• charles ferraro
    6
    For the sake of argument, let us assume that I possess a cognitive nature that is inherently defective and that its invalidation effects are always operative.

    Question 1: How, precisely, should I expect to experience the invalidation effects of my Defective Cognitive Nature on the truths expressed by the Cartesian Cogito if I interpret the Cogito to be an inferential proposition?

    A unique approach to addressing this matter was formulated by Professor Lex Newman of the Dept. of Philosophy at the University of Utah. Specifically, Professor Newman grants that one's cognitive nature is inherently defective, assumes that a Cogito Sum performance is equivalent to a Cogito Sum inferential proposition (justifying this assumption by application of the logical principle of modus ponens), and then proposes, or entertains, the skeptical hypothesis that the truths expressed by the Cogito Sum inferential proposition are defeasible because they are susceptible to the invalidation effects of my Defective Cognitive Nature when I am no longer directly attending to the truths expressed by the inferential proposition, or no longer clearly and distinctly perceiving the truths expressed by the inferential proposition.

    In this regard, note how Professor Newman, who asserts that the truths expressed by the Cogito Sum are defeasible knowledge, focuses exclusively on the example of the Cogito Sum rendered as an inferential proposition to argue his position.

    "Recall that the Evil Genius doubt is, fundamentally, a doubt about our cognitive nature. Maybe my mind was made flawed, such that I go wrong even when my perception is clear and distinct. As the meditator conveys in the fourth paragraph, my creator might have "given me a nature such that I was deceived even in matters which seemed most evident," with the consequence that "I go wrong even in those matters which I think I see utterly clearly with my mind's eye" (AT 7:36). The result is a kind of epistemic schizophrenia:

    Moments of epistemic optimism: While I am directly attending to a proposition perceiving it clearly and distinctly - I enjoy an irresistible cognitive luminance and my assent is compelled.

    Moments of epistemic pessimism: When no longer directly attending - no longer perceiving the proposition clearly and distinctly - I can entertain the skeptical hypothesis that such feelings of cognitive luminance are epistemically worthless, arising from a defective cognitive nature.

    The doubt is thus indirect in the sense that these moments of epistemic pessimism arise when I am no longer directly attending to the proposition in question." (Newman, Lex, "Descartes' Epistemology", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy", (Winter 2016 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL

    The Cogito ergo Sum inferential proposition expresses the truths: "I think, therefore I exist." Once again, let me assume that I possess an inherently defective cognitive nature which is always operative. When and while I am no longer paying direct attention to the truths expressed by this inferential proposition, or when and while I am no longer clearly and distinctly perceiving the truths expressed by this inferential proposition, it is claimed I can assume - entertain the skeptical hypothesis - that the truths expressed by this inferential proposition are defeasible because they are susceptible to the invalidation effects of my defective cognitive nature.

    But what exactly does this mean?

    Literally, and in its totality, this means that:

    -- I can doubt the truth that I am thinking, (or I can assume that I am not thinking when and while I think that I am thinking),
    -- I can doubt the truth that I am existing, (or I can assume that I am not existing when and while I think that I am existing), and
    -- I can doubt the truth that I am inferring my existing from my thinking, (or I can assume that I am not inferring my existing from my thinking when and while I think that I am inferring my existing from my thinking).

    But upon deeper reflection, I realize that I can never subscribe to such hypothetical doubts because the truths concerning the occurrence of my thinking, existing, and inferring are existentially consistent and existentially self-verifying perfofmances, and, as such, they will always take ontological precedence over, and nullify, any purported indirect invalidation effects that my defective cognitive nature might seem to have on these truths. In fact, existentially consistent and existentially self-verifying performative truths simply cannot be invalidated indirectly by effects or "counter-truths" that are existentially inconsistent and existentially self-defeating, even if the source of the latter is a defective cognitive nature. Which leads me to the next question.

    Question 2: How, precisely, should I expect to experience the invalidation effects of my Defective Cognitive Nature on the truths expressed by the Cartesian Cogito Sum, if I interpret the Cogito Sum to be my performance, rather than an inferential proposition?

    First, the truths expressed by my Cogito Sum, interpreted to be my performance in the first person, present tense mode, are not susceptible to indirect attention or indirect perception, because, as my performance, rather than as an inferential proposition, it is meaningless for me no longer "to perceive its truths clearly and distinctly," or no longer "to attend to its truths directly." To speak of my no longer clearly and distinctly perceiving the truths of my Cogito Sum performance or of my no longer directly attending to the truths of my Cogito Sum performance are not only awkward expressions but also essentially meaningless expressions. My perceiving or my attending to the truths expressed by an inferential proposition, be my perceiving or my attending to direct or indirect, are essentially irrelevant when it concerns my performing the truths of my Cogito Sum. Either I am directly performing the truths of my Cogito Sum in the first person, present tense mode, or I am not directly performing the truths of my Cogito Sum in the first person, present tense mode. There is no other (indirect) performance option regarding the truths of my Cogito Sum.

    Second, my Defective Cognitive Nature (DCN) should cause me to experience directly the occurrence of the following invalidation effects in relation to the truths of the Cogito Sum interpreted to be my performance. My DCN should cause me to experience directly a definite invalidation of the indubitable certainty of the truths of my Cogito Sum, when and while I am performing my Cogito Sum in the first person, present tense mode, by simultaneously enabling me to experience directly the counter-truths that I am neither thinking, nor existing, when and while I am performing my Cogito Sum in the first person, present tense mode. This is precisely what must occur for me to have a complete, convincing, definitive personal experience of the direct invalidation effects of my DCN on the truths of my Cogito Sum performance.

    But my Defective Cognitive Nature (DCN), acting directly, cannot enable me to experience, in the first person, present tense mode, the invalidation effects described above. My DCN totally lacks the power required to make these impossible, existentially inconsistent and existentially self-defeating, invalidation effects occur. The truths of my Cogito Sum performance are indefeasible because I experience that they are utterly immune to the direct invalidation effects of my DCN.

    Third, if my Defective Cognitive Nature (DCN) exists and if it is directly operative now, then one could argue that whatever I experience to be true now, must necessarily be false now, including the truth that my DCN exists now, and that it is directly invalidating the truths of my Cogito Sum performance, now. In fact, if my DCN exists and if it is always operative, then it also can be argued, quite convincingly, that it is a transcendental faculty in the Kantian sense of the term, because it exerts a direct absolutely necessary and strictly universal (i.e., inescapable) invalidation effect on the truth of any and all matters it considers, including, ironically, the truth of its own existence and the truth of its invalidation effects on the truths of my Cogito Sum performance. If I assume that I have a DCN which is always operative, then I must conclude that it exerts inescapably deleterious effects which are constantly pervading my entire consciousness. No single or complex aspect of the functioning of my consciousness can escape
    these deleterious effects. The fundamental problem, then, would be to exhaustively enumerate and describe precisely these deleterious effects. However, to accomplish this task satisfactorily, I would first have to provide a description of the nature of my consciousness free from all the deleterious effects caused by my DCN. Unfortunately, this is similar, if not identical, to the unanswerable question regarding the nature of Kant's "thing-in-itself." Only now the "thing-in-itself" is characterized as an unimpaired, undistorted, subjective "consciousness-in-itself."

    Thus, again, the truths of my Cogito Sum performance are indefeasible because the very notion of the truth of the existence of my DCN and the truth of its direct invalidation effects on the truths of my Cogito Sum performance inevitably and invariably self-destruct.

    The Priority of the Cogito Sum Performance

    I always create an existential relation between myself and the I of the Cartesian "I think, I exist" whenever, and while, I am performing the thought-act "I think, I exist" in the first person, present tense mode. Furthermore, my "I think, I exist" performance is always existentially consistent and, therefore, existentially self-verifying. And whenever I try to perform its negation "I am not thinking, I am not existing" in the first person, present tense mode, it always turns out to be existentially inconsistent and, therefore, existentially self-defeating.

    By contrast, I cannot create an existential relation between myself and the I of the Cartesian inferential proposition "I think, therefore, I exist" because the inferential proposition provides nothing more than an objective written version or representation of my original subjective performance or thought-act. And because I cannot create an existential relation between myself and the I of the inferential proposition, the fundamental notions of existential consistency and existential self-verification are neither applicable, nor relevant, to the inferential proposition. Only the notion of logical validity is applicable and relevant to the inferential proposition.


    The Cogito Sum inferential proposition can be interpreted to be a derivative rendition of my original Cogito Sum performance because the objective logical truths expressed in writing by the Cogito Sum proposition are ultimately dependent upon and derived from the more primordial existentially consistent and existentially self-verifying truths that result from my subjective Cogito Sum performance. It is the existentially consistent and existentially self-verifying truths resulting from my Cogito Sum performance which provide the necessary and sufficient ontological pre-conditions that support the existence of the objective logical truths that are expressed in written form by the Cogito Sum inferential proposition. Because the existence of the Cogito Sum inferential proposition is dependent on the Cogito Sum performance, this explains why modus ponens is applicable to the Cogito Sum and why the Cogito Sum appears to involve both a valid inference regarding the truth of my existence and a performance-based existentially-consistent and existentially self-verifying intuition of the truth of my existence.

    However, my Cogito Sum performance must first be translated and transformed into a written Cogito Sum inferential proposition about my Cogito Sum performance for the truths of the latter to appear to be vulnerable indirectly to the invalidation effects of my Defective Cognitive Nature. I other words, my dynamic, subjective Cogito Sum performance or thought-act, which I execute in the first person, present tense mode, must subsequently be objectified by recasting it into a static written portrayal, or static written representation, of my thought-act; that is, into the subordinate form of a static Cogito Sum inferential proposition about my original, dynamic Cogito Sum performance. This then permits the existentially consistent and existentially self-verifying truths uniquely associated with my original, dynamic Cogito Sum performance to be studied , critiqued, and analyzed linguistically as if they were, instead, logical truths which could only be associated with and derived from a static, written, objective inferential proposition.

    Now it can be claimed that the Cogito Sum is no longer exclusively my subjective performance. In fact, as an "objective inferential proposition", the Cogito Sum would now seem to become no one's subjective performance. Instead, the Cogito Sum would now seem to become anyone's and everyone's objective data. The independent observer can now choose to perceive or attend to directly, or choose to perceive or attend to indirectly, the truths expressed in writing by this static objective Cogito Sum inferential proposition about the original, dynamic, subjective Cogito Sum performance. However, this subtle intellectual maneuver cannot really undermine or eliminate the stubborn ontological fact that the Cogito Sum remains primarily, originally, and primordially my subjective performance, your subjective performance, their subjective performances which I, you, and each one of them must execute in the first person, present tense mode for the performance(s) to yield authentic, dynamic, existentially consistent and existentially self-verifying truths, meanings, and impacts -- for me, for you, and for each one of them.


    The Cartesian Evil Genius Scenario Compared to the Cartesian Defective Cognitive Nature Scenario

    What does the Cartesian Evil Genius Scenario mean? It means that a person is constantly and deliberately being deceived by a powerful external source (viz., an evil genius) regarding matters, the truth of which, the person considers to be indubitably certain. Specifically, in relation to the constituent truths of the Cogito Sum performance, the following are the direct invalidation effects that would be caused deliberately by this personal external source:


    -The purported indubitably certain truth of the "I am thinking" would, instead, really be the truth of an "I am not thinking," and

    - The purported indubitably certain truth of the "I am existing" would, instead, really be the truth of an "I am not existing."

    In other words, if successful, the Evil Genius Scenario means that its deliberate, existentially inconsistent and existentially self-defeating invalidation effects (counter-truths) would always have ontological priority over and nullify the existentially consistent and existentially self-verifying truths experienced by the person. Basically, it would mean, also, that the Evil Genius has both the power to deceive and the power to magically transform what is "really" a non-thinking, non-existing being into one that believes with indubitable certainty, albeit erroneously, the truths that it thinks and exists. In short, the Evil Genius would have the magical power to transform a nothing into a something.


    What does the Cartesian Defective Cognitive Nature Scenario mean? It means that a person is constantly, but not deliberately, being deceived by a powerful internal source (viz., the person's own defective cognitive nature) regarding matters, the truth of which, the person considers to be indubitably certain. Specifically, in relation to the constituent truths of the Cogito Sum performance, the following are the direct invalidation effects that would be caused, not deliberately, by this impersonal internal source:


    -The purported indubitably certain truth of the "I am thinking" would, instead, really be an "I am not thinking," and

    -The purported indubitably certain truth of the "I am existing" would, instead, really be an "I am not existing."

    In other words, if successful, the Defective Cognitive Nature Scenario means that the Defective Cognitive Nature's non-deliberate, existentially inconsistent and existentially self-defeating invalidation effects (counter-truths) would always have ontological priority over and nullify the existentially consistent and existentially self-verifying truths experienced by the person. Basically, it would mean, also, that the person's defective cognitive nature has both the power to deceive and the power to magically transform what is "really" a non-thinking, non-existing being into one that believes with indubitable certainty, albeit erroneously, the truths that it thinks and exists. In short, like the Evil Genius, the Defective Cognitive Nature would also have the magical power to transform a nothing into a something.


    Thus, both scenarios, if successful, would seem to accomplish the same invalidation effects. But, ultimately, both scenarios self-destruct and are unsuccessful because that which purportedly "really" does not exist (the meditator) cannot be affected (i.e., invalidated) in any way by that which purportedly "really" does exist, be the latter a "really" existent, personal, external source of deliberate deception (an evil genius), or a "really" existent, impersonal, internal source of non-deliberate deception (a defective cognitive nature).

    Also, if I assume my Defective Cognitive Nature (DCN) exists and is always operative, then this means that the truth of my thought-act "I am thinking, I am existing" would always already have been directly invalidated by my DCN whenever and while I am performing it in the first person, present tense mode.

    I can, therefore, entertain the skeptical hypothesis that my "true" thought-act ought to be "I am not thinking, I am not existing" whenever and while I am performing my "false" thought-act "I am thinking, I am existing" in the first person, present tense mode. But it is inherently impossible for me to have a direct personal experience of the occurrence of my "true" thought-act "I am not thinking, I am not existing" in the first person, present tense mode because the occurrence of my "true" thought-act "I am not thinking, I am not existing" is existentially inconsistent and, therefore, existentially self-defeating whenever I try to perform it in the first person, present tense mode. Nevertheless, only the occurrence of such a direct personal experience would provide me with the empirical evidence needed tp verify the actual existence and operation of my DCN.


    But, more tellingly, if the always operative Deceptive Cognitive Nature (DCN) is, in fact, "my" DCN, then, as an integral, indispensable constituent of my very being, how is it possible for my DCN to go about invalidating the truth of my thinking and my existing (erasing them) without, thereby, also necessarily and simultaneously invalidating the truth of its existence (erasing it) along with mine - all done, apparently, without my even being able to experience it?


    Conclusions

    - My Defective Cognitive Nature (DCN) appears to have the power to partially invalidate the indubitably certain truths expressed by the Cogito Sum, when the Cogito Sum is interpreted to be, primarily, an inferential proposition, because it permits me to entertain the skeptical hypothesis that the truths expressed by the inferential proposition may be epistemically worthless when and while I am not directly attending to them.

    - But my Defective Cognitive Nature (DCN) appears not to have the power to completely invalidate the indubitably certain truths expressed by the Cogito Sum, when the Cogito Sum is interpreted to be, primarily, an inferential proposition, because it does not permit me to personally experience, simultaneously, that I am neither thinking, nor existing, nor inferring when and while I am not directly attending to the truths expressed by the Cogito Sum inferential proposition.


    - My Defective Cognitive nature (DCN) appears not to have the power to completely invalidate the indubitably certain truths expressed by the Cogito Sum, when the Cogito Sum is interpreted to be, primarily, my performance, because it cannot directly engender in me the required existentially inconsistent and existentially self-defeating personal experiences that I am neither thinking, nor existing, when and while I am, in fact, doing both.


    - Lastly, and most importantly, I am also compelled to conclude that both the thesis of the existence and operation of an external Evil Genius and the thesis of the existence and operation of an internal Defective Cognitive Nature (DCN) are completely untenable because, ultimately and inevitably, each thesis self-destructs for the reasons already set forth above, thereby leaving the truths expressed by the Cogito Sum, be it in the form of an inferential proposition or in the form of my performance, intact, unscathed, and indefeasible.



    .
  • Terrapin Station
    5.2k
    To me this reads like commentary on a paper I haven't read, but where it's assumed that I'm familiar with the paper in question. There are a number of terms I'd need defined, a number of things I'd need explained in more detail, with examples given, to understand your comments well.

    For one, what exactly are "invalidation effects"?

    Does Lex Newman have a paper available re the argument you're addressing?
  • charles ferraro
    6
    For one, what exactly are "invalidation effects"?

    If one grants the assumption that a Defective Cognitive Nature (DCN) exists, then the invalidation effects caused by that DCN could be defined/described as follows:

    If a person's Defective Cognitive Nature should cause her to experience directly the existentially inconsistent and existentially self-defeating counter-truths (I am not thinking, I am not existing) simultaneously with, and in place of, the existentially consistent and existentially self-verifying truths (I am thinking, I am existing) that she experiences when and while she performs the Cogito Sum in the first person, present tense mode, then invalidation effects could be said to have occurred.

    The position I argue for is that a Defective Cognitive Nature does not exist precisely because it is impossible for its invalidation effects, as described, to be experienced directly in the first person, present tense mode.

    Does Lex Newman have a paper available re: the argument you are addressing?

    Do a computer search for Professor Lex Newman. You should easily locate his university webpage: https://sites.google.com/view/lexnewman . Click on his webpage and you will see a list off Selected Papers. In particular, read "Circumventing Cartesian Circles" and the relevant sections of the Stanford
    Encyclopedia "Descartes' Epistemology" article of 2014.
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