Saturday, February 14, 2009

Descartes errors

To recap, in short, Descartes' errors:

1) Firstly, the error consisting in giving precedence to thought over the sensible and immediate experience of proper sensibles, which he declares to be subjective, and to do it at the source of his philosophy.

2) Then the other error consisting in holding the common sensibles to be objectively experimented under the pretext that these can be the object of a measure, notwithstanding a measure is a figment of our intelligence, because yards/meters or gallons/liters don't grow on trees.

3) Further the error consisting in confining intelligence to logic, which is only one of the tools of intelligence amongst others.

4) last (but not least) the error consisting in assimilating what is true to reality.

Those are four very infantile errors for a realist philosopher, four beginners' errors... I take that back, a beginner with a normal constitution wouldn't make those errors. Yet not only does Descartes make them, but he proudly displays them as his claim to fame.

Once again, "I think, therefore I am" is obviously not wrong but what is highly toxic is to prop an entire philosophy against that principle.

". . . I noticed that while I was trying . . . to think everything false, it was necessary that I, who was thinking this, was something. And observing that this truth "I am thinking, therefore I exist" was so firm and sure that all the most extravagant suppositions of the sceptics were incapable of shaking it, I decided that I could accept it without scruple as the first principle of the philosophy I was seeking. [Discourse IV, para. 1; CSM, I, p. 127.]"


  1. 16 Feb 09
    Hi Harvey Spain

    I disagree with you.
    You might want to read what I've done with Rene Descartes 'I think therefore I am'
    at my wikiversity site.

    Charles Algea

  2. Greetings Calgea,

    I have taken a look at your page already :)

    I agree with Avatar + Aristotle. :) Obviously, this isn't the place to have a protracted discussion. Maybe we can exchange views in the Philosophy group on BC. Cheers.

  3. very interesting Harvey. I might have to read it a few more times to get my head around it.

  4. SD,
    I certainly did! lol There is a previous post which goes into Descartes philosophy in more detail (I must learn to insert links). Cheers!

  5. Comentaría algo si se me comprendiese algo, pero realmente el inglés no lo domino. Saludos.

  6. "prop an entire philosophy against that principle."

    I completely agree! Descartes had some amazing insight. He was well ahead of his time. But he, like most intellectuals, used one frame of mind to define all matters of life.

    One thing I must say though, is that logic, for me, is truly the basis of all insight and intellect. Without logic, I believe it would be impossible to determine any truths.

    Maybe this is why Descartes felt it necessary to deny everything? For the only real truths are the ideas that can be denied. This is noticeable in science, seeing as it only takes one mistake to ruin a whole existence of truth.

  7. AdlP,
    Lo puedo traducir si no es demasiado largo :)

    Great comment. Negation is sympomatic of modern philosophy. Logic is important but Aristotle considered it only to be a tool (some modern day Aristolians think otherwise). In fact, Being, "what falls first in intelligene", falls before logic has anything to say about it. :)

  8. Never put Descartes before the horse. It results in one very confused horse.
    Negation is not a modern phenomenon; it was used as a practical, rather than theoretical tool by both Gautama Buddha, the Zen adepts, and some of the Hindu mystics.

  9. Count Sneaky,
    lmao, ill remember that one. Appreciate all your interesting comments. Sartre too is a good one for negation, who led a few generations to a suicide of their intelligence ;)