Friday, September 03, 2004

Comments on "Cogito ergo sum"

This (posted earlier) slightly mis-represents Descartes.

Firstly, he was not in fact in a state of epistemological doubt: although modern philsophers would say that you can legitimately doubt the evidence of your senses about whether there is a world out there, he was merely proposing to establish that the Universe, and God, existed, by reasoning from first principles.

Secondly, people tend to take Cogito ergo sum to mean "I think therefore I am", (as I do here) implying that being a thinking being is a prerequisite of existence at all (and thus effectively a re-wording of Socrates' argument that the unexamined life is not worth living). His point was more subtle: "I think (there is an I that is thinking) therefore I am (since there is an I thinking then there is an I that exists).

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