I'm of a very formal school when it comes to Descartes and analytic philosophy. The way I was taught it was gospel. But I have to say that this is a very good point raised. Good stuff. (What follows may also address Deftil's question as to the difference between inference and performance.)
The way I was taught it was this. Let's compare two well known rationalists, Descartes and Spinoza. Descartes is known to have an analytic approach to philosophy, that is, Descartes wants to follow a scientific method to reach primary truths (ultimately the form of his dualistic philosophy). But what does Descartes have to do to reach this end? Descartes (in his discourse on method
) essentially wants to break down his method into four stages; Doubt, analyze, reconstruct, and enumerate. Descartes first starts out by doubting everything (universal doubt, Meditation 1
) and start from scratch accepting only those things he can know clearly and distinctly. He then wants to analyze everything down to its simplest components (Cogito, Meditation 2)
. He then reconstructs his ideas so that they are as clear and distinct as when he had deconstructed them and then enumerate (go over again and again and again).
Descartes starts out with essentially nothing and deductively comes to primary truths. Now keep this in mind, but switch over to Spinoza.
Spinoza was much in line with Descartes in many respects. However, he differed greatly in one particular way, the proof for the existence of God. Spinoza can be described as having a synthetic approach. Spinoza does not start of the way Descartes does in meditations
. In Ethics
, Spinoza starts off with definitions, axioms, and then goes into proofs to explain his philosophy. But he starts off with definitions which establish God first and foremost. In this way, he can assert that whatever follows, follows necessarily
from the essence of God.
Whereas Descartes worked from the ground up so to speak to get to primary truths, Spinoza starts out with everything and derives the propositions from the fact that God necessarily exists to get at primary truths. Thus Spinoza has a synthetic philosophy. So now you can compare Descartes and Spinoza and see that they have two completely different approaches, but still classify as rationalists.
Now what I think Jakko Hintikka is saying based off of de Silento's post is that we could look at Descartes Cogito as SYTHETIC after the fact
, not before it. That's my issue with Hintikka. More could be said, but that seems to be a prime issue.
De Silento's thoughts on the cogito on the other hand are quite well formulated. I agree with the fact that the "I" is the meditator rather than the author or the reader. I also agree that these are the words of Descartes and he could for all intensive purposes be the thinking thing. However, I think we differ in relation to what Hitikka refers to beyond the synthetic/analytic relationship. I think de Silento addresses in fact a bigger problem rather than the Synthetic/Analytic attribution of Descartes, the inconsistency of self reference. But the issue of existential reference is certainly a big problem in philosophy and I think de Silento's analysis in the last paragraph of post #1 gives a good point of view on it. I would love to hear more on the issue because it is very well thought out.