Descartes' Loneliness

by Allen Grossman

Allen Grossman

Toward evening, the natural light becomes
intelligent and answers, without demur:
“Be assured! You are not alone. . . .”
But in fact, toward evening, I am not
convinced there is any other except myself
to whom existence necessarily pertains.
I also interrogate myself to discover
whether I myself possess any power
by which I can bring it about that I
who now am shall exist another moment.

Because I am mostly a thinking thing
and because this precise question can only
be from that thoughtful part of myself,
if such a power did reside within me
I should, I am sure, be conscious of it. . . .
But I am conscious of no such power.
And yet, if I myself cannot be
the cause of that assurance, surely
it is necessary to conclude that
I am not alone in the world. There is

some other who is the cause of that idea.
But if, at last, no such other can be
found toward evening, do I really have
sufficient assurance of the existence
of any other being at all? For,
after a most careful search, I have been
unable to discover the ground of that
conviction—unless it be imagined a lonely
workman on a dizzy scaffold unfolds
a sign at evening and puts his mark to it.

Descartes’ Loneliness

Last updated June 30, 2015