I Think, Therefore I Criticize | Letters | Chicago Reader

I Think, Therefore I Criticize 

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Dear Editor:

As an admirer of Jonathan Rosenbaum's movie criticism, I was dismayed to find a serious non sequitur in the first sentence of his essay "Filling in the Blanks" (June 6). Mr. Rosenbaum writes, "If much of French cinema can be said to derive from the famous Cartesian phrase 'I think, therefore I am,' why does it yield so many realistic movies?"

Rosenbaum's apparent misconception here is that the famous dictum of Descartes' second meditation somehow implies that our knowledge of the external world is hazy or uncertain, or that everything is "in the mind." Nothing could be further from Descartes' actual philosophical views. In the fourth meditation, Descartes claims to have proven that "all things which we perceive very clearly and very distinctly are wholly true." Descartes believes that it would be against God's nature to systematically deceive us, since God is supremely perfect. Furthermore, although our senses are sometimes deceived, there are simple steps we can take to insure correct perception.

Perhaps Mr. Rosenbaum can use this opportunity to renew his acquaintance with Descartes' Meditations. I hope that he will be more careful in the future about marring his insightful reviews with facile or inaccurate philosophical allusions.

Andrew Nicholson

Ravenswood

Jonathan Rosenbaum replies:

While I do my research, perhaps Mr. Nicholson can reconsider my use of the word "realistic," which to my mind is quite distinct from "wholly true."

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