Freitag, 19.10.2018, 14:00h

Omri Boehm

Associate Professor of Philosophy, The New School for Social Research, New York

Cavell as an American reader of Tocqueville and Descartes

According to Alexis de Tocqueville, Americans are both anti-philosophical and perfectly Cartesian. In fact, he says they are anti-philosophical because perfectly Cartesian: he thinks democracy in America threatens to culminate in a “tyranny of the masses” because of this Cartesian attitude. I read Cavell’s relation to Descartes as a (de facto) response to Tocqueville. His philosophical psychology provides a metaphysics of the mind that is alternative to Descartes’ cogito, hoping to demonstrate that America’s spirit is inherently anti-Cartesian. I conclude with critical comments on both Cavell’s and Tocqueville’s understanding of Descartes.