On Tuesday, April 6, 2004, at 11:56 PM, Mark J. Reed wrote:

> On Tue, Apr 06, 2004 at 03:21:37PM -0700, Philippe Caquant wrote:

>> I also don't believe that saying "Cogito ergo sum" of "Cogito
>> sum" does prove anything.
> It doesn't *prove* anything; it's a fundamental basis for empiricism.

Well, no it doesn't. It was AFAIK, as Mark says, merely meant as a
starting point. Also "cogito ergo sum" and "cogito, sum" are not the same.
  The former has explicit implication, the latter is an example of
parataxis - found in Latin from the earliest period onwards, i.e. it's
been around for some 3000 years so I guess Descartes knew what he was
doing even if some others don't. (Sorry for introducing  linguistic notion
into this thread  ;)

'cogito, sum' does _not_ mean "'I think' = 'I exist'" which, of course,
would also necessarily mean "'I exist' = 'I think'".  The latter is absurd
and there is no basis for attributing it to Descartes; and interpreting
'cogito, sum' this way is groundless and shows no linguistic understanding
of the Latin construction.

I have never come across any example of parataxis where it has ever been
suggested that the relation between the two clauses is one of equality or
identity. So IMO it is perverse to apply that relation in this case.

Let's take a few actual Latin examples and see (the empirical approach :)
"sed taceam, optumum est" - "I'll be silent, it is best"

"adeamus appellemus" - "let us go, let us address [him]"

"herle opinor, ea uidetur" - "By Hercules I'm thinking, it looks like her"

"tantas diuitias habet, nescit quid faciat auro" - 'he has such great
riches, he doesn't know what to do his gold"

"nam nimi' calebat, amburebat gutterem" - "for it was too hot, it was
scorching my throat"

A variety of relationships here, I think. As Mark says, 'cogito, sum' does
not _prove_ anything. It's an empirical basis: "I am thinking; I exist".

>> He also decided that everything should be based on evidence (maybe I
>> make it a little caricatural, but it's something like that),
> That's not a caricature; it's a philosophy, that of empricism. Descartes
> was one of the first Natural Philosophers (as they styled themselves),
> the forerunners of modern scientists.  Others were Galileo, Newton,
> Liebniz . . .
> The basis of empiricism is that you take nothing for granted, but build
> upon only what you can observe.

Yep - which is why I'm skeptical (to put it mildly) of the Platonic &
Chomskyan approach to linguistics: it's already in-built, all we need is

> "Cogito [ergo] sum" is simply a statement
> that it is safe to assume that you exist; otherwise, who would be doing
> the observing?

Yes, seems fair enough to me.

> All other assumptions are suspect.  Not necessarily
> wrong - after all, DesCartes was not a solipsist - but needing
> examination, not to be taken as given.  This philosophy is the basis of
> all science, which, given the impressive results, is not something to be
> sneered at.


>> which is very dubious; it is not evident at all that it's the Earth
>> that's going around the Sun, and yet I was told it is so.

Oh, but it is evident. I guess Philippe has simply not bothered to examine
the body of evidence. It's there in astronomic _observation_, the 'laws'
of modern physics which, as Mark says, have been derived through empirical
science and in the wealth of mathematical knowledge the human race has
built up over the past 5000 years.

> But in any event, we know all of this through observation.


> As I indicated earlier, I agree with the rest of your post - thinking
> and existing are not equivalent, even in DesCartes' formulation.
> The former merely implies the latter.  Not through any causal
> relationship; thinking does not cause being.

Yep. I agree. Descartes' formulation neither says that thinking and being
are the same thing nor that there is any causal relationship. And the only
implication is....

> It's just that only
> something which exists can possibly think.

Quite so - "Gosh, I'm thinking! Well, if I'm thinking then I must have an

Of course, both he and the rest of us could all be deluded in thinking
that we are thinking....but then if I'm being deluded, I must exist to be
deluded. Unless, of course, my delusion is a delusion.......   ;)

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"A mind which thinks at its own expense will always
interfere with language."         J.G. Hamann, 1760