I think, therefore i am

Get Email Updates Email this Topic Print this Page

Inquisition
 
Reply Wed 25 Nov, 2009 08:08 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;105932 wrote:
It is not a statement. It is an argument. That is why it contains the term, "therefore".And, it is impossible to think (or walk, or talk, or do anything) unless you exist. Performing any action supposes that the agent exists.


Yes it is an argument, my apologies.

Maybe you didn't read my response fully, or maybe you misunderstood it. I do not disagree with Descartes with regards to "i think therefore i am". I am merely saying he doesn't provide adequate proof for it in regards with what his goal was at the beginning of his meditations.

He presumes the principle of contradiction, which he has shown no proof for the validity of. I think this concept is so natural that most people, including myself, upon the first reading will not even notice that his argument does not hold up, at least in this sense.

Unless it can be shown why this principle is valid, and not the result of some "demon", then i feel we cannot know for sure that we exist simply because we think. Although it makes perfect sense to eleive we do.

Remember that he was trying to prove something true beyond all doubt, and i feel i must side with the skeptics on this one, and say he failed to do so by the very nature of his approach.

I am very interested in hearing what you think, now that i have made my point more clear.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Wed 25 Nov, 2009 10:16 pm
@Inquisition,
Inquisition;105975 wrote:
Yes it is an argument, my apologies.

Maybe you didn't read my response fully, or maybe you misunderstood it. I do not disagree with Descartes with regards to "i think therefore i am". I am merely saying he doesn't provide adequate proof for it in regards with what his goal was at the beginning of his meditations.

He presumes the principle of contradiction, which he has shown no proof for the validity of. I think this concept is so natural that most people, including myself, upon the first reading will not even notice that his argument does not hold up, at least in this sense.

Unless it can be shown why this principle is valid, and not the result of some "demon", then i feel we cannot know for sure that we exist simply because we think. Although it makes perfect sense to eleive we do.

Remember that he was trying to prove something true beyond all doubt, and i feel i must side with the skeptics on this one, and say he failed to do so by the very nature of his approach.

I am very interested in hearing what you think, now that i have made my point more clear.


In a number of places, Descartes refers to what he calls "common notions" or "primitive ideas" which cannot be doubted and which are innate. He mentions, for example, Euclid's first axiom, "Things equal to the same thing are equal to each other" and says of it that it needs no proof, for we see its truth immediately. I think that the law of non-contradiction, that it is impossible for X and not-X both to be true, would be numbered among these common notions which require no proof, and can be simply accepted as true. So although he does assume the law of non-contradiction, that is not inconsistent with what you say his goal was in the Meditations. Therefore, Descartes believe we can be absolutely certain that we exist, and we can be because it would be impossible (contradictory) to think without existing. And, the law of non-contradiction is itself certain because it is a common notion.
 
Emil
 
Reply Wed 25 Nov, 2009 10:25 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;106004 wrote:
In a number of places, Descartes refers to what he calls "common notions" or "primitive ideas" which cannot be doubted and which are innate. He mentions, for example, Euclid's first axiom, "Things equal to the same thing are equal to each other" and says of it that it needs no proof, for we see its truth immediately. I think that the law of non-contradiction, that it is impossible for X and not-X both to be true, would be numbered among these common notions which require no proof, and can be simply accepted as true. So although he does assume the law of non-contradiction, that is not inconsistent with what you say his goal was in the Meditations. Therefore, Descartes believe we can be absolutely certain that we exist, and we can be because it would be impossible (contradictory) to think without existing. And, the law of non-contradiction is itself certain because it is a common notion.


But (obviously) this foundational justification theory has problems. It did not solve the Pyrrhonian strategy: Why do simple notions/principles/whatever not require proof? Any justification offered for that would be similarly questioned ad inifinitum. (Notice that I did use obscure latin. I can't think of a similarly expressive and short english phrase. Maybe you can. Technically, "ad infinitum" is not very good since it literary means "to infinite/infinity". But good readers of course know how the phrase is used to mean something else than it's structure would suggest.)
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Wed 25 Nov, 2009 10:32 pm
@Emil,
Emil;106011 wrote:
But (obviously) this foundational justification theory has problems. It did not solve the Pyrrhonian strategy: Why do simple notions/principles/whatever not require proof? Any justification offered for that would be similarly questioned ad inifinitum. (Notice that I did use obscure latin. I can't think of a similarly expressive and short english phrase. Maybe you can. Technically, "ad infinitum" is not very good since it literary means "to infinite/infinity". But good readers of course know how the phrase is used to mean something else than it's structure would suggest.)


Of course it "has its problems". I was answering a question about whether Descartes failed to follow his own principles by not proving the principle of non-contradiction. I gave a reason to think he did not fail to follow his own principles. This concerns the philosophy of Descartes. Not philosophy. Well, you did not spell ad infinitum properly. And I think that "to infinity" would have been satisfactory. Why not, "questioned to infinity". But, it would not have been the appropriate way to put it.
 
Emil
 
Reply Wed 25 Nov, 2009 10:56 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;106014 wrote:
Of course it "has its problems". I was answering a question about whether Descartes failed to follow his own principles by not proving the principle of non-contradiction. I gave a reason to think he did not fail to follow his own principles. This concerns the philosophy of Descartes. Not philosophy. Well, you did not spell ad infinitum properly. And I think that "to infinity" would have been satisfactory. Why not, "questioned to infinity". But, it would not have been the appropriate way to put it.


It was a mistype (rather than a misspell). I spelled it correctly later in the same post.

But ok, I'm not sure what his principles were (I did read about half of his first meditation till I thought I was wasting my time), so no comment about that. Smile
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Thu 26 Nov, 2009 06:10 pm
@D bowden,
"I think, therefore I am." What a silly argument. There are so many leaks in that little row-boat. It has a certain practical obviousness, but it pretends to be strictly logical. Who is this I? What is this thinking? And what is it to be?

It just strikes me as one more mathematicians embarrassing naivety when it comes to slimy, metaphorical logos.

Words don't work the way numbers do. Philosophy is poetry, not geometry.

(As always, subject to revision...)
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Thu 26 Nov, 2009 06:15 pm
@Emil,
Emil;106019 wrote:
It was a mistype (rather than a misspell). I spelled it correctly later in the same post.

But ok, I'm not sure what his principles were (I did read about half of his first meditation till I thought I was wasting my time), so no comment about that. Smile


Descartes's principle was that he would doubt everything that was dubitable until he encountered a proposition which was indubitable. Then that indubitable proposition would be the foundation of his system. What he called his "point of Archimedes".
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Thu 26 Nov, 2009 06:39 pm
@D bowden,
Is anything really indubitable? In a practical sense, yes. Many things. In theoretical sense, no. Antecedent Skepticism has yet to be refuted (for me, at least...).
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Thu 26 Nov, 2009 06:40 pm
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;106189 wrote:
Is anything really indubitable? In a practical sense, yes. Many things. In theoretical sense, no. Antecedent Skepticism has yet to be refuted (for me, at least...).


Whether or not there is anything indubitable, that was Descartes's principle.
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Thu 26 Nov, 2009 07:03 pm
@D bowden,
I suppose my general outlook is that complete certainty is both unnecessary and impossible. The truth of logic is rhetoric, I would argue. As humans we persuade ourselves and one another, and act on these certain-enough persuasions. Descartes was famous for his skepticism, correct? But times have changed. Post-linguistic-turn, his axiom seems naive. Just as the form of Spinoza's Ethics is a bit absurd. (Though perhaps it helped him hide his heretic opinions from mentally-lazy persecutors....) (And perhaps Descartes was more skeptical than he could admit?)
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Thu 26 Nov, 2009 10:03 pm
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;106195 wrote:
I suppose my general outlook is that complete certainty is both unnecessary and impossible. The truth of logic is rhetoric, I would argue. As humans we persuade ourselves and one another, and act on these certain-enough persuasions. Descartes was famous for his skepticism, correct? But times have changed. Post-linguistic-turn, his axiom seems naive. Just as the form of Spinoza's Ethics is a bit absurd. (Though perhaps it helped him hide his heretic opinions from mentally-lazy persecutors....) (And perhaps Descartes was more skeptical than he could admit?)


Descartes was not a skeptic himself. He argued that empiricism led to skepticism (Meditation 1) and that, since skepticism was false because of the Cogito (Meditation 2) that empiricism was false. Descartes held that he could know for certain that, for instance, God existed, and that there was an external world. But not, of course, on empirical grounds.
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Thu 26 Nov, 2009 10:26 pm
@kennethamy,
I'm no expert on the matter, but I recall a description of his attempt to doubt pretty much everything. I was aware that he believed in God, or claimed to at least, and this is part of my criticism.

I did recently pick up the meditations but found it boring, I must confess. For his method is so facetious, contrived, insincere. Or at least it struck me as insincere.

Perhaps my memory is shot but I seem to remember him being credited as the father of modern philosophy precisely because he was so doubtful. And this is what I meant by his skepticism.

He starts with a sort of false absolute doubt, and then builds a rationalist system on "cogito ergo sum." Is this correct?

But I'm suspicious of the rationalist enterprise in general. I suppose I'm an anti-foundationalist, and I am suspicious of the possibility of closure. The game of describing man-reality-god-being is never finished, for culture is truly creative and re-interpretative. Hence my irony toward a Descartes, however valuable he was historically.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Thu 26 Nov, 2009 10:49 pm
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;106236 wrote:
I'm no expert on the matter, but I recall a description of his attempt to doubt pretty much everything. I was aware that he believed in God, or claimed to at least, and this is part of my criticism.

I did recently pick up the meditations but found it boring, I must confess. For his method is so facetious, contrived, insincere. Or at least it struck me as insincere.

Perhaps my memory is shot but I seem to remember him being credited as the father of modern philosophy precisely because he was so doubtful. And this is what I meant by his skepticism.

He starts with a sort of false absolute doubt, and then builds a rationalist system on "cogito ergo sum." Is this correct?

But I'm suspicious of the rationalist enterprise in general. I suppose I'm an anti-foundationalist, and I am suspicious of the possibility of closure. The game of describing man-reality-god-being is never finished, for culture is truly creative and re-interpretative. Hence my irony toward a Descartes, however valuable he was historically.


Descartes described his doubt as "methodical doubt", "philosophical doubt", and "hyperbolic doubt". It was not he said, "real doubt" but a way of getting to his "Archimedean Point" so that he could begin to build "the edifice of knowledge" anew. He argued (as I have already mentioned) that an empiricist must inevitably end up in the "tar pit" of skepticism, since any proposition about the external world based on sense-perception was dubitable, and therefore not knowable. But since it is clear that we know at least that we ourselves exist, and that knowledge is not empirically based, empiricism must be a failed epistemology. So, either rationalism or empiricism. But empiricism is false (since it cannot give us knowledge) so it must be that rationalism is true. And rationalism does give us knowledge. The Cogito.
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Thu 26 Nov, 2009 11:24 pm
@kennethamy,
I thank you for your detailed answer, but I find myself attached to neither term. I suppose, as far as absolutes go, you will find me in the tar-pits of skepticism. But then I question the value of certainty in general. Sort of like Hume, with his Backgammon and his Gin. I think that perfect Certainty is yet another stop for the god-shaped hole.

We don't need perfect certainty. We are content with probability. I sincerely find the notion of perfect certainty to be less believable than the notion of a personal God.

I don't think there is a theoretical answer for antecedent skepticism. And yet to dwell in such a skepticism would be pretentious and insincere. Hence my name: Reconstructo, in contrast to Deconstruction. Ultimately, I view philosophers as poets, a word which means creator. I'm a builder, not a destroyer. I build on the mud of practical faith. Faith is biological. A man can't get out of bed without a certain amount faith that the world is not going to smash him. But what is this need for perfect certainty? Is it not a replacement for an out of fashion theology? As Nietzsche said, the philosopher is a descendant of the priest, and philosophy is rife with the ashes of God.

All this being said,

Happy Thanksgiving. And I respect your opinions, whether I agree with them all or not. I like anyone who goes to the trouble of thinking about such things.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Thu 26 Nov, 2009 11:40 pm
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;106262 wrote:
I thank you for your detailed answer, but I find myself attached to neither term. I suppose, as far as absolutes go, you will find me in the tar-pits of skepticism. But then I question the value of certainty in general. Sort of like Hume, with his Backgammon and his Gin. I think that perfect Certainty is yet another stop for the god-shaped hole.

We don't need perfect certainty. We are content with probability. I sincerely find the notion of perfect certainty to be less believable than the notion of a personal God.

I don't think there is a theoretical answer for antecedent skepticism. And yet to dwell in such a skepticism would be pretentious and insincere. Hence my name: Reconstructo, in contrast to Deconstruction. Ultimately, I view philosophers as poets, a word which means creator. I'm a builder, not a destroyer. I build on the mud of practical faith. Faith is biological. A man can't get out of bed without a certain amount faith that the world is not going to smash him. But what is this need for perfect certainty? Is it not a replacement for an out of fashion theology? As Nietzsche said, the philosopher is a descendant of the priest, and philosophy is rife with the ashes of God.

All this being said,

Happy Thanksgiving. And I respect your opinions, whether I agree with them all or not. I like anyone who goes to the trouble of thinking about such things.



Knowledge and certainty are very different. I don't think you are a skeptic, since I suppose that you know a great many things. But since I also suppose you are not dogmatic about them either, and allow that you might be mistaken (although you believe you are not mistaken) you, like me, think we are certain about very few if any things. You are not a skeptic if you think that you know things, but are not certain about anything. You are, then, only not dogmatic, nor a skeptic. A good thing in my estimation.
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Fri 27 Nov, 2009 01:25 am
@kennethamy,
Thank you, first of all.
Yes, in a practical living sense I do very much believe in knowledge. Which reminds me of the use of "know" in the King James Bible (amazing books).

I admit I use words like "skeptic" rather loosely. Doesn't it mean suspension of belief? I think of Hume playing backgammon, who says a philosopher must be a man first and a philosopher second. Perhaps I should use the term "ironist."

First I was influenced by Keats' notion of "negative capability" and then very much by Richard Rorty, who I find quite persuasive and significant. Also there is F. Schlegel and his concept of transcendental buffoonery. Then I should mention Carl Jung, who sold me on man's inescapably mythological nature. Jung reminds me of an extension of Kant. Not only do we add Time, Space, Number, Cause, etc., to reality, but also we respond to certain images and concepts in an automatic emotional (numinous) way.

I look around and find no one who lacks a heroic identification to something. This is to posit a theory on human nature, of course. Or rather to paraphrase one. And I use the word "heroic" loosely. I could quote Nietzsche: "Man would rather have the void for his purpose than be devoid of purpose."

I always look for the role-play of a thinker. How does he see himself in the mirror? What is the key-word of his self-love? What ideal does he seek or claim to incarnate? What's he selling? (To himself and others...)
 
Inquisition
 
Reply Fri 27 Nov, 2009 04:38 am
@kennethamy,
Well it may be true to Descartes and his followers that some truths in this world are so self evident, that well, EVERYONE has to agree on them.

I am not convinced. He doesn't even let the most basic math stand as true. That 2+2=4. so how can he trust the far ore complex faculties of human reasoning? (which he claims he does not!)

A doubtfully valid faculty can produce only a doubtfully valid argument, and a doubtfully valid argument can produce only a doubtfully valid conclusion.

his inconsistencies don't end there. He goes on to say that we have the idea of god in our minds as all powerfull, and infinite, and that the idea could not have originated in our minds so it must have been put there by god, ergo god exists.

This is the weakest argument of them all. How can he assume that god is infinite and powerful? he does not offer proof of this. He assumes beforehand the thing which he is trying to prove afterward.

Is this another one of those "obvious" things that need no proof you spoke of?
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Fri 27 Nov, 2009 07:58 am
@Inquisition,
Inquisition;106341 wrote:
Well it may be true to Descartes and his followers that some truths in this world are so self evident, that well, EVERYONE has to agree on them.

I am not convinced. He doesn't even let the most basic math stand as true. That 2+2=4. so how can he trust the far ore complex faculties of human reasoning? (which he claims he does not!)

A doubtfully valid faculty can produce only a doubtfully valid argument, and a doubtfully valid argument can produce only a doubtfully valid conclusion.

his inconsistencies don't end there. He goes on to say that we have the idea of god in our minds as all powerfull, and infinite, and that the idea could not have originated in our minds so it must have been put there by god, ergo god exists.

This is the weakest argument of them all. How can he assume that god is infinite and powerful? he does not offer proof of this. He assumes beforehand the thing which he is trying to prove afterward.

Is this another one of those "obvious" things that need no proof you spoke of?


But Descartes does not say that God is infinite and powerful. What he says is that our idea of God is the idea of an infinitely powerful being. And that is different. Whether that idea of God is the correct or true idea of God, is still a different question. And, even still a different question is whether such a God exists or not. It is important to see what Descartes is say, and as important to see what Descartes is not saying. Otherwise, you will be committing the fallacy of the straw-man. The fallacy of attacking something that Descartes never said in the first place, but attributing that to Descartes.

Yes, Descartes did believe that there were self-evident truths, truths that are "evidence for themselves", and he thought that there had to be such self-evident truths, because unless there were, nothing could be prove for certain, since there would be no place to begin a proof. So, there had to be some "foundational" truths, for us to know anything at all. Well, that's an interesting argument. But you cannot simply deny there are such self-evident truths. You have to show how you can know anything for certain without there being self-evident truths. Unless you think it is a self-evident truth that there are no self-evident truths. Do you?
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Fri 27 Nov, 2009 02:49 pm
@kennethamy,
I just question the need for certainty. Men need only to be sufficiently persuaded. Survival depends upon action, not this mythical beast known as "certainty."

Look at non-philosophical humanity and how certain they are of contrary "facts." They are persuaded that this or that is true, and will tell you they are certain of it. To be certain is to be thoroughly persuaded. And we are persuaded in many ways that are not "logical." We are emotional mythological beings, and philosophy remains academic until it acknowledges this. Life is much slimier than a game of chess.

2 more cents....
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Fri 27 Nov, 2009 03:10 pm
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;106432 wrote:
I just question the need for certainty. Men need only to be sufficiently persuaded. Survival depends upon action, not this mythical beast known as "certainty."

Look at non-philosophical humanity and how certain they are of contrary "facts." They are persuaded that this or that is true, and will tell you they are certain of it. To be certain is to be thoroughly persuaded. And we are persuaded in many ways that are not "logical." We are emotional mythological beings, and philosophy remains academic until it acknowledges this. Life is much slimier than a game of chess.

2 more cents....


I don't see what certainty has to do with persuasion. I think you should distinguish between the feeling of certainty, or strong confidence that what you believe is true, and actual certainty, or infallibility. The impossibility of error. The feeling of certainty is subjective, and people may feel ever so certain about something and be mistaken. Descartes did not care about the feeling of certainty. And one of the reasons was, as you say, that people can feel certain (strongly confident) about contrarry facts. So that kind of "certainty" is epistemically useless. Descartes was trying to achieved objective certainty, or infallibility, the impossibility of error, which had to be true. Descartes thought he had achieved it with the "I exist". He held not just that we are all strongly confident we exist, which, of course, we all are. But that we (each of us) could be certain, infallible, about the truth of the statement that I exist. So that it would be impossible for us to believe that we exist and be mistaken. And that seems to be right. For, it is impossible to believe (or to do anything at all) unless the doer or agent exists.

So, when you talk of certainty being necessary, what kind of certainly are you talking about? Subjective certainty (the strong feeling of confidence) or objective certainty (the impossibility of error). And, necessary for what? That is something you do not say. And how can I tell whether something is necessary unless I know what it is supposed to be necessary for?
 
 

 
Copyright © 2021 MadLab, LLC :: Terms of Service :: Privacy Policy :: Page generated in 0.04 seconds on 09/27/2021 at 05:05:19