FRAGMENT OF THE COGITO

In this fragment, quoted in the piece I STINK, THEREFORE I AM, in regular blue are the portions of the fragment that pull the COGITO in the direction of Idealism. In bold blue are the portions of the fragment that pull the COGITO in the direction of Materialism. See already how intertwined these two philosophical “densities” are. Click on each portion of the fragment for a friendly explanation of its orientation, in a casual integrally cyber-post-Cartesian technological atmosphere.

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“As there are men who make mistakes in reasoning even on the simplest topic in geometry, I judged that I was as liable to error as any other, and rejected as false all the reasoning which I had previously accepted as valid demonstration. Finally, as the same precepts which we have when awake may come to us when asleep without their being true, I decided to suppose that nothing that had ever entered my mind was more real than the illusions of my dreams. But I soon noticed that while I thus wished to think everything false, it was necessarily true that I who thought so was something. Since this truth, I THINK, THEREFORE I AM, was so firm and assured that all the most extravagant suppositions of the sceptics were unable to shake it. I judged that I could safely accept it as the first principle of the philosophy I was seeking.

I then examined closely what I was, and saw that I could imagine that I had no body, and that there was no world nor any place that I occupied, but that I could not imagine for a moment that I did not exist. On the contrary, from the very fact that I doubted the truth of other things, it followed very evidently and very certainly that I existed. On the other hand, if I had ceased to think while all the rest of what I had ever imagined remained true, I would have had no reason to believe that I existed; therefore I concluded that I was a substance whose whole essence was only to think and which, to exist, has no need of space nor of any material thing. Thus it follows that this ego, this soul, by which I am what I am, is entirely distinct from the body and is easier to know than the latter, and that even if the body were not, the soul would not cease to be all that it now is.

Next I considered in general what is required of a proposition for it to be true and certain, for since I had just discovered one to be such, I thought I ought also to know of what that certitude consisted. I saw that there was nothing at all in this statement, “I think, therefore I am”, to assure me that I was saying the truth, unless it was that I saw very clearly that to think one must exist. So I judged that I could accept as a general rule that the things which we conceive very clearly and very distinctly are always true, but that there may well be some difficulty in deciding which are those which we conceive distinctly.”

(Descartes 1956: 20-21 – published in 1637)

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