Nicholas on Cogito

April 4th, 2011

A diagram by J. W. Nicholas, from an appendix of his 1977 Psience (see previous post).

Cogito means ‘I think,’ but I interpret Descartes’s famous dictum as a contraction of, ‘I think about the I which thinks, therefore I am.’ Thinking requires an object. To think at all, one must think about something. The mystal no-mind is not achieved by suspending mental process but by eliminating mental content. The cogitating Descartes thought about thinking in a way that proved his existence as a thinker. I believe he thought about the I which thinks.

“Philosophers know the syllogistic conjunction ergo/therefore requires two premises to balance a conclusion, but Descarte presented only one premise—‘I think.’ His statement either fails as logic or transcends logic. I believe it transcends.

“The view that all knowledge is logically derivable gets one into a limitless proliferation of prior premises, an infinite regress, a reverse martingale, unacceptable to the practical cogitator. We need some premises that are not prior conclusions, or there will be no base on which to build the logical structure. I judge Descartes’s sum/I-am to be one such fundamental premise, needing no antecedent. As Ouroboros swallows his tails, so:” (p65)

3 Responses to “Nicholas on Cogito”

  1. timo platt Says:

    Invention, if not simply innovation, depends at least in part on conceiving new ways to think of a problem, and thus changing the assumptions, if not logically derived knowledge. As a real-world example, the solution for communications beyond fixed known endpoints was not derived by the best telecoms engineers applying knowledge derived or imagined from 150 years of telecoms R&D.

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