Talk:Cogito ergo sum
Unfortunately I think, therefore I am reveals a rather counterproductive aspect of radical skepticism. Since part of the conclusion reached is that one can only be absolotely certain of one's own existance, and everything else in the universe is suspect, it makes it rather difficult to state anything at all as a "fact". You just can't really be certain. It might be important to emphasize this more in the article...--David Yamakuchi 22:31, 30 December 2007 (CST)
- I thought that Descartes originally wrote it in the Latin. But maybe not. Did he first write (say) "Je pense, donc j'existe" or "Je pense, donc je suis"? If so, then why would it have come down to us in Latin rather than French? And, if this really is the case, this should also be explained in the article. I mean, after all, none of Shakespeare's famous phrases are known to us by their Latin translation....Hayford Peirce 22:35, 30 December 2007 (CST)
My Philosophy Teacher (who also spoke French) claimed it was "Je pense, donc je suis".--David Yamakuchi 17:44, 18 January 2008 (CST)
- Okie, but still unanswered is the question of why it came down to us in the Latin form.... Hayford Peirce 18:08, 18 January 2008 (CST)
- Could it be because the Latin is neater and easier to pronounce...? Ro Thorpe 18:40, 18 January 2008 (CST)
Because Descartes wrote the Discourse in both French and Latin, that's why.
I've taught & studied this topic, and will do a general edit. --Larry Sanger 19:03, 18 January 2008 (CST)
I'm cutting a lot of text, and so I owe an explanation:
- The steps of the argument are quite simple. Descartes first claims that so many former truths have been shown not to stand up to scrutiny, that philosophy needs a new starting point. In his search for this new fulcrum he adopts two methodological devices: not to examine individual claims to knowledge, but rather their basis (sense perception or reason, for example), and to discard as false any statement that isn't evidently true. The latter device allows him to discard anything of which he might have the slightest cause for doubt.
- The first victim of his analysis is knowledge based on sense perception. We are often deceived by our senses, so clearly they cannot provide us with the sort of foundational truth we need. Even those sensations that seem so direct and unquestionable to our senses that they couldn't be false, can be questioned when we realize that we often dream that we are feeling them, only to discover later that it wasn't the case. If we cannot distinguish being awake from sleeping, then sense perception can never lead to certain knowledge.
- The truths of mathematics would seem a more probable case for certain truths, especially for a mathematician like Descartes, but he introduces the possibility that these truths could have been introduced into our minds by God who wished to deceive us by making us think they are true. He soon backs away from this idea, claiming God could not possibly wish this evil on us, and changes him for an evil demon powerful enough to achieve the same result. Given this new hypothesis not even the truths of mathematics can be saved.
- At this point Descartes realizes that while he can subject everything to doubt, the only thing that he cannot dismiss is the very fact that he is doubting. No form of thought can be skeptical of its own existence without serious contradiction, so thinking in its various mental guises, is something of which he can be completely certain. Thinking is proof of my existence!
This is presented as an explanation of "the argument," which purportedly is an explanation of the meaning of cogito ergo sum itself--which it clearly isn't. It's an explanation (not a bad one) of the application of what is called his "method of doubt" or "Cartesian doubt" or "hyperbolic doubt." It is that doubt that leads Descartes to the cogito, but the above narrative is not part of the meaning of the cogito itself. It might be a good idea to create a new article about Cartesian doubt (that's probably a good name for it), and this text might be part of it. Indeed, if we're going to have a whole separate article about the cogito--and thus about every other concept, argument, and feature of Descartes' philosophy of similar importance--then we will also have an article about Cartesian doubt. Certainly, historians of philosophy are capable of discussing the meaning of the cogito without giving an in-depth account of the meaning of Cartesian doubt. I don't mean any offense, it's just that this topic is one I've studied quite a bit, and on that basis I think the concepts are separable. --Larry Sanger 19:31, 18 January 2008 (CST)