• Marcus de Brun
    450
    I think therefore I am.

    In his Meditations Descartes 'proves' the existence or at least the irreducibility of the function 'thought'.

    However after this glorious triumph of thought upon itself, an immediate ignominious end to the thought, begins with the subsequent pressumption that there is an 'I' who is thinking. This presumption is then followed by the necessary assumption that the 'I' is distinct from the universe, and that thought is generated or manufactured by this thinking I, Gods, souls, and a material Universe all form part of the presumptive sequalae.

    Arguably the Cartesian application of the 'I' to the thought, has done the greatest damage to Philosophy in the history of Philosophy?
  • tim wood
    3k
    You really need to read Descartes more closely - or read better commentaries. Until you do, your comments don't really touch anything Descartes said.
    ...has done the greatest damage to Philosophy in the history of Philosophy?Marcus de Brun

    What damage? How? What alternative do you have?
  • Relativist
    829

    It seems to me that "me-ness" is derived from our innate point of view, not something learned or inferred. Same with "other-ness" - that which is not me. If one were to then infer the universe is part of the other, that indeed seems a false inference.
  • Akanthinos
    1k
    However after this glorious triumph of thought upon itself, an immediate ignominious end to the thought, begins with the subsequent pressumption that there is an 'I' who is thinking.Marcus de Brun

    It's not an assumption, it's one pole on the axiom of egology. "Cogito ergo sum" loses the stress put by the French translation "Je pense, donc je suis". Its a bit like Husserl's noema, every thought-act contains an I-pole and a content-pole.

    You can reach the same degree of epistemological certainty as the Cogito through other similar methods, all which boil down to the same fundamental axiomatic truth. For example, make it a betting problem : How much is reasonnable to bet on your own existence, at any point in time?
  • Marcus de Brun
    450


    "You really need to read Descartes more closely - or read better commentaries. Until you do, your comments don't really touch anything Descartes said."

    Tim

    Thanks for the rather pedantic reply and the advice therein. I look forward to your insights on Descartes, beyond the rather avuncular siggestions to me directly.

    The discussion at hand refers specifically to Decartes second Meditation. Through the application of the dream analogy, and that of the evil demon, Decartes offers convincing if not conclusive evidence for the uniquivocal existence of thought. All other aspects of experience can be doubted, however one cannot doubt oneself into the belief that thought does not exist, as one must apply the modality of thought in the attempt to prove its non existence.

    However the association of the "I" with this thought, is not equally affirmed by Descartes, indeed throughout the Meditations Descartes refers to himself as "what am I only a thing that thinks". There is a significant distance between the concepts of :

    1) a thing that thinks
    2) a thing that experiences thought
    3) a thingless experience of thought
    4) an 'I' thinking

    From my own reading of Descartes I fail to see how anything more than the assertion at 3, a thingless experience of thought has been effectively reasoned by Descartes.

    Neitzsche amongst others has been critical of the presumptions that are invariably added to 3, namely the presence of an 'I' and the notion that thinking is generated by this 'I'.

    I have omitted quotations from Descartes as most are familliar enough with the Meditations. Let me know if you remain in the dark Tim and I will be happy to provide some reference points.

    M
  • tim wood
    3k
    Decartes offers convincing if not conclusive evidence for the uniquivocal existence of thought.Marcus de Brun
    I am properly chastised by your tone. Sorry for being a dick. You must have some tough uncles.

    The cogito comes in different forms. "I think, therefore I am." "This proposition, I am, I exist, is necessarily true whenever it is put forward by me or conceived in my mind."

    This part of it, at least, is not rocket science. Note the I. Cogito, ego cogito, both "I think." The idea of a thought without someone (thing) having it is not part of Descartes' thinking. Indeed, it cannot be. If it were possible for there to be thought without it being thought, then Descartes could be fooled as to his being. So he concludes ergo sum, therefore I am. I am a being who thinks.

    To understand how he reasons out the rest of it does have elements of rocket science, although it is a sketch in many commentaries if not entirely omitted. First, Descartes had a first-class education. He was completely well-versed in the religious controversies of his times. That is, we don't get to second guess him or know him or his issues better than he did.

    Second, the religious strife of the times was altogether serious both in substance and effect. And both because most were fully engaged.

    Third he was brought up a nominalist (as opposed to a Scholastic realist). God for a nominalist is a terrifying omnipotent being. Terrifying because he can do anything, and no reason to suppose that he won't. This view, nominalism, had pushed aside scholastic realism without entirely eliminating it. For the nominalist, nothing at all is secure.

    And part of Descartes' accomplishment was to establish security. How did he do it? By performing a trick with scholastic realism.

    Best to quote, here: "The argument depends on the scholastic distinction between levels of being or reality. Substance or being, according to this account, has more reality than accidents, and infinite being has more reality than finite being. God is thus more real than things, and things more real than accidents such as colors. Descartes employs this argument but gives it a peculiar twist. When I look into myself, I find an idea of perfection, but because I have come to understand myself as a finite being who can be deceived, I recognize that I am not perfect and that the idea of perfection cannot come from me. This idea, however, must come from somewhere and that somewhere is God. God must be the cause of this idea. God therefore exists and is perfect. The idea of God, according to Descartes, is thus innate in us.... If, however, God is perfect, then he never deceives us, because all deception is the result of some lack....

    "For Descartes, I come to recognize myself as limited and distinct at the end of the path of doubt. In becoming self-conscious, in positing myself as a finite being, I recognized myself as distinct from other beings, as needy, as imperfect. God, however, comes to no such realization. He is not finite and thus cannot be self-conscious of himself because his will is never impeded, never limited by what it is not. God thus cannot distinguish himself from all that is. As a result, he cannot be a deceiver. And if God is not a deceiver, then Descartes' universal science is secure.

    "Descartes in this way tames the nomiinalist God by reducing him to pure intellectual substance.... As pure intelligence, God is pure will. As infinite, God's will is not directed toward anything specific; it is causality as such. God is the causi sui because he is pure causality, the mechanism at the heart of nature, a how and not a what. Looking backward we could say that he is fortuna, or forward, the source of the motion of all matter....

    "Descartes was able in the end to resolve the fear of the Lord with his completed wisdom.... But this was not the greatest danger. The God that Descartes first feared was a titanic God , beyond reason and nature, beyond good and evil. Descartes won his struggle with this fearsome God only by taking this God's power on himself. He thereby opened up the hopes and aspiration for human omnipotence, a hope that has manifested itself repeatedly since in monstrous form." (The Theological Origins of Modernity, Michael Gillespie, 2008, chapter 6.)

    And so it goes. This author cites two books as "the best in English": Richard Watson, Cogito, Ergo, Sum: The Life of Rene Descartes (2002, and Stephen Gaukroger, Descartes: An intellectual Biography, (1995).

    The underlying ground is the conflict between the perfect (i.e., not omnipotent) God of scholastic realism, and the omnipotent (not perfect) God of nominalism. This boils like a lava pit in an active volcano, with periodic eruptions from c. 1200, with roots back to 300 AD. And arguably boils still.

    There is, in short, a lot more to this stuff, as indeed there is with most stuff, than meets the eye.
  • Sir2u
    1.8k
    From my own reading of Descartes I fail to see how anything more than the assertion at 3, a thingless experience of thought has been effectively reasoned by Descartes.Marcus de Brun

    Is it possible for nothing to have an experience? Is it possible for nothing to have an a thought?

    Something must have experienced the thought otherwise you cannot use the word experienced. Events don't happen to nothings.

    It has been a very long time since I last read Descartes in anything like a serious fashion but I do not understand how you reached your conclusion.
  • Number2018
    273
    "The cogito comes in different forms. "I think, therefore I am." "This proposition, I am, I exist, is necessarily true whenever it is put forward by me or conceived in my mind."
    Descartes established the fundumental doubling of the subject into two different, but coexisting
    subjects: the subject of the enunciation and the subject of the statement.
  • Marcus de Brun
    450


    The cogito comes in different forms. "I think, therefore I am." "This proposition, I am, I exist, is necessarily true whenever it is put forward by me or conceived in my mind."

    This part of it, at least, is not rocket science. Note the I. Cogito, ego cogito, both "I think." The idea of a thought without someone (thing) having it is not part of Descartes' thinking. Indeed, it cannot be. If it were possible for there to be thought without it being thought, then Descartes could be fooled as to his being. So he concludes ergo sum, therefore I am. I am a being who thinks.


    The difficulty here is that an active self has been introduced into thought, through the back door without having either an ivitation or any credentials to gain entry to the 'party'.

    What descartes has proven is that it is possible for there to be thought, and thought is inescapable through thought itself. But he has not shown the thinking... that he or we are in control of our thoughts. He admits this point in Meditation 5 when he asserts that

    "There is certainly further in me a certain passive faculty of perception, that is, of receiving and
    recognising the ideas of sensible things, but this would be useless to me
    [and I could in no way avail myself of it], if there were not either in me
    or in some other thing another active faculty capable of forming and
    producing these ideas. But this active faculty cannot exist in me
    [inasmuch as I am a thing that thinks] seeing that it does not presuppose
    thought, and also that those ideas are often produced in me without my
    contributing in any way to the same, and often even against my will; it
    is thus necessarily the case that the faculty resides in some substance
    different from me in which all the reality which is objectively in the
    ideas that are produced by this faculty is formally or eminently
    contained, as I remarked before. And this substance is either a body,
    that is, a corporeal nature in which there is contained formally [and
    really] all that which is objectively [and by representation] in those
    ideas, or it is God Himself, or some other creature more noble than
    body in which that same is contained eminently."

    Neitzsche in aphorism 17 (BG&E) Reiterates Descartes own criticism of himself, with the empirically correct observation that 'a thought comes when it wills' and not when this 'I' thing wills it. Therefore if thought simply comes when it wills, and is not generated by the entirely presumptive 'I', we must conclude that thought is independent of the 'I' and return to the fundamental principle that thought exists apriori. Although this is an unpleasant self negation, there is much evidence empirical and otherwise to point to its truth, and it seems to me that Philosophy all too often appears to fear the implications rather than explore them fully. And this 'fear' has led to much published and convicted nonsense.
  • jorndoe
    682
    I think it was Gassendi that brought the same objection up way back in the 1600s, @Marcus de Brun. (y)
    When it comes to pure deduction, you don't get much for free (non-ampliative), rather "cogito therefore thinking exists".
    Compare: something exists, since otherwise this wouldn't be.
    But of course, I don't really need Descartes or anyone else to tell me that thoughts (and I) exist, whatever it all may be. :)
  • Marcus de Brun
    450

    I have avoided Gassendi' objections because he comes at the problem with the same celestial bias that contaminates Descartes thought beyond his second meditation, and (through no fault of his own) Gassendi is unawares of recent relavent developments/observations in the realm of QM.

    Nietzsche (for our purposes here) identifies the 'problem' quite succinctly, he obviously brings no particular God-bias to the table and furthermore he addresses the 'problem' to The Philosopher of the Future.

    We unquestionably occupy Nietzsche's future and there are indeed a few philosophers here on the forum.

    Your previous post in respect of 'that' and 'what', appears to exclude a temporal variable. 'That' .....is atemporal and 'what' is necessarily temporal. The 'that' becomes the subjective 'what' only upon the application of temporality at t+1. Your elephant becomes and begins to run, contingent upon time.

    It appears as though Descartes quantum leap from thought to the 'I' includes but does not consider the application of temporality and is a simillar extension from a 'that' to a 'what'.

    p = ∃x ∈ S [ φx ]

    is fixed, however the Universe is (apparently|) unfixed.

    p(t1) = ∃x ∈ S [ φx(t+1) ]

    ?

    M
  • Number2018
    273
    Neitzsche in aphorism 17 (BG&E) Reiterates Descartes own criticism of himself, with the empirically correct observation that 'a thought comes when it wills' and not when this 'I' thing wills it. Therefore if thought simply comes when it wills, and is not generated by the entirely presumptive 'I', we must conclude that thought is independent of the 'I' and return to the fundamental principle that thought exists apriori." Nietzsche was absolutely right, but it is still vague what does it mean that thought comes when it wills and exists priori. It is still opened to so many interpretations. Definitely, Deleuse furthermore develops this idea of Nietzsche when he splits the thinking subject into two mutually dependently acting subjects: the subject of the enunciation and the subject of the statement, the thinking "I", and existing "I". Both kinds of "I' are related through the dominating (in particular philosophical) discourse.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    6k
    Neitzsche in aphorism 17 (BG&E) Reiterates Descartes own criticism of himself, with the empirically correct observation that 'a thought comes when it wills' and not when this 'I' thing wills it. Therefore if thought simply comes when it wills, and is not generated by the entirely presumptive 'I', we must conclude that thought is independent of the 'I' and return to the fundamental principle that thought exists apriori.Marcus de Brun

    It is impossible that a thought could will itself into existence. It must already exist in order to will anything. So willing itself into existence would mean that it wills itself before it exists, to bring itself into existence. But this is impossible because it would mean that it exists prior to its own existence. This description of a thought is nothing other than a description of a self-caused thing. That's contradiction because it means that the thing must both exist (as the cause) and not exist (prior to the thing's existence) at the same time.
  • tim wood
    3k
    ...empirically correct observation.... Nietzsche was absolutely right.Number2018
    Bold claims. If correct, and absolutely right, please reproduce here both evidence and argument.
  • dclements
    234

    "Cogito ergo sum" is really little more than a proof by assertion since neither the subject "I", the action of "thinking", or the state of "existing" can be defined. If you understand the nature of most "truths" and question them, you will understand they are merely what people want to be true and therefore are assumed to be 'true'when they meet are very limited criteria. However as human beings real "truths" are beyond our resources to find and/or understand so it is a given that we have to make due with these limited truths until we can understand more about the world around us, or do not need "truths" in order to interpret the world around us.
  • Marcus de Brun
    450


    "It is impossible that a thought could will itself into existence."

    Why have you left the ball park and started a different game.

    The origin of thought, its 'initiation' or coming into existence applies new variables to thought vis an origin and a temporal plane (initiation). These may well be variables that are applicable to thought, however they are 'I' variables and pertain to the existence of a material self and material things.

    If thought is indeed apriori the 'I' thing is a composite thing, or a thing animated, given its temporality and its manifest form, through an engagement or relationship with apriori thought.

    A pancake is not expected to play by the same rules that might apply to flour and water, it is a composite thing, a new thing.

    You cannot expect the apriori to follow the same rules and behave in the same manner that the composite follows and adheres too.

    We are starting with the reality that it (thought) exists apriori to the 'I' and as such is independent of the 'I'. That the 'I' is a pancake and subject to the rules of pancakes, brings nothing to the table. (other than a pancake).

    Let us attempt to finish this game, before we start desert.

    M
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    6k
    We are starting with the reality that it (thought) exists apriori to the 'I' and as such is independent of the 'I'. That the 'I' is a pancake and subject to the rules of pancakes, brings nothing to the table. (other than a pancake).Marcus de Brun

    OK, we have a thought. Where did the thought come from, what caused it? It is impossible that it willed itself into existence, because that would imply that it existed prior to its existence, in the sense of "self-caused", and that's contradictory. So something else must have caused it. Therefore the thought is not alone, as a solo, isolated and solipsistic entity, it comes from somewhere. Can we agree that this thing which caused the existence of the thought ought to be called "I"?
  • Marcus de Brun
    450
    Can we agree that this thing which caused the existence of the thought ought to be called "I"?Metaphysician Undercover

    Absolutely NOT. From where did you pull the chain of assumption that leads you come up with the notion that the "I" is the cause and 'thought' the effect?

    This is the very (failed) paradigm that is under scrutiny here. If thought exists apriori the 'I' cannot function as its causation.

    You then insist upon the uninvited and unqualified imposition of TIME upon thought, vis the assumption that a cause 'causes' its associated 'effect'. This too is another enormous assumption that is dealt with to some degree by Hume.

    If you are dead set on a 'beginning' for the independent thing that is 'thought', then surely it (thought) should be permitted (like every 'thing' else) to share in the Singularity preceding the Bang, and have its beginnings there. The physicist has taken greater liberties with ALL the things of material reality... and apparently gotten away with much nonsense.

    You tender the presumption that thought has some temporal quality (it may have) but you have taken the liberty of putting it all together under the assumed supremacy of the 'I'

    You are apparently in monogamous love with your pancake.

    M
  • StreetlightX
    4.1k
    It always pains me a little bit when the popular press - or the non-philosophically inclined - take Descartes' maxim to be a self-evident statement, and not the logical muddle that it is (it doesn't, for a start, even meet the minimal requirement for a syllogism, which needs at least two premises, and not the dangling and lonely 'I think' that preceeds the 'ergo'. Whatever the content of the statement, it doesn't even have the form necessary for an argument!). There is a grain of truth in it, but it is generally elsewhere than where it is normally taken to be, and certainly not where Descartes thought it was.
  • frank
    3.1k
    As Hume pointed out, it isn't an ontological argument. It can be interpreted as trivially true, which seems to be in keeping with Descartes' project, which was to gently wrest control over intellectual progress from an inane Church and provide another foundation for it.
  • Marcus de Brun
    450

    Descartes' project, which was to gently wrest control over intellectual progress from an inane Church and provide another foundation for it.frank

    "TO THE MOST WISE AND ILLUSTRIOUS THE DEAN AND DOCTORS OF THE SACRED
    FACULTY OF THEOLOGY IN PARIS.

    "The motive which induces me to present to you this Treatise is so excellent, and, when you become
    acquainted with its design, I am convinced that you will also have so excellent a motive for taking it
    under your protection, that I feel that I cannot do better, in order to render it in some sort acceptable to you, than in a few words to state what I have set myself to do. I have always considered that the two questions respecting God and the Soul were the chief of those that ought to be demonstrated by philosophical rather than theological argument. For although it is quite enough for us faithful ones to accept by means of faith the fact that the human soul does not perish with the body, and that God exists, it certainly does not seem possible ever to persuade infidels of any religion, indeed, we may almost say, of any moral virtue, unless, to begin with, we prove these two facts by means of the natural reason."

    Renes Descartes.

    Introduction to the Meditations.

    By Jingo Frank: if he was just being 'gentle'... then he was some man for the spoofs!

    M
  • frank
    3.1k
    I dont think he was a man for the spoofs.
  • Marcus de Brun
    450


    With the rarest of exception: All greatly popular men are necessarily great spoofers. Descartes was a great man who was very popular (partly) because he was a great spoofer, Nietzsche had him figured out. Nietzsche was not a spoofer.

    Spinoza was a contemporary of Descartes and he was certainly not a spoofer (he paid the usual price). Interestingly Spinoza pointed out Descartes' spoofing to Descartes (i think he wrote him a letter) but the latter never responded, because he was caught up in the spoofs that are needed to preserve the initial spoof.

    I think the only thing God apparently loves more than a trier, is a good spoofer.

    M
  • Number2018
    273
    We can consider the most prominent figures of psychoanalyses: Freud and Lacan.
    Their theories and practices can provide evidence that Nietzsche was right: the thought is determined by anonymous and non-personal factors, such as Unconsciousness of Freud and Real of Lacan
  • Number2018
    273
    However the association of the "I" with this thought, is not equally affirmed by Descartes, indeed throughout the Meditations Descartes refers to himself as "what am I only a thing that thinks". There is a significant distance between the concepts of :

    1) a thing that thinks
    2) a thing that experiences thought
    3) a thingless experience of thought
    4) an 'I' thinking

    From my own reading of Descartes I fail to see how anything more than the assertion at 3, a thingless experience of thought has been effectively reasoned by Descartes."

    Could you illustrate all 4 concepts by concrete examples? Who developed them? And if not Descartes,
    who was first to introduce the concept of the thinking "I'?
  • tim wood
    3k
    Descartes was a great man who was very popularMarcus de Brun
    Absolutely NOT. From where did you pull the chain of assumption that leads you come up with the notion that the "I" is the cause and 'thought' the effect?
    This is the very (failed) paradigm that is under scrutiny here. If thought exists apriori the 'I' cannot function as its causation.
    Marcus de Brun
    Just what sort of a thing do you imagine a thought is, if it is not the product of the being who thinks it? Or as a Phil. Prof. noted on a paper of mine a long time ago, "No mind, no thought." Or, if you think "to be" is a subject-less verb, it isn't. Gerunds like being, or like flying, are abstract only in the sense of being non-specific. Flying requires fliers for there to be flying. Being requires beings for there to be being. Thinking requires a thinker.

    When you say "thought exists a priori," what do you mean? I suspect from your usage that you do not know what a priori means - can you clarify?

    Are you arguing there is no I, no being?

    Where do you get that Descartes was very popular?

    And what is spoofing? If you mean that he had to trim his published/public thinking so that some people wouldn't do the kind of bad things to him that they had done to others, I think that's generally acknowledged of him and others. Is that what you mean by spoofing? if you mean instead what Melville calls skylarking, or joking or fooling around, then you're wrong.


    "How are to understand the [[i]cogito[/i]]? On the surface it looks as if it is the conclusion of a syllogism, but Descartes rejects this notion in the Replies. If it were the conclusion of a syllogism, it could not be fundamental since it would depend on more fundamental premises and on the principle of noncontradiction. Descartes asserts in the Discourse and later in the Principles that it is a judgment.... in Kantian terms, it is a synthetic a priori truth. That said, it is not just any synthetic a priori truth; it is rather the I's self-grounding act, its self-creation. Descartes explains the nature of such self-grounding judgments in the Replies: "We cannot doubt them unless we think of them, but we cannot think of them without at the same time believing that they are true..., that is, we can never doubt them." (The Theological Origins of Modernity, Gillespie, (196-197)).

    In my posts here and above I'm mostly channeling a book or two. It's clear to me that so far, and myself included, there is little or no understanding of Descartes demonstrated in this thread beyond the quotations adduced - and I've learned a lot from the readings the quotations are taken from.

    The real job of criticizing a thinker comes only after you've taken on and worked at his thinking - made it yours, at least to some degree.

    Absent that work, it's an exercise in opinion - ignorance - and we all have those. But in such discussions of opinions, modesty of claim is meretricious; it signals the perhaps of a willingness to learn.
  • Number2018
    273
    "It is impossible that a thought could will itself into existence. It must already exist in order to will anything. So willing itself into existence would mean that it wills itself before it exists, to bring itself into existence. But this is impossible because it would mean that it exists prior to its own existence. This description of a thought is nothing other than a description of a self-caused thing. That's contradiction because it means that the thing must both exist (as the cause) and not exist (prior to the thing's existence) at the same time."
    It would be a paradox if Descartes was completely isolated. However, he supported himself by prevailing contemporary discourse ( with all possible connotations) of his time.
  • tim wood
    3k
    So that you can educate me! Now try a substantive reply to my request for support for your claims. Btw, you do know that psychoanalysis as theory or account of anything, notwithstanding the benefits that can accrue to almost anyone who talks to a skilled and experienced listener for a time, is pretty much exploded nonsense, which is why psychiatrists (I know that psychiatry and psychoanalysis are different things done by different people, but for present purpose it's the similarities that tell) pretty much just prescribe pills - don't you?
  • Number2018
    273
    That said, it is not just any synthetic a priori truth; it is rather the I's self-grounding act, its self-creation. Descartes explains the nature of such self-grounding judgments in the Replies: "We cannot doubt them unless we think of them, but we cannot think of them without at the same time believing that they are true..., that is, we can never doubt them." (The Theological Origins of Modernity, Gillespie, (196-197)).
    I think that is why many of us again and again coming back to Descartes: we try to find some new ground
    where we lost all possible grounds, in our thinking or in its absence. That is what Nietzsche did, even when he tried to dismantle Descartes's cogito.
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