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Descartes (15961650) 1 Introduction Main (philosophical) works:
Principia Philosophicae (1644) 2 Methodology Introspection and antielitism
My plan has never gone beyond trying to reform my own thoughts and construct them upon a foundation which is all my own. (Discourse on the Method; CSM I: 118)
Good sense is the best distributed thing in the world … the power of judging well and of distinguishing the true from false
—which is what we properly call ‘good sense’ or ‘reason’—
is naturally equal in all men, and consequently that the diversity of our opinions does not arise because some of us are more reasonable that others but solely because we direct our thoughts along different paths and do not attend to the same things. (Discourse on the Method; CSM I: 111)
3 Break away from the Scholastic tradition:
And if I am writing in French, my native language, rather than Latin, the language of my teachers, it is because I expect that those who use only their natural reason in all its purity will be better judges of my opinion than those who give credence only to the writings of the ancients. (Discourse on the Method; CSM I: 151) 4 Cartesian Feminism Poullain de la Barre (16471723)
Published anonymously in 1673 On the Equality of the Two Sexes. (Poullain de la Barre (2002). Three Cartesian Feminist Treatises. U. of Chicago Press) He brings Cartesian objectivity to gender issues in addressing cultural inequalities between the sexes. By systematically employing Cartesian methodology Poullain rejected tradition as a means of dealing with the issues of feminism.
5 Based on Descartes’ cogito argument that establishes the superiority o the mind over the body, Poullain extended the challenge of rational thinking to the polemic of sex and gender.
Since the mind has no sex, discrimination between the sexes could not be accepted as the truth whether enshrined by tradition or not. The female gender carried as much intellectual potential as its male counterpart because a lack of physical strength had no correlation with a weaker mind. Only customs and traditions have predetermined women subordinate status. 6 Fallacious argument :
This is the way things have always been done, therefore they should be done this way. Had women been allowed to engage in public responsibilities, they would never have been excluded from it in the first place. To hold to custom and usage because they are sanctioned by time (and male privilege) is pure prejudice. Poullain arguments apply to class distinction as well: How many peasants might have become renewed scholars if they had been given a chance?
7 Descartes Innovation/Main Contribution Mathematics is Central
Break away from Scholastics Philosophical Knowledge: (i) unity (ii) purity and (iii) certainty 8 The Method of Doubt Descartes’ Method. Antielitist: truth is not reserved to highly trained minds.
Method of Doubt. An epistemological enterprise. The malicious demon and the dream argument. So, for the purpose of rejecting all my opinion, it will be enough if I find in each of them [opinions] at least some reason for doubt. And to do so I will not need to run through them all individually, which would be an endless task. Once the foundations of a building are undermined, anything built on them collapses of its own accord; so I will go straight to the basic principles on which my former beliefs rested. (First Meditation; CSM II: 17)
9 I thought it necessary to do the very opposite and reject as if absolutely false everything in which I could imagine the least doubt , in order to see if I was left believing anything that was entirely indubitable. Thus, because our senses sometimes deceive us, I decided to suppose that nothing was such as they led us to imagine. And since there are men who make mistakes in reasoning, committing logical fallacies concerning the simplest questions in geometry, and because I judged that I was as prone to error as anyone else, I rejected as unsound all the arguments I had previously taken as demonstrative proofs. Lastly, considering that the very thoughts we have while awake may also occur while we sleep without any of them being at that time true , I resolved to pretend that all the things that had ever entered my mind were no more true than the illusions of my dreams. But immediately I noticed that while I was trying thus to think everything false, it was necessary that I, who was thinking this, was something. And observing that this truth ‘I am thinking, therefore I exist’ was so firm and sure that all the most extravagant suppositions of the sceptics were incapable of shaking it , I decided that I could accept it without scruple as the first principle of the philosophy I was seeking. (Discourse on the Method; CSM I: 1267) Within the methodology of doubt, the malicious demon is merely supposed/posited for the sake of the argument.
10 The Cogito Argument The First Principle. This brings a stop to the doubt.
I have convinced myself that there is absolutely nothing in the world, no sky, no earth, no mind, no bodies. Does it follow tat I too do not exist? No: if I convinced myself of something then I certainly existed. But there is a deceiver of supreme power and cunning who is deliberately and constantly deceiving me. In that case I too undoubtedly exist if he is deceiving me; and let him deceive me as much as he can, he will never bring it about that I am nothing so long as I think that I am something. So after considering everything very thoroughly, I must finally conclude that this proposition, I am, I exist, is necessarily true whenever it is put forward by me or conceived in my mind. (Second Meditation; CSM II: 167)
11 At least as I have discovered it—thought; this alone is inseparable from me. I am, I exist—that is certain. But for how long? For as long as I am thinking. For it could be that were I totally to cease from thinking, I should totally cease to exist. (Second Meditation; CSM II: 18) The cogito argument does not rest on the standard syllogistic reasoning:
(1) Whatever is thinking exists
(2) I am thinking So: (3) I exist
When someone says ‘I am thinking, therefore I am, or I exist’, he does not deduce existence from thought by means of a syllogism, but recognizes it as something self
evident by a simple intuition of the mind. This is clear from the fact that if he were deducing it by means of a syllogism, he would have to have had previous knowledge of the major premiss. (Second Set of Replies; CSM II: 100)
12 Why not “I see, I exist” or “I walk, I exist”?
For example, I am not seeing light, hearing a noise, feeling heat. But I am asleep, so all this is false. Yet I certainly seem to see, to hear, and to be warmed. This cannot be false; what is called ‘having a sensoryperception’ is strictly just this, and in this restricted sense of the term is simply thinking. (Second Meditation; CSM II: 19) “It seems that I see” =〉 “I think”
“It seems that I see, so I exist” =〉 “I think, so I am”
13 Is the Cogito an Inference?
When someone says ‘I am breathing, therefore I exist’, if he wants to prove he exists from the fact that there cannot be breathing without existence, he proves nothing, because he would have to prove first that it is true that he is breathing, which is impossible unless he has also proved that he exists. But if he wants to prove his existence from the feeling of the belief he has that he is breathing, so that he judges that even if the opinion were untrue he could not have it if he did not exist, then his proof is sound. For in such a case the thought of breathing is present to our mind before the thought of our existing, and we cannot doubt that we have it while we have it. (Letter to Reneri for Pollot, April or May 1638; CSMK III : 98) Qualia (sensations):
are central, selfreflection, introspection
14 External World If external objects exist, their true nature is perceived by the intellect, not by the senses (which can deceive us). Hence introspection is crucial. Thus, the importance in Descartes of the system of ideas.
15 Grasping/Entertaining Ideas of Substances One does not grasp a substance per se: one grasps a property of that substance. When we come to the mind qua substance, though, the property one grasps of that substance is its thinking property.
An idea may not represent a thing in the real world, yet when one entertains an idea one cannot not seem to have an idea.
16 Reply to Gassendi:
[Y]ou [Gassendi] make an incidental criticism as follows: although I have not admitted that I have anything apart from a mind, I nevertheless speak of the wax which I see and touch, and yet this is impossible without eyes and hands. But you should have noticed that I had carefully pointed out that I was not here dealing with sight and touch, which occur by mean of bodily organs, but was concerned solely with the though of seeing and touching, which, as we experience every day in our dreams, does not require these organs. (Reply to Gassendi; Fifth Set of Replies; CSM II: 249) Scepticism: From “It seems that I perceive” we cannot infer the existence of the external world. 17 “I think, I am” qua Scientific Starting Block
Ontological Commitment. Ontology deals with the part of metaphysic concerning the question what kind of things there are. Quine’s slogan: “to be is to be the value of a variable”. [E]ntities of a given sort are assumed by a theory if and only if some of them be counted among the values of the variables, in order that the statements affirmed in the theory be true. (Quine 1953)
18 Quining Descartes:
With the cogito argument one is ontologically committed to the existence of oneself qua thinking thing. In order to be successful in committing ourselves to the existence of other things our theory must ultimately rely on the first principle (the cogito) and brings in only other indubitable, necessary, truths. Descartes will appeal to God and this appeal can be seen to be scientifically driven. 19 The Self Myself qua Substance
[F]rom the mere fact that each of us understands himself to be a thinking thing and is capable, in thoughts, of excluding from himself every other substance, whether thinking or extended, it is certain that each of us, regarded in this way, is really distinct from every other thinking substance and from every corporeal substance. (Principles of Philosophy 1. 60; CSM I: 213) Main Question. How do we escape from the realm of subjectiveself awareness? God enters the picture. 20 ...
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This document was uploaded on 10/26/2011 for the course PHIL 1301 at Carleton CA.
- Fall '07