The Influence of Descartes, Rousseau and Kant on Joyce’s Stephen Dedalus
Keywords:Joyce, Stephen Dedalus, Descartes, Rousseau, Kant, modernism
The seventeenth and eighteenth centuries witnessed the transition from the Scholastic thought to modern philosophy and this detachment rendered the continental philosophical works increasingly sceptical. René Descartes attributed the notion of truth to cognitive processes; Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Immanuel Kant critiqued the mainstream thoughts in the centuries they lived in and enhanced the destabilisation of widely accepted notions by way of questioning the transcendental notion of Truth itself. Rousseau’s emphasis on individual truth and virtue and his critique of the corruptive effects of civilisation under the disguise of sciences and arts directly influenced Modernist thought and literature, besides French and American Revolutions and Romanticism. Prioritising personal truth and relative nature of values and with his conception of maturity, Kant also advocated free thinking and questioning acquired knowledge and values. The influence of these three philosophers is often underestimated in the analyses of modernist fiction. Thus, this article intends to analyse James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man in reference to Descartes’ “Meditations on First Philosophy", Rousseau’s “Discourse on the Sciences and the Arts" and Kant’s "An Answer to the Question: What is Enlightenment?" to discover the changing notions of truth, value and knowledge.
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