Descartes' Cogito

Discussion in 'General Philosophy' started by Speakpigeon, Jul 19, 2019.

  1. wegs Matter and Pixie Dust Valued Senior Member

    I don't disagree, I'm simply questioning the premise.

    That said, so to say ‘I exist’ performs the act of existing. The statement itself could not be made at all, unless the person making it exists. So, basically this is glorified self-verification. It doesn't sound enlightening, rather just common sense.
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  3. Speakpigeon Valued Senior Member

    Well, yes. Our formal descriptions are not the things they are the descriptions of.
    This is perhaps trivial for things like atoms and cows, but it is still true and definitely less trivial when we try to formally describe elements of our subjective experience. The word "pain", and indeed any existing formal description of any pain a human being ever experienced can only be inadequate to a large extent to its object.
    However, first of all, words are terribly cheap and this problem applies to anything at all we may want to assert. Does the Moon exists? Is the speed of light a constant? We are all guilty of routinely making an awful lot of assertions about all sorts of things, things whose existence is much less certain than is the existence of our own mind to us. People who think they can falsify the Cogito should take the time to try and understand what it is they couldn't falsify and much more easily. But Descartes also already showed us. We can doubt the existence of our own body. His point was that we cannot similarly doubt the existence of our own mind. Sure, any idiot can claim he doubts the existence of someone else's mind, but this is irrelevant and not the issue at all, contrary to what critics of the Cogito usually believe. You will find idioter people who will say they don't know whether their own mind exists. This isn't the issue either. A computer could say it and some people perhaps will have some medical condition preventing them from knowing their own mind. The point is whether at least one person knows their own mind and whether their own mind exists. The answer is only for each of us to give for themselves but the Cogito provides the proper formal expression in which to ask yourself that question.
    Second, most people also don't understand what we do when we formalise things. This is a much more complex issue and I won't go there. But Descartes' point about that isn't anyway near the real situation. We can do much better than that.
    Also, please note that Descartes also had a very tranchant view of logic generally, which again confirms the Cogito should not be understood as a straightforward logical argument. However, there is a way to reconcile logic and the Cogito, and our formal expressions of our thinking with our thinking itself. But it is too much of a complex issue to be possibly discussed here.
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  5. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    Why not?
    It appears to be commonly made, and the people who have paid the most attention to the issue say (with reason) it is an error.
    He was wrong, is all. He made a mistake.
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  7. Speakpigeon Valued Senior Member

    Easy to say, isn't it?
    You're wrong. You made a mistake.
    Hey, it's easy!
    You're always wrong. You always make a mistake.
  8. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    And also easy to support with examples and reasoning and such, as in couple of posts back there.

    It's a simple fact that millions of people for thousands of years have engaged in spiritual practices that involve doubting the existence of one's own mind.
    According to these people, at least the experts among them, it's not only possible but a routine and necessary step on the path of enlightenment.
    And so they actually do it. Routinely.

    One can also pay attention to one's own thinking, and notice that it does not require the existence of an owned mind - that the idea that this thinking is all and only in an entity describable as one's own mind is just another thought.

    In light of this, the interesting question regarding Descartes' contention is exactly why he went wrong - he was a bright guy, what boxed him into the assumption that thought requires a defined and located thinker, or that any such thinker would be capable of identifying itself merely by observing the thoughts?
  9. Speakpigeon Valued Senior Member

    And? Who cares?
    Funny how suddenly you're prepared to take mystics' words for it! How far are you going to stoop? You dog can doubt his own mind?! As I already said, it is easy to claim you doubt anything and this has exactly zero value.
    As I already explained, the Cogito is for each of us to consider and assess the truth of for themselves.
    Again, any idiot computer can print "I DOUBT MY OWN MIND - HAL". So what? I don't even know whether these people have a mind to begin with so the fact that they say they can doubt their mind has exactly zero value as to assessing the Cogito.
    Again, you have to do it for yourself and make up your own mind (LOL) and still your assessment will have exactly zero value for anyone but you, if that. This is not a logical argument.
    Is just another thought... Yeah. Just that. And just that is precisely what Descartes meant by "the mind": thoughts. Just thoughts. The mind is the one thought you are having the moment you're having it. This thought is all there is to what Descartes called "the mind".
    So, basically, you're commenting and arguing about something you don't even want to try and understand. I took the pain to explain it in details. But no. You just don't like the thing and you're not going to waste any time condescending to try and understand. All you want to do is just make a show of it.
    You see, the problem with that is that it shows you don't understand what you're talking about, which makes you look like nothing but a fool. Be my guest.
    The assumption that thought requires a defined and located thinker?!
    LOL. Descartes doesn't even use the word "thinker". He talks of the mind and of thoughts, give examples of thoughts, and explained carefully that what he calls the mind is just the thinking thing, the thought itself.
  10. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    They aren't mystics, and there's no need to take their word (the word of hundreds of thousands of people over centuries of recorded history for their first person experience, so familiar and repeatable as to be ritualized ) - you can try it yourself.

    Descartes, now, was more of a mystic - conjuring up an "I" from nowhere, a ghost for his machine.
    It's not what he meant by the "I think" or the "I am".
    This is what you "explained":
    That is - as noted repeatedly above - a mistake in reasoning. Thinking does not necessarily imply the existence of a thinking thing - and taking it the further step of implying the thinking thing is "I", oneself, highlights the basic error.
    But not all that there is to the entity Descartes "concluded" must exist, have that mind, do that thinking.
    And in that he declares the existence of a thinking thing. He even declares it to be a self of some kind - identifies it as "I". That's how all read it - including you, as quoted.

    The question is why he made that misstep - what took him from the existence of thoughts to the existence of an entity thinking, and even to the identification of that entity, without visible justification.
  11. Speakpigeon Valued Senior Member

    Yes it is. He spent several pages carefully explaining this in details. By the "I", he meant the thinking thing, the thoughts themselves.
    How would you go about proving it is a "mistake in reasoning" since he called thinking "a thinking thing"?
    He doesn't implies that. You really don't understand much at all. I already told you. It is a definition. Not an inference. He just called his thoughts "I".
    If there is thinking, then thinking is a thing and it's a thing that exists. Descartes calls this thing the "I".
    You have no point.
  12. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    You posted this, bolding mine: "The Cogito, then, is the expression of his conclusion that he cannot similarly doubt the existence of his own mind, because doubting is indeed thinking and thinking implies the existence of the thinking thing, the "I" of the Cogito"
    - - -
    By noting that he didn't observe a "thinking thing", but thoughts. Or by noting that thoughts don't think. Or by noting that thinking is not a thinking thing - thinking is what a thinking thing, if there is one, does.
    Running doesn't run. Eating doesn't eat. Remembering doesn't remember. Calculating doesn't calculate.
    Which he assumed without justification, apparently taking it as self evident.
    Thoughts do not necessarily make up a "thing" - and definitely are not a thinking thing.
    A thinking thing is not its thoughts.
    Thoughts do not think themselves.
    And if he didn't mean "I" as a term for a self of some kind, he sure picked a strange label for whatever he did mean. Any other letter would have been clearer.
    Not necessarily. One can assume that, of course, as he did, but it doesn't necessarily follow.
    Meanwhile, if such a "thing" is assumed, it doesn't itself think. Thoughts don't think - individually or collectively.
    Also on point: if there isn't "thinking", but only thoughts, the entire approach vanishes immediately.
  13. Speakpigeon Valued Senior Member

  14. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    You don't have to quit on that note - there's still this:
  15. Speakpigeon Valued Senior Member

    The thing is, Descartes didn't assume, or suggest, or argue that "thought requires a defined and located thinker".
    LOL is the only suitable response since it appears clearly that you don't understand English properly. Your question is definitely not interesting however hard you try. It is literally idiotic.
    You make inferences that are grossly invalid and then run with them asking people to disprove them. Hey, I don't have the time to cure you of this condition.
    Just ignore me, will you?
  16. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    You said he did. See quote.
    Self contradiction. The thoughts themselves are not a thinking thing. The "I" can mean the one or the other but not both - and the "thinking thing" seems far more natural, as well as being your interpretation and most everybody else's.
    The exact opposite.
    Like this:
    That's Descartes, described by you as making an inference others are supposed to disprove. The inference unargued is invalid, of course (Descartes overlooks even arguing for it, demonstrating his obliviousness).
    Just commenting on Descartes, in particular his most famous error - of omission, say those who believe him correct anyway; of reasoning, say those who believe him incorrect. That second group has plenty of evidence in its favor, including the vast experience of Buddhist monks and similar folk as well as their impeccable reasoning. One can in fact doubt the existence of "one's own mind" - it's a standard task of anyone seeking "enlightenment" in several traditions, and an obvious correlative of the observation that the existence of thoughts does not necessarily imply the existence of a thinking thing.

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