[hist-analytic] Descartes' "Cogito": An Analytic Historic Perspective
Jlsperanza at aol.com
Jlsperanza at aol.com
Wed Mar 18 17:40:42 EDT 2009
In a message dated 3/18/2009 5:08:02 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time,
danny.frederick at tiscali.co.uk writes:
But I am sure that Descartes and Kant (and perhaps the rest of
the a priori crew) would deny that it is based upon experience:
I tried to read Cartesius, Renatus, in the original vernacular (la langue
francaise) and the Latinate. Both ... leave a lot for Malebranche to be desired!
In French it's
"je pense; donc, j'exist"
where 'donc' sounds _very_ interjectional_ to me!
In Latin it's
"cogito ergo sum" which sounds better.
But is the logical form, for him, as we assume it _should_ be:
. . sum
? Don't think so. Logic was never so developed then. I think he merely meant,
"si je pense, j'exist".
"si cogito, sum"
"Ergo" is _a_ trick of a word. I would never have my students learn it! It's
I find that anything that can be expressed with . . can also
be expressed without.
Grice's epoch-making example:
"He is an Englishman; he is, therefore, brave."
Note the profussion of graphics: 'comma', semi-colon. It's _ungrammatical_
So it's not a sentence in Chomskyan sense. It's two.
(1) He is an Englishman; he is, therefore, brave.
(2) He is an Englishman.
(3) He is, therefore, brave.
And they are conjoined:
(2) & (3) iff (1)
But that's not what it's meant. What is meant can never be put euphonically
which is a bad sign for any Austinian worthy of her name:
(4) The fact that he is brave follows from the fact that he is an Englishman.
But what _facts_ are we talking about? Surely the 'cogito' for Descartes
cannot be a _fact_.
"un fait accompli". The Latin 'factum' would also be otiose. But eliminating
(5) Jack's bravery follows from his Englishry [sic]
is some otiose.
--- I use Jack because Grice expands on this as being an utterance by _Jill_
on she having to report on Jack's brain swelling for that literally bloody
pail of water. "Jack felt down and broke his crown" -- I always found that
rhyme so obscene. But then so was my nurse!
As I write this I'm hoping that Natasha Richardson's courage will follow
from her Englishry too.
It's interesting to model Kant's 'transcendental' ego, so-called, in terms
of the ego of the cogito. "Ich denke" indeed. What's slightly problematic is
that it's a mere doxastic: 'think', 'denken'. Now, "I _know_; thefore I am"
sounds like a veritable truism to me. Never mind a priori.
But I would think that Cartesius and Zant (I prefer this spelling -- as it's
"Cant" pronounced in Germany before he changed it to Mr. "K") would have
allowed for the total cancellation of the cogito: alla:
(6) Cogito ergo sum; but then perhaps it's not even a fact that I cogito. It
could be all the result of a malignant demon.
In Descartes, it has to do with the odd metaphysics of res cogitans. When in
problem with some cancellation, invent a new category of entity, call it 'res
cogitans', and add that something is true in that realm by _decree_.
With Kant, the 'ego' becomes so otiose, transcendental or not, that my
teacher never understood it! "Skip it," she said -- "Stick to the things he writes
the ego _understands_". Another trick, 'understand'. Why are these
continentals so into not accepting 'knowledge' for what it claims to be?
Hintikka had it possibly right when he tried to put Austin's odd notions to
some good use, and said, "It's the performative, stupid" (Verifiable by their
use, alla Lemmon).
J. L. Speranza
Grice, 'Descartes on clear and distinct ideas', WOW. Part II:
Semantics and Metaphysics.
Hintikka. The Cogito
Chisholm. The first person
Anscombe. The first person
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