Mind and Body:
From René Descartes to William James

Writing Descartes:
I Am, and I Can Think, Therefore ...

Story Evolution
Hampe/Grobstein

an exchange triggered by Grobstein's Writing Descartes ...
1 August 2004

Hampe with interspersed Grobstein


Why would I want to change who I am? Someone living in a rose garden wouldn't want to change.

Yeah, yeah, wait until you've finished the thing, ok? And you, of all people, know as well as I do that most people DON'T live in rose gardens, whether they admit it to themselves or not. And besides, changing is fun and .... maybe what life is all about?

Like the idea of "reacting" to the essay, instead of "critiquing" it; it gives more freedom.

Yep, that's the idea. Not at all surprised that you saw it right away. Its interesting though how hard it is to get many other people to see it.

Like the idea of bringing up the unconscious. There was a time when no one thought about it. Then people thought about it as those things "people didn't want to think about". Now we know more, that people do lots of things unconsciously. In fact most things. We only become conscious when something upsets or disturbs us, when there's a glitch.

Do think the "unconscious" is the core of the matter. Not the "bad guy" unconscious but a real, neurobiological unconscious. And there's some pretty good neurobiological reason to think that indeed "consciousness" may have evolved primarily to deal with glitches (and may still be used mostly for that purpose).

Like the change of the epigram very much. It knocks the old phrasing on its head. It makes it obtuse to believe one could think without being. What are you trying to do, take Descartes off the wall and put yourself up there? To do away with the wall? I like it.

Thanks, but don't particularly want to be on the wall (and suspect Descartes' probably didn't either). Do though very much like the idea of doing away with the wall. Glad you like it too.

Like the idea that maybe we've finished "cataloging"; that's a good word for what maybe we can grow beyond.

Reminds me of your frequent insistence that people need to learn to pay less attention to nouns and more to verbs (see below)

Like "based on all of these", a lot. Is it that simple? I hope it is. You and I can start from there. If I can think, I can change .... not only me but lots of things.

Yep, THAT's the point. Pleased, not surprised, you get it/like it. Is where we always started, continue always to start.

I think its fun. I really do. We know so much more than in Descartes' time about thinking, being, emotion. Imagine what it was like then, how tidy it was. We can think about going to the moon. That required god-like powers then, not something humans had. We've done away with god-like powers, no longer need them. Its marvelous that we can think, and be able to change. Its a bigger conception of the universe. A fascinating idea, creating because of knowledge. Have we built it or discovered it?

Very happy to be able to share the fun. THINK we are in fact building it. And is very satisfying to be able to do that together.


Warren Hampe, MD is a psychiatrist with analytic training who helped me through a period of depression in the mid 1990's, and has remained a close friend ever since. Warren, now is his mid 80's, lives with a series of ailments including post-polio syndrome. His "reactions" were transcribed by me as he was reading the essay. My comments were added subsequently but reflect the normal tone of our conversations and are things I might well have said in the sequence of Warren's thoughts. Some additional sense of Warren, and of our relationship, can be gotten from the following list of things I had learned from him as of his birthday in 2002:

Lessons from Warren Hampe
  • Depression hurts ... but can be valuable.
  • Dreams are a dialectic. Pay attention to the dream-weaver ... but not too much.
  • Avoid depressive cognition.
  • Pay attention to the verbs instead of the nouns.
  • Life is a system. Share friendship and love. Keep wondering and wandering.

Conversation continues in the on-line forum




| Writing Descartes Home Page | Descartes Forum | Science in Culture | Serendip Home |

Send us your comments at Serendip

© by Serendip 1994- - Last Modified: Sunday, 15-Aug-2004 10:01:55 EDT