Volume 33, Issue 2/3, Summer/Fall 2003
Julie R. Klein
Dreaming with Open Eyes
Cartesian Dreams, Spinozan Analyses
"Dreaming with open eyes" is a tagline for Spinoza's critique of Descartes; the dreams in question are principally those of volition and the active imagination. In this article, I compare the Cartesian theory of imagination as an active, but not fully rational, power of the mind and the Cartesian account of the volitional self to Spinoza's views. Descartes's own dreams and theories of dreaming are the focus of the first part of the article. Thereafter I examine Spinoza's critique of Descartes and his alternative account of imagination. Finally, I argue that there is a positive sense of dreaming with open eyes to be recuperated in Spinoza's thought. Construed positively, to dream with open eyes is to understand dreams and imagination as natural phenomena and so to be able to respond constructively to them in ethical and political, as well as epistemological, life.