Sed laboriosum est hoc institutum, & desidia quaedam ad consuetudinem vitae me reducit. Nec aliter quàm captivus, qui forte imaginariâ libertate fruebatur in somnis, cùm postea suspicari incipit se dormire, timet excitari, blandisque illusionibus lente connivet: sic sponte relabor in veteres opiniones, vereorque expergisci, ne placidae quieti laboriosa vigilia succedens, non in aliquâ luce, sed inter inextricabiles jam motarum difficultatum tenebras, in posterum sit degenda.
But this is a laborious intention, and a certain sloth reduces me to the usual course of life, and like a Prisoner who in his sleep perhaps enjoy’d an imaginary liberty, and when he begins to suppose that he is asleep is afraid to waken, but is willing to be deceived by the Pleasant delusion; so I willingly fall into my old opinions, and am afraid to be Roused, least a toilsome waking succeeding a pleasant rest I may hereafter live not in the light, but in the confused darkness of the doubts now raised.
—Descartes (Meditations on First Philosophy, I.12, trans. William Molyneux)1
- Cf. Cottingham’s translation: ‘This will be hard work, though, and a kind of laziness pulls me back into my old ways. Like a prisoner who dreams that he is free, starts to suspect that it is merely a dream, and wants to go on dreaming rather than waking up, so I am content to slide back into my old opinions; I fear being shaken out of them because I am afraid that my peaceful sleep may be followed by hard labour when I wake, and that I shall have to struggle not in the light but in the imprisoning darkness of the problems I have raised.’ [↩]