Monday, September 9, 2013

Common Sense vs. The Devil

Philosophy and literary criticism go wrong when we refuse to acknowledge that things are there, that the world is real.  "I think, therefore I am" implies that to think is not a transitive verb.  But it is.  You can't "think" in a vacuum any more than you can breathe in a vacuum.  You cannot breathe without air and you cannot think without thinking about something.  Therefore, if "I am thinking", then both "I am" and "it is".  Anything other than that leads to a slow madness.

This applies to the odd little argument over at the Christian Shakespeare.  If a thing cannot be known for itself, then the things related to that thing cannot be known, and the things related to those things cannot be known, ad infinitum.  

Perhaps when God told Moses that He (God) was called I Am, He was speaking to the modern age.  God exists, and therefore everything is real.  "He is, therefore we are."

But all of that narcissistic onanistic self-aggrandizing solipsism is simply Unreal.


Kevin O'Brien said...

By the way, it is logically possible that one can think about illusions and therefore one cannot conclude "it is" from "I am". But then one cannot conclude "I am" from "I think" for that matter. If all objects are unreal, then why not the subject too?

Kevin O'Brien said...

So either it's real and I'm real or we simply live with unending doubt and a kind of mental masturbation.

Tom Leith said...


First, the cogito formulation does not appear in the Pensees. That aside...

Decartes realized that introspection proved his existence -- the thinking "I" pondering itself, communicating with itself. The subject and object are identical! He was sane, and did not buy that someone else was thinking his thoughts -- this was not a word game, or (as some very ill-informed Catholics had told me in the past) the father of Modern Philosophy making himself his own Creator. He knew himself at least to be self-evidently real, and called this "the first item of knowledge". He built up his Epistemology from there, including a way we can know that 1) we're not dreaming, and 2) there exist objects outside our minds. It must also be said that Decartes was not so insanely skeptical as later "philosophers" who apparently thought without knowing their own existence.

Illusions are real. They're real illusions. We make a mistake of judgment when some sensation acts upon us and gives us an impression that one thing is making the impression when it is really something else. But the impressions are real. Dreams are real too.

I am afraid I can't find the odd little argument. You're not linking any particular article and I don't quite know what to search for. If someone is saying that all he can know of a thing is the sensory impressions it makes on him, tell him you feel sorry for him and be on your way. He's constraining his category "knowledge" to things utterly indefeasible and without a God incapable of deceit, there simply is no utterly indefeasible knowledge. There is no use talking to someone who doubts his own existence, the existence of a world outside his mind (i.e. your existence), and doubts that reason arrives at truth. If he complains that you're ignoring him or refusing to engage with his ideas, silence is the only possible rebuttal.

Kevin O'Brien said...

Tom, I agree.

What I'm arguing with in this post is the chic subjectivism that is all the rage in the kind of pop-education at colleges and universities. Colin Kovarik, a young college student and Chestertonian Distributist that you met in Springfield at the CBDCC, on Facebook was complaining about this here ... .

You know they don't push it as far as the solipsism that it implies. They just like to linger in their own Unreality. And step out when the madness looms and they get lonely.