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If acquisition of native languages by children L1A and of nonnative languages by adults L2A plays a role in observable instances of language change, then current results from language acquisition research should establish boundary conditions on our theoretical speculations on what children and adults could, in principle, contribute to Creole formation. This seems a sound heuristic: much more is known and knowable about contemporary, thus observable and measurable, instances of L1A and L2A than about their counterparts in the early stages of creolization.

The latter can no longer be investigated via direct observation and experimentation, notwithstanding our increasingly expansive archival databases. The complementarity between theory and data, including archival data, is inescapable once we recognize that Creole formation, because it includes instances of 3 , is both :. Thus, in order to elucidate the processes underlying Creole formation it is necessary to couple theoretical work on UG with the analysis of all available data, including archival data, sociohistorical information, contemporary texts, grammaticality judgements from contemporary Creole speakers, etc.

This question was addressed at great length from a variety of perspectives, going back to the 17th century. Elsewhere DeGraff, , c I look at specific parallels between morphosyntactic developmental patterns in language acquisition and creolization. What is worth stressing is that these studies, unlike our speculations about the ecology and time course of creolization in the Caribbean or, more generally, of language change in the relatively remote past, are based on developmental patterns that are directly observable, thus open to precise measurements and comparisons and to more empirically grounded analyses.

These measurements, comparisons and analyses should help us better appreciate the kinds of restructuring that take place in language acquisition with nonnative PLD and the effects of age on such restructuring. It is such factors that turn certain instances of Sign Language acquisition into rich sources of data for investigating the relationship between degrees of PLD impoverishment, learner's age and innovations in the structural profiles of the grammars constructed in L1A and L2A.

For example, there are substantial ecological differences between the colonial Caribbean and the social matrix of the Sign Language emergence cases see the caveats in DeGraff a : 27, b : f; Kegl et al. In the colonial Caribbean, unlike in the Sign Language cases, there was no physiological impediment restricting access to PLD from any of the languages in contact.

In any case, it is methodologically useful that these two sets of developmental phenomena — namely, Sign Language creation and creolization — are not exact counterparts of each other with respect to all the relevant variables. Newport : , Hyltenstam and Abrahamsson ; Newport , for literature reviews on maturational constraints in language development.

As these authors remark, these results confirm previous hypotheses that posit a maturational gap between the restructuring capacities of children and adults. This gap seems most evident in the initial stages of acquisition with PLD that are markedly impoverished. It seems quite possible that sustained exposure to robust PLD or acquisition in formal instructional contexts may attenuate the observable effects of such a gap.

See Chaudenson and Mufwene for further discussion of habitation vs. These groups included:. The groups in ii — iv were in existence, in varying proportions, throughout the colonial period. Such sociolinguistic factors are obviously related to the continuum phenomena that have been extensively studied by creolists. It has also been argued, outside of Sign Language research, that children, unlike adults, can routinely and systematically integrate, regularize and expand the often inconsistent structural innovations that nonfluent adults introduce in the PLD cf.

Slobin ; Trudgill , , ; Chambers ; Kerswill ; Labov , etc. Given what we know about the cognition of word segmentation and the quite abstract relationship between lexicon, morphology, syntax and semantics, the systematic correspondences between HC and its superstrate at these four levels constitute a formidable challenge to any account that postulates as principal agents of Creole formation either African adult learners with extremely reduced access to superstrate speech as in, e. These correspondences also constitute a formidable challenge to linguists such as Thomason and Kaufman who categorically exclude Creoles from the scope of the Comparative Method.

As Bickerton's : correctly points out in his criticism of the Relexification Hypothesis:. You can't abstract words from the framework you meet them in and the properties that, in consequence, they trail with them. Those properties may be sharply reduced, as in early [L2A] or pidginization, but they are always there, and you cannot just peel them off like you would the rind from an orange. As it turns out, Bickerton's argument against the Relexification Hypothesis doubles as an argument against his own Language Bioprogram Hypothesis.

Caribbean Creoles usually have always had lexica that, to a great extent, are etymologically related to those of their respective European lexifiers. Substrate influence — which, like superstrate influence, is well documented see, e. Trouillot : 53, 57; Chaudenson and Mufwene : Trouillot , Debien : 85—, — and Chaudenson and Mufwene : 94— Many of these affranchis and nonfarming slaves were locally born, even though they would still be exposed, in various degrees, to the African ancestral languages throughout the colonial period see Fouchard : ; H.

Parametric differences would be even greater across language groups such as Kwa and Bantu. Compare, say, massive incorporation in Bantu and lack thereof in Kwa see Singler : f; and DeGraff b : ff, for related comments. The typological mix of early Creole varieties would thus be radically different from the set of relatively uniform, though certainly not identical, grammars that characterize speakers of contemporary HC, across dialectal lines.

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See DeGraff b for further discussion; also see Hyltenstam and Abrahamsson and Newport and the references therein on the debate regarding critical periods in language development. Many sociolinguistic treatments of language variation and change have similarly argued that younger learners are essential to the homogenization of dialects in contact see aforementioned work by Trudgill, Chambers, Kerswill, and Labov on the differential effects of L1A and L2A in dialect contact and koineization, and the discussion and additional references in DeGraff b : f, f, , etc.

Such instances of L1A — in the midst of language contact — do not exclude the possibility that, alongside the Creole, some of the ancestor languages, at least for some period, would have been concurrently acquired by some of the Creole children. But there do exist instances of child bilingualism where transfer is more likely to happen, namely when one of the languages is weaker or acquired later than the other Genesee and Nicoladis ; Paradis ; Ionin , which must have been the case in the rapidly changing linguistic ecology of the colonial Caribbean.

Besides, in the colonial Caribbean cases of bilingual acquisition, we simply do not know what subsets of the languages in contact and how much input from each language were available, in what order, to these bilingual Creole children at various stages in creolization. Simon did not acquire the exclusionary pattern of his parents, but rather freely combined two inflections. Roberts : 46; also see S. In these particular instances of Sign Language and Creole formation, younger learners appear to create productive structural combinations that are not manifested in the PLD provided by their older models.

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Such exclusionary accounts systematically and erroneously gloss over interesting interactions and differences between L2A and L1A and the implications of such interactions and differences for Creole formation. Mufwene These constructions are found both in the Kwa languages and in Caribbean Creoles, but apparently not in the relevant European languages. Yet the available evidence e. This issue is elaborated in the very next section. In this hypothesis Creoles stand out as languages in arrested development, with Creole creators by and large remaining stuck in some early stage of L2A.

But such a constraint throws the syntax baby with the morphology bath water. Interphrasal information exchange may be a necessary condition for contextual inflectional morphology, but it is certainly not a sufficient condition for the appearance of such overt morphology. Independently of one's precise analysis, these facts suggests that the inflectional suffixes that characterize the long forms in HC and Mauritian Creole are sensitive to both the syntactic context of their occurrence, including the syntactic status of surrounding elements e.

In all these cases, the inflection marks the kind of construction the verb is part of. Veenstra Consider the example in 7. To wit, the presence vs. This is a clear example of a grammatical constraint that relies on information exchanges across clauses i. To wit, the ungrammaticality of 9 as opposed to the grammaticality of 7 :. These or related characteristics, which crucially depend on the capacity for interphrasal information exchange, are found in all Caribbean Creoles. The Creole text exhibits instances of subcategorization and selectional restrictions, clausal complementation, purposive clauses, relative clauses, etc.

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Plag a : Not only there's no evidence for such a drastic qualitative gap in the history of HC, but also this would entail that the earliest HC varieties, very much unlike contemporary HC, lack basic features of Human Language. According to the logic of Plag's own assumptions regarding Processability Theory in L2A, the Kwa substrates could not have influenced Caribbean Creole cleft constructions if the Kwa speakers qua Creole creators were still in early L2A stages during creolization.

L1 transfer will not occur across the board, but when the structure to be transferred is processable within the developing L2 system. That is, the interlanguage processor must have the very procedure at its disposal that is required for the processing of the L1 structure to be transferred. Indeed, according to the Developmentally Moderated Transfer Hypothesis, the corresponding L1's constructions e. Incidentally, substrate influence via L2A in the emergence of predicate clefts in Caribbean Creoles is one more reason to reject any facile claim that adult L2A, thus language contact, always entails global simplification of the resulting grammars.

Trouillot , etc. For example, consider the following claim:. The argumentation [in Lefebvre : — and Veenstra : Ch. The analyses rest however exclusively on syntactic phenomena scope and referential properties, passivization facts etc. We find no change in the morphological shape of embedded subject pronouns in these languages. Overt inflectional morphology is taken by Plag a to depend on interphrasal information exchange. Such exchange, it seems to me, would then rely on syntactic information that is transmitted across syntactic domains — indeed, syntax is the very component of grammar that organizes the phrases where information is to be exchanged.

If so, any analysis of HC and Saramaccan that reveals syntactic phenomena that require the passing of information through nodes in the syntax e. Consider, say, the HC contrast in 11 which is documented in Sterlin ; cf. Lefebvre : :. Furthermore, the referential range of the embedded subjects in 11 is sensitive to the morphosyntactic realization of the embedded complementizer layer.

Lastly, the contrast in 11 obtains with a subclass of verbs that take clausal complements e. See Sterlin and Veenstra : Ch. The problem is more general: In many theoretical frameworks, inflectional morphology is one relatively superficial reflex, among others , of the sort of structural relations that underlie various types of interphrasal information exchange. These types of information exchange are robustly attested in the grammars of Creole languages.

Furthermore Plag's assumptions go against recent L2A results whereby syntactic representations in early interlanguages are shown to be relatively independent of their morphological reflexes. In such frameworks, overt morphological markers can go missing in the surface representations even when the relevant abstract features are active in the syntax and are shared by the relevant syntactic nodes. In such dissociative models, absence of overt morphology does not necessarily imply absence of the underlying abstract syntactic representations see, e.

Creoles are certainly not exceptional in that regard. The evolution of Latin into Romance and the history of English e. In the framework that I have sketched above, both L1A and L2A play a recursive role in creolization in the Caribbean: For socioeconomic and political reasons, the Creole children, once they become older, will be among the most influential PLD sources in subsequent instances of L1A and L2A. For instance, sociohistorical and demographic factors will influence the proportion, fluency and heterogeneity of nonnative utterances of the PLD cf.

Baker : —; Lightfoot , ; etc. Trouillot , for related critiques. My heartiest thanks go to three anonymous reviewers and to Enoch Aboh and Salikoko Mufwene for their probing and constructive comments on earlier versions of this paper. Extra thanks to Enoch and Sali for being always prompt, kind and reliable in their support, academically and otherwise — Lafanmi se lavi!

Yet I am afraid that there are important issues that I have been unable to address in this already long paper. Mea culpa. DeGraff is also interested in the joint study of language change and language acquisition and how such study may help elucidate the mental bases of language development in individual speakers and across generations of speakers. Volume 3 , Issue 4. If you do not receive an email within 10 minutes, your email address may not be registered, and you may need to create a new Wiley Online Library account.

An important part of metaphysical inquiry therefore involves learning to think with the intellect. An important function of his methods is to help would-be perfect knowers redirect their attention from the confused imagery of the senses to the luminous world of clear and distinct ideas of the intellect. Elsewhere Descartes adds, of innate truths:. This storehouse includes ideas in mathematics, logic, and metaphysics. Interestingly, Descartes holds that even our sensory ideas involve innate content. On his understanding of the new mechanical physics, bodies have no real properties resembling our sensory ideas of colors, sounds, tastes, and the like, thus implying that the content of such ideas draws from the mind itself.

But if even these sensory ideas count as innate, how then are we to characterize the doctrine of innateness? Importantly, the formation of these sensory ideas — unlike purely intellectual concepts — depends on sensory stimulation. Newman This characterization allows that both intellectual and sensory concepts draw on native resources, though not to the same extent. Relatively little attention is given to his doctrine of innateness, or, more generally, his ontology of thought. On the internalism-externalism distinction, see Alston and Plantinga For a partly externalist interpretation of Descartes, see Della Rocca For a stability interpretation of Descartes, see Bennett On the full indubitability of knowledge, see Newman and Nelson On the methodism-particularism distinction, see Chisholm and Sosa On analysis and synthesis, see Smith The theory whereby items of knowledge are best organized on an analogy to architecture traces back to ancient Greek thought — to Aristotle, and to work in geometry.

His method of doubt is intended to complement foundationalism. The two methods are supposed to work in cooperation, as conveyed in the above quotation. The central insight of foundationalism is to organize knowledge in the manner of a well-structured, architectural edifice. Such an edifice owes its structural integrity to two kinds of features: a firm foundation and a superstructure of support beams firmly anchored to the foundation. A system of justified beliefs might be organized by two analogous features: a foundation of unshakable first principles, and a superstructure of further propositions anchored to the foundation via unshakable inference.

Euclid begins with a foundation of first principles — definitions, postulates, and axioms or common notions — on which he then bases a superstructure of further propositions. It would be misleading to characterize the arguments of the Meditations as unfolding straightforwardly according to geometric method cf.

Curley , Though the component finds no analogue in the methods of geometers, Descartes appears to hold that it is needed in metaphysical inquiry. In contrast, metaphysical inquiry might have first principles that conflict with the senses:. Such mistakes in the laying of the foundations weaken the entire edifice. Descartes adds:. Though foundationalism brilliantly allows for the expansion of knowledge from first principles, Descartes thinks that a complementary method is needed to help us discover genuine first principles. The passage adds:.

In the architectural analogy, we can think of bulldozers as the ground clearing tools of demolition. For knowledge building, Descartes construes sceptical doubts as the ground clearing tools of epistemic demolition. Bulldozers undermine literal ground; doubt undermines epistemic ground.

The ultimate aim of the method is constructive. Bulldozers are typically used for destructive ends, as are sceptical doubts. Descartes thus uses sceptical doubts to test the firmness of candidates put forward for the foundations of knowledge. According to at least one prominent critic, this employment of sceptical doubt is unnecessary and excessive. Writes Gassendi:. Here, Gassendi singles out two features of methodical doubt — its universal and hyperbolic character. In reply, Descartes remarks:. Evidently, Descartes holds that the universal and hyperbolic character of methodical doubt is helpful to its success.

Further appeal to the architectural analogy helps elucidate why. Descartes offers the following analogy:. That even one falsehood would be mistakenly treated as a genuine first principle — say, the belief that the senses are reliable , or that ancient authorities should be trusted — threatens to spread falsehood to other beliefs in the system. A collective doubt helps avoid such mistakes. It ensures that the method only approves candidate first principles that are unshakable in their own right: it rules out that the appearance of unshakability is owed to logical relations with other principles, themselves not subjected to doubt.

The architectural analogy is again helpful. Suppose, further, that she attempts to use bulldozers for constructive purposes. A problem nonetheless arises. How big a bulldozer is she to use? A light-duty bulldozer might be unable to distinguish a medium-sized boulder, and immovable bedrock.

In both cases, the ground would appear immovable. Descartes takes the solution to lie in using not light-duty, but heavy-duty tools of demolition — the bigger the bulldozer, the better. The lesson is clear for the epistemic builder: the more hyperbolic the doubt, the better.

A potential problem remains. This raises the worry that there might not be unshak able ground, as opposed to ground which is yet unshaken. Perhaps the architectural analogy breaks down in a manner that serves Descartes well. For though there is no most -powerful literal bulldozer, perhaps epistemic bulldozing is not subject to this limitation. Descartes seems to think that there is a most -powerful doubt — a doubt than which none more hyperbolic can be conceived.

The Evil Genius Doubt and equivalent doubts is supposed to fit the bill. If the method reveals epistemic ground that stands fast in the face of a doubt this hyperbolic, then, as Descartes seems to hold, this counts as epistemic bedrock if anything does. Hence the importance of the universal and hyperbolic character of the method of doubt. Rendered in the terms Descartes himself employs, the method is arguably less flawed than its reputation.

Let us consider some of the common objections. Two such objections are suggested in a passage from the pragmatist Peirce:. Descartes introduces sceptical arguments precisely in acknowledgement that we need such reasons:. Is Peirce therefore right that only belief-defeating doubts can undermine knowledge? Longstanding traditions in philosophy acknowledge that there may be truths we believe in our hearts as it were , but which we do not know.

This is one of the intended lessons of methodical doubt. Justification-defeating doubts are sufficient to undermine perfect knowledge, and this is the sort of doubt put forward in the First Meditation. A related objection has the method calling not merely for doubt, but for disbelief or dissent. AT Finally, a common objection has it that the universality of doubt undermines the method of doubt itself , since, for example, the sceptical hypotheses themselves are dubious. Descartes thinks this misses the point of the method: namely, to extend doubt universally to candidates for knowledge , but not also to the very tools for founding knowledge.

On Cartesian inference, see Gaukroger and Hacking On needing reasons for doubt contrary to direct voluntarism , see Newman On the analysis-synthesis distinction closely related to issues of doubt and methodology : see the Second Replies AT ff ; see also Arnauld , f , Curley , Galileo , 50f , Hintikka , and Newman Historically, there are at least two distinct dream-related doubts. The other doubt undermines the judgment that I am ever awake i. A textual case can be made on behalf of both formulations being raised in the Meditations.

The Similarity Thesis may be formulated in a variety of strengths. A strong Similarity Thesis might contend that some dreams seem experientially similar to waking, even on hindsight subsequent to waking; a weaker rendering of the thesis might contend merely that dreams seem similar to waking while having them, but not upon waking. Arguably, the sceptical doubt is equally potent on either rendering.

As for the range of experiences that we can suppose dreams able to imitate, Descartes looks to hold that every kind of sensory experience is subject to the doubt. Since I can think of a dream as being qualitatively similar to my present experience, then, for all I know, I am now dreaming. Reflection on the Now Dreaming Doubt changes his mind. He comes around to the view that, for all he knows, the sensible objects of his present experience are mere figments of a vivid dream.

Much ado has been made about whether dreaming arguments are self-refuting. According to an influential objection, similarity theses presuppose that we can reliably distinguish dreams and waking — we need first to distinguish them, in order to compare them; yet the conclusion of dreaming arguments entails that we cannot reliably distinguish. Therefore, if the conclusion of such an argument is true, then the premise invoking the Similarity Thesis cannot be.

Some formulations of dreaming arguments are indeed self-refuting in this way. Of present interest is whether all are — specifically, whether Descartes makes the mistake. Interestingly, he does not. His formulation presupposes simply the truism that we do, in fact, make a distinction between dreaming and waking never mind whether reliably. This formulation avoids the charge of self-refutation, for it is compatible with the conclusion that we cannot reliably distinguish dreams and waking.

Does Descartes also put forward a second dreaming argument, the Always Dreaming Doubt? There is strong textual evidence to support this see Newman , though it is by no means the standard interpretation. The conclusion of the Always Dreaming Doubt is generated from the very same Similarity Thesis, together with a further sceptical assumption, namely: that for all I know, the processes producing what I take as waking are no more veridical than those producing what I take as dreams. As the meditator puts it:. For in the cases of both waking and dreaming, my cognitive access extends only to the productive result , but not the productive process.

On what basis, then, do I conclude that the productive processes are different — that external objects play more of a role in waking than in dreaming? For all I know, both sorts of experience are produced by some subconscious faculty of my mind. As Descartes has his meditator say:.

Circularity and Cylindricity

The sceptical consequences of the Always Dreaming Doubt are even more devastating than those of the Now Dreaming Doubt. For all I know, there might not be an external world. My best evidence of an external world derives from my preconceived opinion that external world objects produce my waking experiences. Yet the Always Dreaming Doubt calls this into question:. The two dreaming doubts are parasitic on the same Similarity Thesis, though their sceptical consequences differ.

The Now Dreaming Doubt raises the universal possibility of delusion : for any one of my sensory experiences, it is possible for all I know that the experience is delusive. What further judgments are left to be undermined? And immediately following the above First Meditation passage, Descartes introduces his most hyperbolic doubt — the hypothesis of an all-powerful deceiver.

There is variation in the interpretation of the doubt, even concerning the number of deceivers Descartes means to be citing. I suggest that a natural reading of the First Meditation passages provides for a unified account of a deceiver hypothesis. But likewise, neither should a creator with these attributes allow its creatures ever to be deceived. Yet they are. Since even occasional deception seems to pose a reductio on the very existence of an all-powerful, all-good creator, the implication is that the creator if there be one must be lacking in either power or goodness.

Suppose the creator is all-powerful but not all-good — i. In that case, it seems we might be deceived about even the most evident of matters. This summary offers a coherent basis for a truly hyperbolic doubt. And yet firmly rooted in my mind is the long-standing opinion that there is an omnipotent God who made me the kind of creature that I am. How do I know that he has not brought it about that there is no earth, no sky, no extended thing, no shape, no size, no place, while at the same time ensuring that all these things appear to me to exist just as they do now?

What is more, since I sometimes believe that others go astray in cases where they think they have the most perfect knowledge, may I not similarly go wrong every time I add two and three or count the sides of a square, or in some even simpler matter, if that is imaginable? But perhaps God would not have allowed me to be deceived in this way, since he is said to be supremely good.

But if it were inconsistent with his goodness to have created me such that I am deceived all the time, it would seem equally foreign to his goodness to allow me to be deceived even occasionally; yet this last assertion cannot be made. AT , CSM Gouhier , But this introduces needless complication without sufficient textual justification.

The deceptions of both deceivers derive from having supreme power, while lacking in goodness. Clear texts suggest a different reading. Descartes contends that an equally powerful doubt derives from the supposition that we are not the creatures of an all-powerful creator. Recall that the above reductio reasoning implies simply that the creator cannot be both all-powerful and all-good.

Suppose, then, that we give-up the assumption that the creator is all-powerful. The passage continues:. That is, this assumption, too, generates hyperbolic sceptical consequences. Descartes makes the same point in a parallel passage of the Principles :. See Cunning , 68ff, and Hatfield , , for variations on this theme. Fundamentally, the more general doubt is about our cognitive nature , that is, about the possibility our minds are flawed.

The First Meditation texts are somewhat ambiguous on this count. Having introduced the Evil Genius Doubt, the First Meditation program of demolition is not only hyperbolic but universal. As will emerge, the early paragraphs of the Third Meditation clarify a further nuance of the Evil Genius Doubt — a nuance consistently observed thereafter.

Descartes clarifies, there, that the Evil Genius Doubt operates in an indirect manner a topic to which we return in Section 4. For a more general philosophical treatment of dreaming arguments, see Dunlap and Williams Early in the Second Meditation, Descartes has his meditator observe:.

As the canonical formulation has it, I think therefore I am Latin: cogito ergo sum ; French: je pense , donc je suis — a formulation does not expressly appear in the Meditations. Presumably, it must attach to all of these, if the cogito is to play the foundational role Descartes assigns to it. But this answer can seem to depend on whether the cogito is understood as an inference or an intuition — an issue we address below. Testing the cogito by means of methodical doubt is supposed to reveal its unshakable certainty.

Hyperbolic doubt helps me appreciate that the existence of my body is subject to doubt, whereas the existence of my thinking is not. The very attempt at thinking away my thinking is indeed self-stultifying. The cogito raises numerous philosophical questions and has generated an enormous literature.

The most significant ongoing debate concerns whether Descartes intends the cogito to be an intuition i. The key point, according to Hintikka, is that the very act of thinking that statement — the cognitive performance — is existentially incoherent: I cannot both think the statement and believe it to be true. The passage only expressly rejects the effort to understand the cogito in terms of syllogism, but not necessarily in terms of inference.

Further, it should be noted that inferential interpretations need not reject that the cogito counts also as an intuition. It is indeed widely held among philosophers that modus ponens is self-evident, yet it contains an inference. Arguably, the Second Meditation passage is the one place of his various published treatments where Descartes explicitly details a line of inferential reflection leading up to the conclusion that I am , I exist.

First, a first-person formulation is essential to the certainty of the cogito. There are a number of passages in which Descartes refers to a third-person version of the cogito. But none of these occurs in the context of establishing the actual existence of a particular thinker in contrast with the conditional, general result that whatever thinks exists. Second, a present tense formulation is essential to the certainty of the cogito. Third, the certainty of the cogito depends on being formulated in terms of cogitatio — i.

Any mode of thinking is sufficient, including doubting, affirming, denying, willing, understanding, imagining, and so on cf. My bodily activities, however, are insufficient. Replies 5, AT ; Prin. Fourth, a caveat is in order. That Descartes rejects formulations presupposing the existence of a body commits him to no more than an epistemic distinction between the ideas of mind and body, but not yet an ontological distinction as in mind-body dualism. Indeed, in the passage following the cogito , Descartes has his meditator say:. In short, the intended epistemic success of the cogito does not presuppose any particular mind-body ontology.

As Stephen Menn writes:. The cogito purports to yield certainty that I exist insofar as I am a thinking thing, whatever that turns out to be. The ensuing discussion is intended to help arrive at an understanding of the ontological nature of the thinking subject. More generally, we should distinguish issues of epistemic and ontological dependence. In the final analysis, Descartes thinks he shows that the occurrence of thought depends ontologically on the existence of a substantial self — to wit, on the existence of an infinite substance, namely God cf.

But he denies that an acceptance of these ontological matters is epistemically prior to the cogito : its certainty is not supposed to depend epistemically on the abstruse metaphysics that Descartes thinks he eventually establishes. See Vinci for an alternative reading. One effort at reply has it that introspection reveals more than what Russell allows — it reveals the subjective character of experience. Importantly, my awareness of this subjective feature of experience does not depend on an awareness of the metaphysical nature of a thinking subject.

Though, as Hume persuasively argues, introspection reveals no sense impressions suited to the role of a thinking subject, Descartes, unlike Hume, has no need to derive all our ideas from sense impressions. But how could ideas deriving from the subjective character of experience justify a substantive metaphysical conclusion about the existence of a real self? On one plausible line of reply, Descartes does not yet intend to be establishing the metaphysical result; rather, the initial intended result is merely epistemic, but not yet fully justified.

This line of interpretation does, of course, imply that the cogito does not initially count as perfect knowledge — an issue to which we now turn. However, there are interpretive disputes about whether Descartes intends the cogito to count — at its initial introduction, prior to the arguments for God — as fully indubitable, and therefore as perfect knowledge. It is quite common to interpret the cogito as being the first item of perfect knowledge.

In Section 6. But here, I want to develop the textual case for holding that even the cogito is undermined by Evil Genius Doubt. As noted at the outset, Descartes is a contextualist in the sense of invoking the notion of knowledge in divergent contexts that presuppose very different epistemic standards. Of particular interest is that he expressly clarifies that contexts aptly characterized in terms of cognitio -talk do not necessary count as perfect knowledge:. This alone does not prove that the cogito is not intended to count as perfect knowledge.

Consider the following texts, each arising in a context of clarifying the requirements of perfect knowledge italics are added :. For if I do not know this [i. I see that the certainty of all other things depends on this [i. Thus I see plainly that the certainty and truth of all knowledge [ scientiae ] depends uniquely on my awareness of the true God, to such an extent that I was incapable of perfect knowledge [ perfecte scire ] about anything else until I became aware of him. These texts make no exceptions. The first text is particularly noteworthy, because it comes at the end of a paragraph expressly citing the cogito.

As Curley writes:. Descartes looks to hold that hyperbolic doubt is utterly unbounded — i. Second, that even cognitions this impressive can be undermined by Evil Genius Doubt, and thus lack the full indubitability of perfect knowledge. Regarding the first point, the Third Meditation opens with meditator attempting to build on the apparent success of the cogito. What are the internal marks of this impressive perception — what is it like to have perception that good? The answer:. The next two paragraphs help clarify among other things what Descartes takes to be epistemically impressive about clear and distinct perception, but absent from external sense perception.

Of external sensation, the third paragraph offers this:. Though we regularly form judgments based on external sensation, they are easily undermined by sceptical doubt, as shown by the Now Dreaming Doubt. The fourth paragraph offers this:. Prima facie, this excerpt suggests that multiple propositions are — at this pre-theistic stage of the broader argument — fully indubitable, thereby counting as perfect knowledge.

Descartes’ Epistemology

But there is more to the paragraph. This brings us to the second point noted above, namely, that even cognitions this impressive can be undermined by Evil Genius Doubt — an outcome clarified in the final lines of this same paragraph:. In order to appreciate the subtleties of this pivotal fourth paragraph of the Third Meditation, we need to clarify the indirect manner in which Evil Genius Doubt operates on clear and distinct perception.

How could a doubt undermine the cogito? Part of its impressiveness is that I cannot think about my existence without affirming it, yet I cannot doubt my existence without thinking about it. Seeming to reinforce further the suspicion that the cogito cannot be doubted is a more general thesis Descartes holds concerning the doubt-resistance of any matters that are clearly and distinctly perceived:.

How, then, is it possible to doubt such matters? According to one interpretation, the answer is that we cannot doubt them directly , however, we can doubt them in an indirect manner. By way of analogy, consider that if a calculator were defective, it would cast doubt on any calculations it generated. Likewise, if my own mind were in some sense defective, this would cast doubt on any matters I apprehended — no matter how evident those matters might seem.

By directing the doubt at the veracity of my own cognitive faculties, I do thereby indirectly doubt the particular propositions apprehended by means of those faculties. A wealth of texts support that this is how the Evil Genius Doubt is intended to operate. Consider these italics are added :. I can convince myself that I have a natural disposition to go wrong from time to time in matters which I think I perceive as evidently as can be.

I saw nothing to rule out the possibility that my natural constitution made me prone to error even in matters which seemed to me most true. As each passage conveys, the doubt is directed not at the particular object level propositions undermined, but at the possibility of our having a defective cognitive nature. Moments of epistemic optimism : While I am directly attending to a proposition, perceiving it clearly and distinctly, I enjoy an irresistible cognitive luminance and my assent is compelled. Moments of epistemic pessimism : When no longer directly attending — no longer perceiving the proposition clearly and distinctly — I can entertain the sceptical hypothesis that such feelings of cognitive luminance are epistemically worthless, indeed arising from a defective cognitive nature.

Granted, this indirect doubt is exceedingly hyperbolic. Even so, it entails that we lack the full indubitability requisite to perfect knowledge. Descartes thus closes the pivotal fourth paragraph, clarifying that because of the Evil Genius Doubt, nothing yet meets the epistemic standard of perfect knowledge:.

A later Third Meditation passage — but one occurring prior to the arguments for God — can be taken to suggest a very different interpretation. On this alternative account, some of the matters we clearly and distinctly perceive are fully indubitable, thereby counting as perfect knowledge even prior to knowledge of God.

The passage has Descartes drawing a distinction between what is revealed by the natural light , and what is taught by nature :. The passage makes clear that the cogito is revealed by the natural light. This is to say that some propositions, including the cogito , may be fully indubitable, thus satisfying the requirements of perfect knowledge — even for atheists.

Defenders of an unbounded doubt interpretation would offer a different analysis of the passage. How, then, do unbounded doubt interpreters deal with this passage? We can indeed take the point of the passage to apply to moments of careful attention: even while directly attending to the probabilistic matters taught by nature , we recognize that there are grounds for doubt; whereas, when directly attending to our epistemically best cognitions revealed by the natural light , we simply cannot doubt them.

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This reading renders the passage continuous with our reading of the other passages. In what sense is it an Archimedean point on interpretations rendering it vulnerable to doubt? Insofar as the cogito is the first cognition noticed to resist any efforts at a direct doubt, it can be said to play an Archimedean role. For it exemplifies the kind of cognitions Descartes employs in his constructive efforts, arguing for a solution to the sceptical problem. Descartes indeed uses the cogito to clarify the epistemically privileged status of clear and distinct perception, even formulating clarity and distinctness as underwriting a general rule for discovering truth.

The passage occurs in the second paragraph of the Third Meditation:. Though interpretations differ, the context of the passage indicates the rule is treated as provisional — i. On two counts, the announcement of the rule is carefully tinged with caution, in anticipation of the revelation to come two paragraphs later that even clearly and distinctly perceived matters are vulnerable to the Evil Genius Doubt. Section 5. If even clear and distinct perception is subject to doubt, how is the meditator to make progress?

How can he construct arguments in the effort to solve the sceptical problem? For it seems that in the very process of arguing for a truth rule, Descartes is already employing that very rule. In his strategy for making constructive arguments, Descartes builds on the fact that clearly and distinctly perceived matters appear to us to be utterly telling, i. So, by employing none other than premises and reasoning that are clearly and distinctly perceived, we can make rational progress — this, notwithstanding that those very same proofs fall vulnerable to indirect doubt, once our attention is no longer clear and distinct.

The following Fifth Meditation passage illustrates the point:. Of course, Descartes will need some sort of final solution to the problem of ongoing indirect doubt. In the meantime, he has his meditator attempting to move forward, constructing anti-sceptical arguments. The broader argument unfolds in two main steps. The first main step involves Third Meditation arguments for the existence of of an all-perfect God.

From these arguments the meditator concludes:. Note that the Fifth Meditation advances a further argument for God. In the interests of space, and of focusing on epistemological concerns, however, these arguments will not be considered here. It is this second main step of the broader argument to which we now turn. But this is too fast.