Descartes' fatal flaw

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Reply Thu 4 Mar, 2010 07:42 pm
Descartes attempts to prove the existence of God starting without senses. It may seem that Descartes makes no assumptions, let along errors. However, Descartes makes one fatal assumption.

Descartes says "I think therefore I am." If he was being lied about his existences, that proves that someone has to be lying to him, which proves he exists.

However, Descartes assumes that logic and reason, the tools his mind uses to make sense of the "I think therefore I am" argument, is the correct way to go about things. He assumes our thoughts, when they appear to be correct, are correct thoughts. How do we know that we exist? Because we think? How do we know for sure those two ideas correlate? Because it makes sense TO US? Its an assumption to think that logic and reason are correct.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Thu 4 Mar, 2010 07:52 pm
@LittleMathYou,
LittleMathYou;136251 wrote:
Descartes attempts to prove the existence of God starting without senses. It may seem that Descartes makes no assumptions, let along errors. However, Descartes makes one fatal assumption.

Descartes says "I think therefore I am." If he was being lied about his existences, that proves that someone has to be lying to him, which proves he exists.

However, Descartes assumes that logic and reason, the tools his mind uses to make sense of the "I think therefore I am" argument, is the correct way to go about things. He assumes our thoughts, when they appear to be correct, are correct thoughts. How do we know that we exist? Because we think? How do we know for sure those two ideas correlate? Because it makes sense TO US? Its an assumption to think that logic and reason are correct.



How could we even go to relieve ourselves without existing, let alone think? Who would be going to relieve himself unless he existed in the first place?
 
ughaibu
 
Reply Thu 4 Mar, 2010 07:57 pm
@LittleMathYou,
LittleMathYou;136251 wrote:
How do we know that we exist? Because we think? How do we know for sure those two ideas correlate? Because it makes sense TO US? Its an assumption to think that logic and reason are correct.
Do you mean his conclusion should have been; I think, but I might be mistaken, mislead or in some other way wrong, therefore I exist?
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Thu 4 Mar, 2010 08:15 pm
@LittleMathYou,
LittleMathYou;136251 wrote:
How do we know that we exist? Because we think? How do we know for sure those two ideas correlate? Because it makes sense TO US? Its an assumption to think that logic and reason are correct.


Yes indeed! And what is this "I"? And where did this language come from? Hegel fixed all that, eventually. Wittgenstein found the square root of Hegel. There is no "self" or "I," for these are objects/concepts. We have to deduce what is behind the creation of objects(qua objects: essence), from within our immersion in these objects (both physical and mental objects...)
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Fri 5 Mar, 2010 06:32 am
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;136278 wrote:
Yes indeed! And what is this "I"? And where did this language come from? Hegel fixed all that, eventually. Wittgenstein found the square root of Hegel. There is no "self" or "I," for these are objects/concepts. We have to deduce what is behind the creation of objects(qua objects: essence), from within our immersion in these objects (both physical and mental objects...)


I have always thought so, but no one has ever put it quite so succinctly.
 
manored
 
Reply Fri 5 Mar, 2010 07:30 am
@LittleMathYou,
LittleMathYou;136251 wrote:

However, Descartes assumes that logic and reason, the tools his mind uses to make sense of the "I think therefore I am" argument, is the correct way to go about things. He assumes our thoughts, when they appear to be correct, are correct thoughts. How do we know that we exist? Because we think? How do we know for sure those two ideas correlate? Because it makes sense TO US? Its an assumption to think that logic and reason are correct.
I disagree, logic and reason are correct. Its only an assumption then you are deciding about the outside world, were nothing is certain. But then deciding about matters of your own mind and existance, all information avaible to make a conclusion out from are certain.

Can an unexistent being think? Off course not.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Fri 5 Mar, 2010 07:32 am
@manored,
manored;136448 wrote:


Can an unexistent being think? Off course not.


Those lazy incompetent things! They can't seem to do anything at all. I wonder why we even have them around!
 
VideCorSpoon
 
Reply Fri 5 Mar, 2010 03:28 pm
@kennethamy,
LittleMathYou;136251 wrote:
Descartes attempts to prove the existence of God starting without senses. It may seem that Descartes makes no assumptions, let along errors. However, Descartes makes one fatal assumption.

As far as Meditations goes, the existence of God is brought into the inquiry in Mediation 3 when, after following the argument for universal doubt (Med. 1) and the case that both he and his thoughts exist (med. 2), Descartes needs to prove that other things exist, namely God. And God is brought into the inquiry as the most logical thing which could possibly exist (besides him and his thoughts) because the notion contains that which Descartes can know most clearly and distinctly
LittleMathYou;136251 wrote:
Descartes says "I think therefore I am." If he was being lied about his existences, that proves that someone has to be lying to him, which proves he exists.

Descartes states in meditations "I am a thinking thing" rather than "I think therefore I am." The phrase "I think, therefore I am" is commonly misquoted from Descartes later text Principles of Philosophy, his composite philosophical/scientific thesis (1644) combing Discourse on Method(1637), Meditations (1641), etc. That latter text called Principles references Descartes work in summation and with particular emphasis on the scientific methodologies derived from Discourse, meaning that Descartes further refined his philosophy in his later work.

But simply, "I am a thinking thing" and "I think, therefore I am" may sound identical, but have different implications. Descartes as far as the Cogito is concerned has just established that he is who he is because of his ability to rationalize that he is. He establishes that "I am a thinking thing."

As far as the cogito goes, he does not even know that he is even being lied to. In the hypothetical that Descartes carries over from mediation 1, the deceiving demon (because God APB could not be such a being to deceive him) could convince Descartes to doubt himself. Deception entails the fact that something is being deceived, thus I could exist in order to be deceived. But this is not definite, because he cannot know that clearly and distinctly. But in a hypothetical raised by Descartes going on, I could exist (since I imagine, have sense, etc.), I then doubt because things seem to be that which I think. So I could at this point surmise that I have mental states, therefore I am. This is what is referred to as the "first truth," since it entails "a-priori" knowledge (knowledge which is gained before the senses). Thus, Descartes proclaims "res cogitans," or "I am a thinking thing." This in turn reveals the notion of innate ideas, the triggering of an idea latent in the memory for an appropriate occasion (which John Locke subsequently refutes later, spurring the empirical conception).
LittleMathYou;136251 wrote:
However, Descartes assumes that logic and reason, the tools his mind uses to make sense of the "I think therefore I am" argument, is the correct way to go about things. He assumes our thoughts, when they appear to be correct, are correct thoughts. How do we know that we exist? Because we think? How do we know for sure those two ideas correlate? Because it makes sense TO US? Its an assumption to think that logic and reason are correct.

Logic and reason as far as meditations go relies on the fundamental system Descartes established in Discourse on Methodmeditation 2, rationalization supposes much even when we see wax 1 with properties 1-n becoming deformed next to the fire and becoming wax 2 with properties 1-n.

As to your further questions, I don't want to ruin the proceeding chapters for you because they attempt to answer some of those questions that you pose. "How do we know we exist" is addressed for example in meditations 4 and 5, specifically in regards to the scales of reality, the Cartesian circle, and the existence of god (which places Descartes where he needs to know).
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Fri 5 Mar, 2010 03:42 pm
@VideCorSpoon,
VideCorSpoon;136619 wrote:

Descartes states in meditations "I am a thinking thing" rather than "I think therefore I am." The phrase "I think, therefore I am" is commonly misquoted from Descartes later text Principles of Philosophy, his composite philosophical/scientific thesis (1644) combing Discourse on Method(1637), Meditations (1641), etc. That latter text called Principles references Descartes work in summation and with particular emphasis on the scientific methodologies derived from Discourse, meaning that Descartes further refined his philosophy in his later work.

But simply, "I am a thinking thing" and "I think, therefore I am" may sound identical, but have different implications. Descartes as far as the Cogito is concerned has just established that he is who he is because of his ability to rationalize that he is. He establishes that "I am a thinking thing."



But I observed that, while I was thus resolved to feign that everything was false, I who thought must of necessity be somewhat; and remarking this truth--I think, therefore I am--was so firm and so assured that all the most extravagant suppositions of the sceptics were unable to shake it, I judged that I could unhesitatingly accept it as the first principle of the philosophy I was seeking.

Discourse on the Method

Notice he says quite straightforwardly, "I think, therefore I am" There is no misquote.

I don't think that "I am a thinking thing" and "I exist" sound alike in the least. No more than does, "Giraffes are animals" and "Giraffes exist" sound anything alike. Do you?
 
LittleMathYou
 
Reply Fri 5 Mar, 2010 04:02 pm
@manored,
manored;136448 wrote:
I disagree, logic and reason are correct. Its only an assumption then you are deciding about the outside world, were nothing is certain. But then deciding about matters of your own mind and existance, all information avaible to make a conclusion out from are certain.

Can an unexistent being think? Off course not.


Perhaps we have not found an example or situation where our most advanced arguments, logic and reason are completely useless and wrong? Just because it makes sense to us, does not mean it makes sense. To say that would be an assumption. Just because something is convention does not mean its right.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Fri 5 Mar, 2010 04:13 pm
@LittleMathYou,
LittleMathYou;136630 wrote:
Perhaps we have not found an example or situation where our most advanced arguments, logic and reason are completely useless and wrong? Just because it makes sense to us, does not mean it makes sense. To say that would be an assumption. Just because something is convention does not mean its right.


What would you mean by "useless and wrong", I wonder.
 
LittleMathYou
 
Reply Fri 5 Mar, 2010 04:21 pm
@VideCorSpoon,
VideCorSpoon;136619 wrote:
As far as Meditations goes, the existence of God is brought into the inquiry in Mediation 3 when, after following the argument for universal doubt (Med. 1) and the case that both he and his thoughts exist (med. 2), Descartes needs to prove that other things exist, namely God. And God is brought into the inquiry as the most logical thing which could possibly exist (besides him and his thoughts) because the notion contains that which Descartes can know most clearly and distinctlymeditations "I am a thinking thing" rather than "I think therefore I am." The phrase "I think, therefore I am" is commonly misquoted from Descartes later text Principles of Philosophy, his composite philosophical/scientific thesis (1644) combing Discourse on Method(1637), Meditations (1641), etc. That latter text called Principles references Descartes work in summation and with particular emphasis on the scientific methodologies derived from Discourse, meaning that Descartes further refined his philosophy in his later work.

But simply, "I am a thinking thing" and "I think, therefore I am" may sound identical, but have different implications. Descartes as far as the Cogito is concerned has just established that he is who he is because of his ability to rationalize that he is. He establishes that "I am a thinking thing."

As far as the cogito goes, he does not even know that he is even being lied to. In the hypothetical that Descartes carries over from mediation 1, the deceiving demon (because God APB could not be such a being to deceive him) could convince Descartes to doubt himself. Deception entails the fact that something is being deceived, thus I could exist in order to be deceived. But this is not definite, because he cannot know that clearly and distinctly. But in a hypothetical raised by Descartes going on, I could exist (since I imagine, have sense, etc.), I then doubt because things seem to be that which I think. So I could at this point surmise that I have mental states, therefore I am. This is what is referred to as the "first truth," since it entails "a-priori" knowledge (knowledge which is gained before the senses). Thus, Descartes proclaims "res cogitans," or "I am a thinking thing." This in turn reveals the notion of innate ideas, the triggering of an idea latent in the memory for an appropriate occasion (which John Locke subsequently refutes later, spurring the empirical conception).

Logic and reason as far as meditations go relies on the fundamental system Descartes established in Discourse on Methodmeditation 2, rationalization supposes much even when we see wax 1 with properties 1-n becoming deformed next to the fire and becoming wax 2 with properties 1-n.

As to your further questions, I don't want to ruin the proceeding chapters for you because they attempt to answer some of those questions that you pose. "How do we know we exist" is addressed for example in meditations 4 and 5, specifically in regards to the scales of reality, the Cartesian circle, and the existence of god (which places Descartes where he needs to know).


I actually finished the book in school, so I know how he answers that question. I was just using that example to demonstrate how it is an assumption that the arguments that make sense to us are right.

Descartes proves that he exists because otherwise he would be being deceived, and for one to be deceived they must exist. This makes total sense to us, but how does one prove that what makes sense to us is what is true? I say that we can't. We can't prove how what we use to prove things is correct.

---------- Post added 03-05-2010 at 04:25 PM ----------

kennethamy;136634 wrote:
What would you mean by "useless and wrong", I wonder.


That our tools we use to think things through can in no way make sense of it. "It" being an idea or something that has happened.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Fri 5 Mar, 2010 04:29 pm
@LittleMathYou,
LittleMathYou;136637 wrote:
I actually finished the book in school, so I know how he answers that question. I was just using that example to demonstrate how it is an assumption that the arguments that make sense to us are right.

Descartes proves that he exists because otherwise he would be being deceived, and for one to be deceived they must exist. This makes total sense to us, but how does one prove that what makes sense to us is what is true? I say that we can't. We can't prove how what we use to prove things is correct.


I suppose that I would wait for someone to give some reason for thinking that what makes sense to us does not. The mere fact that it might not be true that what makes sense to us does make sense, is no good reason for doubting that what makes sense to us makes sense. Anything which is not necessarily true might be false. But that is no reason to think that it is false, or that it is really possible that it is false. Just because a statement might be false is not a good reason for thinking it is not true. Why should I need to prove what there is no good reason to question?
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Fri 5 Mar, 2010 06:07 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;136437 wrote:
I have always thought so, but no one has ever put it quite so succinctly.


Thanks, K. Are we actually agreeing? This is fun. :bigsmile:

---------- Post added 03-05-2010 at 07:09 PM ----------

kennethamy;136639 wrote:
I suppose that I would wait for someone to give some reason for thinking that what makes sense to us does not. The mere fact that it might not be true that what makes sense to us does make sense, is no good reason for doubting that what makes sense to us makes sense. Anything which is not necessarily true might be false. But that is no reason to think that it is false, or that it is really possible that it is false. Just because a statement might be false is not a good reason for thinking it is not true. Why should I need to prove what there is no good reason to question?


Allow me also to agree with you. As any empirical statement might be false, we should work with those that don't seem false, until a truer-seeming replacement-"truth" is available.
 
VideCorSpoon
 
Reply Fri 5 Mar, 2010 06:18 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;136622 wrote:
But I observed that, while I was thus resolved to feign that everything was false, I who thought must of necessity be somewhat; and remarking this truth--I think, therefore I am--was so firm and so assured that all the most extravagant suppositions of the sceptics were unable to shake it, I judged that I could unhesitatingly accept it as the first principle of the philosophy I was seeking.

Discourse on the Method

Notice he says quite straightforwardly, "I think, therefore I am" There is no misquote.

I don't think that "I am a thinking thing" and "I exist" sound alike in the least. No more than does, "Giraffes are animals" and "Giraffes exist" sound anything alike. Do you?

Interestingly enough, there is in fact a rough outline incorporating cogito ergo sum in discourse (chp.4)which serves as a very rough precursor to meditations. But also notice then when you look up the cogito ergo sum in Principles you get roughly the same summation statement, if not a little bit more evolved to conform to his sharper views. When you read Descartes, its important to put the texts in context rather than pay attention to face "literal" value. The notion is not novel by any means, since it had been a developed notion of Descartes study. Principles puts cogito ergo sum in proper context, Discourse puts cogito ergo sum in rough draft. Have there ever been any philosophers who put rough ideas and conclusions down before going fully into it? Perhaps a few (said ironically).

As to the misquote, it is indeed a misquote that "I think therefore I am" is somehow taking the place of "I am a thinking thing" in Meditations
LittleMathYou;136637 wrote:
I actually finished the book in school, so I know how he answers that question. I was just using that example to demonstrate how it is an assumption that the arguments that make sense to us are right.

I read the book in school too. One of my favorite rationalist texts next to Leibniz's Monadology. As to the fact that it is an assumption that the arguments that make sense to us are right, wouldn't that fall back into Descartes methodology to know that which is clearly and distinctly? Descartes is roughly axiomatic in a lot of ways in meditations, so assumptions are plenty although the early objective is to minimize the error in our rationalization (which incidentally is addressed (or explained away)in med. 4-5).
LittleMathYou;136637 wrote:
Descartes proves that he exists because otherwise he would be being deceived, and for one to be deceived they must exist. This makes total sense to us, but how does one prove that what makes sense to us is what is true? I say that we can't. We can't prove how what we use to prove things is correct.

Does he prove that he exists at the point you mention? Descartes is very sensitive to the fact that his first a-priori truth is forced upon him as self evident (that he may exist). The wax example (given to further examine that problem) shows that he has a lot of work to do to showcase the rationalistic notion.

As far as how does one prove that what makes sense to us is what is true, again, isn't this a matter for what can be known most clearly and distinctly. Doesn't it seem as though Descartes is looking for the most plausible rather than the wholly defined truth? In this respect, perhaps I would agree with you (maybe on different grounds) that maybe one could not do so.

As far as the fact that we cannot prove how what we use to prove things is correct, perhaps one could look to closed systems like logic for the answers.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Fri 5 Mar, 2010 06:29 pm
@VideCorSpoon,
VideCorSpoon;136682 wrote:


Yes. One is an argument, and the other is the conclusion of that argument. The term, "The Cogito", is occasionally used to refer to both.

Sometimes, the conclusion of an argument is called the argument. "What is Descartes' argument?" "That he exists". And sometimes the entire argument is said to be, "the argument".

By the way, the correct title is, "Discourse on the Method" and not, "The Discourse on Method". The book is about the method. It is not on method. The French is, "Sur La Method" not, "Sur Method". The title is constantly mistranslated. And it makes a real difference.
 
VideCorSpoon
 
Reply Fri 5 Mar, 2010 06:50 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;136692 wrote:
Yes. One is an argument, and the other is the conclusion of that argument. The term, "The Cogito", is occasionally used to refer to both.

Sometimes, the conclusion of an argument is called the argument. "What is Descartes' argument?" "That he exists". And sometimes the entire argument is said to be, "the argument".
kennethamy;136692 wrote:

By the way, the correct title is, "Discourse on the Method" and not, "The Discourse on Method". The book is about the method. It is not on method. The French is, "Sur La Method" not, "Sur Method". The title is constantly mistranslated. And it makes a real difference.

By the way, we are both wrong. LOL!!! The correct, totally awesome Cartesian title is "Discourse on the Method for Conducting One's Reason Well and for Seeking the Truth in the Sciences." Although I must say I find this all somewhat hilarious for being faulted for contracting the title out of necessity (which is obviously very long) and then have it corrected in yet another shortened way. I suppose we could chalk this up as a double fail.

Also, why mention the french translation when the original was written in Latin? Did the french get it wrong? This makes a real big difference I would think. I could just as well say the title in Italian or Swedish. Res cogitans and cogito ergo sum were not token latin words, but taken from the original text pursuant to not lose the meaning in translation.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Fri 5 Mar, 2010 07:01 pm
@VideCorSpoon,
VideCorSpoon;136703 wrote:

By the way, we are both wrong. LOL!!! The correct, totally awesome Cartesian title is "Discourse on the Method for Conducting One's Reason Well and for Seeking the Truth in the Sciences." Although I must say I find this all somewhat hilarious for being faulted for contracting the title out of necessity (which is obviously very long) and then have it corrected in yet another shortened way. I suppose we could chalk this up as a double fail.


I am not wrong. I just cited the part of the title where an error in translation is being consistently made. The rest of the title makes no difference to that point. Indeed it reinforces it, since it explains that "the method" is about. It is a discourse on a particular method, not simply on method in general. That is the point. Not on what the method is about. It is a wrong by commission to translate it as a discourse on method. Not by omission.
 
VideCorSpoon
 
Reply Fri 5 Mar, 2010 07:09 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;136714 wrote:
I am not wrong. I just cited the part of the title where an error in translation is being consistently made. The rest of the title makes no difference to that point. Indeed it reinforces it, since it explains that "the method" is about. It is a discourse on a particular method, not simply on method in general. That is the point. Not on what the method is about. It is a wrong by commission to translate it as a discourse on method. Not by omission.


LOL! Oh I see, just the part where the error in the translation as being consistently made rather than the factual title which neither you are I consistently quote. Oddly enough, if you were a stickler for that, you should have said something about my saying Principles rather than the correctly titled Principles of Philosophy. Honestly, it's all pick and choose at this point, so I don't think I have to go any further. Odd how the argument now is not so much over the content of Descartes text but rather how we say the names of his works. LOL!
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Fri 5 Mar, 2010 07:15 pm
@VideCorSpoon,
VideCorSpoon;136723 wrote:
LOL! Oh I see, just the part of the where the error in the translation as being consistently made rather than the factual title which neither you are I consistently quote. Oddly enough, if you were a stickler for that, you should have said something about my saying Principles rather than the correctly titled Principles of Philosophy. Honestly, it's all pick and choose at this point, so I don't think I have to go any further. Odd how the argument now is not so much over the content of Descartes text but rather how we say the names of his works. LOL!


That's not at all the argument. The argument is about what Descartes meant by his title. Not how we say the names of his works. I think we should (when it makes a real difference, as it does in this case) that we should say the names of his works correctly, because unless we do, we will not understand what the work is supposed to be about. Whether you say, "Principles" or "Principles of Philosophy" makes no difference. But whether you say, "Discourse on Method" or, "Discourse on the Method" makes a big difference.
 
 

 
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