Friday, January 6, 2012

We are fundamental entities

"I think therefore I am." It's hard to dispute either the argument or the conclusion. But while I undoubtedly exist, do I have to be one of the fundamental objects in the ontology?

Here is a line of thought to that conclusion, somewhat similar to some things I've heard Rob Koons say. Non-fundamental objects are entia rationis, at least in part creatures of our cognitive organization of the world. But we cannot be, even in part, mere creatures of our cognitive organization of the world on pain of circularity. So whatever non-fundamental objects there may be, we are not among them.

I think the controversial claim in the argument may be that non-fundamental entities are entia rationis, but I am not sure. This whole line of argument is difficult for me to think about.


Heath White said...

If I am understanding this argument correctly, it would be impossible for a machine to have an "I think therefore I am" kind of moment--let us say, a simulacrum of thinking. For then it could continue as follows: I, and fellow machines, cannot be non-fundamental entities, since we would then be partly constituted by our own thoughts, and that is impossible on pain of circularity.

I'll just say it is not clear to me that this is impossible, or that we humans might not be such machines (made out of meat).

Alexander R Pruss said...

Well, as far as the argument goes, it might be OK if a machine thinks as long as it is not an ens of its own thinking, but of our thinking. Does this also mean that a certain kind of theist could get out of my argument by saying that we are entia of divine thinking?

Heath White said...

That would be Averroes, perhaps.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure if I understand all of this correctly, but I wonder if it is logically possible to think without awareness of self?

If we say we think (of an object) and since we (a fundamental object) are thinking we must be real objects (of some sort).

But could we think of an object, without being aware of a fundamental object, and therefore no know that we are?

I hope that makes sense.

Alexander R Pruss said...

Maybe "ens rationis" is too strong. We need some term for a being that is partly constituted by thought. For instance, money. Would that it were wholly constituted by (my) thought. :-)

Anonymous said...

Professor Pruss, Perhaps you have articulated and located the analytic "problematic" which points toward the existentialist outlook, generally. Tillich viewed existentialism as the resolution of at least one strain of the Western philosophical endeavor.
On another tack, there is something inherently anthropological about Descartes here, apres la lettre.