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Ambulo Ergo Sum 1

  • Lucy O'Brien (a1)

Abstract

It is an extraordinary thing that Descartes' famous Cogito argument is still being puzzled over; this paper is another fragment in an untiring tradition of puzzlement. The paper will argue that, if I were to ask the question ‘do I have a grounds for thinking that I exist?’ the Cogito could provide for a positive answer. In particular, my aim in this is to argue, in opposition to recent discussion by John Campbell, that there is a way of construing conscious thinking on which the Cogito can be seen to provide a non-question begging argument for one's own existence.

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1

I am grateful for comments from audiences at the Royal Institute of Philosophy, at research seminars in Southampton and Dublin, and at the Oxford Graduate Conference and conference on ‘Self and Agency’ in Liege. Particular thanks for written comments to Daniel Whiting, and to Sarah Patterson and Rory Madden for helpful discussion.

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2 Campbell, John, ‘Lichtenberg and the Cogito’, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 122 (2012), 361378.

3 This way of setting out the argument is due to Peacocke's Descartes' Defended’, Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume, 86 (1), 109125 to which Campbell's paper is a reply. Peacocke argues there, as I do here, that the Cogito is successful. And we are to a large extent in agreement as to why. Peacocke's defence rests on metaphysical and conceptual points: on the dependence of conscious events on subjects, and on what is required for mastery of the first person. My concern here is particularly to explore the implications of a thesis about how our thoughts depend on us as subjects, for a thesis of direct awareness of ourselves, and look at how that impacts on the success, or otherwise, of the Cogito.

4 Lichtenberg, George, Schriften und Briefe, Vol. II. (Munich: Carl Hanser Verlag), §76, 412. (transl. Burge, Tyler, ‘Reason and the first PersonWright, C., Smith, B. & Macdonald, C. (eds), Knowing Our Own Minds, (Oxford University Press, 2000 ).

5 Campbell, ‘Lichtenberg and the Cogito’, 365.

6 Ibid., 369.

7 Moore, G. E., ‘Proof of an External World’, Proceedings of the British Academy, 25 (1939), 273300.

8 Campbell, ‘Lichtenberg and the Cogito’, 376.

9 Campbell, ‘Lichtenberg and the Cogito’, 377.

10 Ibid.

11 J. Bennett (ed.), Objections to the Mediations and Descartes' Replies, ‘Fifth Objections (Gassendi) and Descartes’ replies: Objections to Second Meditation; Objection 1'. www.earlymoderntexts.com/pdfs/descartes1642/pdf, page 86.

12 J. Bennett (ed.), Objections to the Mediations and Descartes' Replies, ‘Fifth Objections (Gassendi) and Descartes’ replies: Objections to Second Meditation; Reply to Objection 1', www.earlymoderntexts.com/pdfs/descartes1642/pdf, page 87.

13 G. Ryle, The Concept of Mind, 180–81.

14 Thanks to Daniel Whiting for raising this issue.

1 I am grateful for comments from audiences at the Royal Institute of Philosophy, at research seminars in Southampton and Dublin, and at the Oxford Graduate Conference and conference on ‘Self and Agency’ in Liege. Particular thanks for written comments to Daniel Whiting, and to Sarah Patterson and Rory Madden for helpful discussion.

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