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.
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.)
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.
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...).
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?)
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.
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.
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?
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....