of the Latin thinker and the Flemish mystic's 'introversion' - caused by the divine 'touch', gherinen in his 'ground' - but that does not alter the fact of their being akin on those points that today embarrass us most. If then we allow ourselves to take some distance from the cartesianism we are acquainted with, Ruusbroec may well - and even more strongly than Augustine - appear as a valuable interlocutor. Maybe this medieval mystic is at least able to question our modern questioning of the reality of the I?

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