October 28th, 2012Thinking and Beingby Joseph Pearce

Colin Jory has sent me the text of a letter that he has sent to the New Scientist. It is a superbly succinct rebuttal of the reductionist error of the Cartesian maxim, Gogito ergo sum (I think, therefore I am):


                                                                                   Sunday 28 October 2012


The Editor

New Scientist

84 Theobald’s Road

London WC1X BNS



Dear Sir/Madam,


Cogito Ergo Sum: a Logical Absurdity


Apropos your recent “What is Reality?” feature (29 September 2012): surely Descarte’s compressed syllogism, “I think, therefore I am”, is not a truism but a logical absurdity. A thinker’s being (an ontological reality) cannot be a consequence or corollary of the process of his thinking, or of the self-awareness which is implicit in that process. What is indeed a truism and is not an absurdity is the compressed syllogism, “I think, therefore I know that I am”. A thinker’s knowledge of his being (an epistemological reality) is indeed a corollary of the self-awareness which is innate in the process of his thinking.


Of course, one might realise this and yet still be haunted by the solipsistic fear, “Perhaps nothing exists except me and my thoughts!”, but one cannot realise it and continue to luxuriate in the grandiose illusion that one’s thoughts might create and constitute all reality. At least one reality – “me” – cannot be coextensive with one’s thoughts, but must be anterior to and distinct from the variable thoughts of which it is the locus.


Colin Jory

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