A fundamental error of the cogito

Teetotaler

Registered Senior Member
"I think, therefore I am (exist)".

First, who is "I". "I" is the person who has participated in certain events and committed certain actions on a timeline until "now".

Now, if I erase all of my memories, the cogito is thought to still hold up. Though, how can you say after all of your memories are gone, "I think, therefore I exist", if your whole idea of "I" has crumbled? Since all of my memories of the past have been deleted, "I", to me, is someone different than "I" was when I had all of my memories.

So I submit to you, proof of my existence does not lie within current thought, but within my memories of the past.

TeeTotaler
 
firstly, if you forgot your past, you would still be able to contemplate your existence. unless you are saying that you loose all mental function, in which case you don't exist, you are dead.

secondly, I think you are misinterpreting the saying. it is the reduction of objectivity. the only thing that a person can prove, is that they exist. everything could be an illusion, or it could be real, but it doesn't matter, you must exist to think, and if you think, you must exist. your existence can't be an illusion, because you have to exist to experience an illusion. I think (I experience either reality or an illusion), therefore I am.
 
Well you could suggest that everything is predestined, you'd then end up with a statement of: "I think, I think. therefore am I?"
 
Just because a person with no memories might not be able to conclude "I think therefore I am" doesn't mean it isn't true.
 
Cogito ergo sum seems like a cogent argument for the existence of the thinker (is cogitor a word?).

It is all the other conclusions he reached which did not seem to be justified.
 
Indeed. Although why it's quoted in latin is beyond me; he was French and we speak English.
 
Well the other thing is that "Descartes" means "The Paper(s)" to my knowledge.

[edit] According to Babelfish.altavista.com "des cartes" means "Charts".

Since the man was writing what you could only describe an essay on existance, it kind of justifies his name. Makes me wonder what he would of been called if he was a Signwriter.
 
teetotaler said:
Though, how can you say after all of your memories are gone, "I think, therefore I exist", if your whole idea of "I" has crumbled? Since all of my memories of the past have been deleted, "I", to me, is someone different than "I" was when I had all of my memories.
The "I" that is being referred to has to be the one that is present. For your argument to hold, the phrase would have to be "I think, therefore I was." If you can think, there is an "I" which exists. I would argue that a person's existence isn't defined only by his memories, so the present "I" and the past "I" are the same person. So either way, your logic is flawed.
 
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I used Latin because that is the language DesCartes actually used, even though he was French. Perhaps in his era, Latin was a more commonly known langage than French.

I also admit to be a bit of a showoff at times, especially when I do not take a thread very seriously.
 
Teetotaler said:
"I think, therefore I am (exist)".

First, who is "I". "I" is the person who has participated in certain events and committed certain actions on a timeline until "now".

Now, if I erase all of my memories, the cogito is thought to still hold up. Though, how can you say after all of your memories are gone, "I think, therefore I exist", if your whole idea of "I" has crumbled? Since all of my memories of the past have been deleted, "I", to me, is someone different than "I" was when I had all of my memories.

So I submit to you, proof of my existence does not lie within current thought, but within my memories of the past.

TeeTotaler

no offense, but i think it is very prepotent of you to try to point out a fundamental flaw on the result of a briliant man's years of work based on your little thinking exercise....

you need to understand what led him to make that affirmation first.
to make it easy, what descartes proposes is for you to ask yourself "how can I be sure that i am not dreaming", or that something or someone is stimulating your sensitive organs to induce what you perceive as reality (very matrix :eek: ) and you will arrive to the conclusion that you can't be sure.
the reason for affirming "I think, therefore I am" is that the only thing you can ever be certain of is that you are a thinking being, because everything else that you might hold as certain can be an artifice. you arrive to this conclusion through thought though (whoa, cool aliteration), so, that you think, you can be certain of.
 
Stryder said:
Well the other thing is that "Descartes" means "The Paper(s)" to my knowledge.

[edit] According to Babelfish.altavista.com "des cartes" means "Charts".

Since the man was writing what you could only describe an essay on existance, it kind of justifies his name. Makes me wonder what he would of been called if he was a Signwriter.

correct me if i am wrong, but the word chart came from descartes, and not any other way around... wasn't he who developed the study of cartesian planes (and therefore they are called cartesian)?
 
Just so you all know... Descartes wasn't writing a treatise on the nature of existence, not directly anyhow.

He was attempting to prove the existence of God.

Read it yourself: http://oregonstate.edu/instruct/phl302/texts/descartes/meditations/meditations.html
(Above link is absent the Meditation 4 for some odd reason and seeing as how it is the one under discussion, you can find it here: http://www.earlymoderntexts.com/f_descarte.html)


no offense, but i think it is very prepotent of you to try to point out a fundamental flaw on the result of a briliant man's years of work based on your little thinking exercise....

I think most of the flaws in his work have been worked over pretty much by now. His philosophy has been pretty much torn to shreds... Cogito ergo sum is still catchy though, yes?

What I find most amusing about Descartes' work is how he had to cheat to prevent solipsism. He was trying to prove the existence of God right? Well, he had to posit the existence of a benign God who wouldn't deceive you (the opposite of his evil genius) to escape solipsism.

Major cop out.
 
Varda said:
correct me if i am wrong, but the word chart came from descartes, and not any other way around... wasn't he who developed the study of cartesian planes (and therefore they are called cartesian)?

Just checked and yeah, you're right! Nice one.
 
Lots of good points made so far.

Teetotaler has some common misunderstandings of the cogito.

Descartes manages to avoid infinite regress problem in the argument because he's speaking of a reflective I. The simple fact that an "I" is doing the very 'looking', is enough to substantiate the position of certainty. Furthermore, it's not properly "I think, therefore I am.", rather, what Descartes said was "I doubt, therefore I am."
 
Glaucon: Does cogito mean doubt? I thought it meant think. At least the case ending is like what I remember: amo, amas, amat . . . .

I amamus, amatus, amant next?
 
Dino,

The usage of cogito is (obviously) from a Latin translation. In the original, the word used is doubt.
 
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