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Over a year ago now when I first started this journal I expressed dissatisfaction with Descartes' slogan "I think, therefore I am."  At that time I said  that "thinking" as a proof of existence did nothing to satisfy me.  However, reading W seems to have shifted my view, if not completely, surely substantially.  Bogey-like, I have come to realize that, regardless of what may happen to me, I will "always have thinking."  This raises the the idea of  "thinking" from that of a supportive role to the primary sufficient expression of human existence. But didn't Descartes say that? I think my issue has always been with the "therefore," not the thinking part.  W has taught me not to expect too much.  Descartes may have just as well said "I believe in the color red."  That's fine for him, but what can we all take from that as valid or useful? My thinking seems to be going along just fine whether or not I can prove that I exist.

Reading W. has been enjoyable-- like eating peanuts.  Read a sentence, sip a beer, look out the window, chew, swallow, oh, look, there's more!  Then repeat.  und so weiter....

W handles a proposition like a dog worries a bone, or Indiana Jones might search an artifact over and over for some imperfection that is the key to its transformation. Where he can go no farther, he asks questions that stand as markers for future dissertations. Reading W has given me a toolbox to move beyond my post of last year.

The seventeen statements that follow are W-like in their approach,  but not direct quotes by any means.  Still, they could not have been posed at all without digesting some W beforehand, and they express a number of theoretical assumptions directly from W as part of the process. While there is a little fun with the way W plays with questions at the end, this is not an attempt by me to satirize, or "ape" W for comic effect.

This is a serious effort to make my peace with Descartes.  I am not attempting to overthrow W as the philosopher of the modern age.  However, it is pleasing to be able to frame a set of statements that work for me.  I suggest that everyone, if they have not already, take the time to do the same.  It seems to me to be worth the effort.

  1. Thought exists. To add “I,” “therefore” and “am” to the concept of thinking is to over-specify the condition, to go beyond sufficiency. .

  2. Even “Thought exists,” so concisely stated, is still an expression of philosophy.

  3. All thoughts, whether internally conscious, or externally expressed in speech or writing, are

    philosophical statements.

  4. Thinking human thoughts is the necessary condition for understanding oneself to be a human being.

  5. There is no “inner” and “outer” understanding in a human being. What is theorized by thought to be the “outer” is merely another type of inner thought. What is perceived as our body is no more a part of thought than the rest of the perceived universe. The same is true of what is perceived of our brain. The same is true of all the subsystems of our brain, or descriptions of brain activity.

  6. Thought is defined as the experience of a thinking entity. Thought defines itself as an experience, not a description. While impacted by its own internal rule-based system, even the system of thought itself is exterior to thought. Thoughts about thought are philosophical thoughts.

  7. We feel strongly that something external to our thought must exist, however, we can not prove it with our thoughts. Nor can we actually prove anything with our thoughts about what the results of experiments might mean. Our sense of objectivity is based on a set of rules designed by us to limit our capacity to err. These things appear useful to us within certain bounds of our environment. All of these rules are philosophical theories, conventions of utility within the bounded system of our logic.

  8. Human thought is a multiply-bounded system. Humans are aware of some, but not all of the restrictions involved in thought.

  9. Human life is a procedure, a rule-based system, mediated by thought.

  10. The idea of thought is not restricted to a single human being. However the thought of a single human being cannot prove the existence of thought in another context, body, location.

  11. We do not know in what other contexts thought may exist outside of our personal one.

  12. It is not incorrect to question the likelihood of thought in all living organisms. It is incorrect, however, to believe we know the answer to that question.

  13. Human life is a rule-based system in which thought partially mediates the application, timing, and consequences of the rules. Seen as a game, some actions are legal moves, or plays, some are not. We can not intentionally break the game's rules; this is not possible.

  14. Does a rock think, as it falls to earth, that it must fall? We do not know. What would it be like to know?

  15. Is a rule-based system itself a thought? How could we begin to answer such a question?

  16. How can we begin to understand what a rule is?

  17. Could a rock be thinking “I am falling” if the universe itself is a thought, and the rock is a part of that?

 

Cydonia photo: ESA

This is the journal of David Ross
Your thoughts are welcome here

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