Have you ever read Pascal’s “Pensées“? (French for “Thoughts”) It is a delightful, interesting, and often challenging panoply of little thoughts, aphorisms, maxims, questions, plus the occasional more lengthy argument (It is from this collection, for instance, that we get the celebrated “Pascal’s Wager”). Like similar Eastern collections of one-liners, proverbs, and timeless principles Pascal does not so much argue as notice, does not so much offer conclusions as conversation starters, does not so much appeal to high philosophy as to common sense and plain observation. They are written on the now quite discarded notion that, sometimes, the truth can be stated simply, without flourish, and that humans can recognize the truth when so stated… merely by looking at it.

In the spirit of Pascal’s collection, I have decided to post the following collection of aphoristic sayings I produced one night while in a Descartes discussion. Like most simple sayings or proverbs, they can rationally unassailable and therefore, in some people’s eyes, useless; but, for others, they might incite thought, insight, questions, or conversations.

Enjoy,

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Thoughts

God is infinite, and infinity is divine. To see oneself in the act of seeing is to see an infinite regress, like looking at a mirror image of a mirror. All that is necessary for a sight of the divine is a sight of oneself, seeing.

How do men learn?
God’s grace.

How does a man go from less knowledge to more knowledge?
God teaches him. There is no other way.

Truth is good.
Goodness is beautiful.

Most disagreements of any import are about identity, about ‘what it is.’”

How many nouns are there?
How many thing are there?
How many things is there?

Most of the time, then people philosophize, they don’t need clearer arguments with which to convince each other. They need a father to make them listen to each other.

Descartes

If Descartes discovered that what he sees clearly and distinctly is true, then two things follow: One, that knowledge is a personal experience, and two, persuasion is not about teaching; it is about showing.

Descartes’ inadequacies:

He presupposes knowledge is good. I believe it, but he is not allowed to presuppose anything.

It is impossible to doubt doubt itself. In other words, it is possible to know.

Descartes didn’t know whence his own sure and certain knowledge came.

Whence cometh clear sight?

The writer’s pride makes his writing dangerous.

A “new method”? It is either an ancient method, or it is false.

Descartes found himself alone in an oven with God only after the human guidance of dozens of fellow seekers.

In an oven, doubting all, presupposing nothing, he discovers that he thinks and doubts, and must therefore exist. Where is he? Must he not be somewhere?

If something is in me, I am in something.

Descartes “first principle” is not a proposition, nor is it himself. It is a Descartes-God hybrid proposition. It is relationship.

I” implies God.

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Posted by Keith E. Buhler

6 Comments

  1. If something is in me, I am in something.

    False.

    Better: If something is in me, I am something.

    He presupposes knowledge is good. I believe it, but he is not allowed to presuppose anything.

    False.

    Better: He wants knowledge. Desires may be value neutral.
    You presuppose that wanting implies goodness.

    Reply

  2. This is tough…

    Does desiring an object not imply that the object is desirable?

    My argument that it does not is that babies seem to desire things, milk, shiny objects, toys, but they do not have (yet) the cognitive belief that these things are good.

    At this point I am in agreement with you, Tex.

    Reply

  3. “Better: If something is in me, I am something.”

    True. But different.

    If something is in me, then I must be something (unless I am deceived that something is in me, in which case the only thing I can really be sure of is that the person deceived (myself) exists, since I am here, being deceived.) OK, that’s the basic “cogito.”

    I’m saying something different.

    I’m saying the following:
    1. I doubt, I question, I think, etc.
    2. I think, therefore I am.
    3. I am, therefore I am somewhere.
    4. I am somewhere, therefore I am here.
    5. I am here, therefore I am either everywhere, in which case everything else that might exist (my doubts, for instance) exists inside of me, OR, I exist somewhere, and something else is everywhere, in which case I am inside it.

    Flaws? That’s very rough-and-ready, so have at it, and help me see what might be wrong.

    If it is correct, it is very important.

    I think 3., is the most dubious, and the one that received criticism from the folks with whom I was discussing. But can you be, without being somewhere? If you think “No,” then consider: Are you imagining being the only thing that exists, and being, in a sense, everywhere? If so, isn’t being everywhere being somewhere, namely, HERE, in a grand sense?

    Very escoteric stuff, I know…

    Reply

  4. “God is infinite, and infinity is divine. To see oneself in the act of seeing is to see an infinite regress, like looking at a mirror image of a mirror. All that is necessary for a sight of the divine is a sight of oneself, seeing.”

    Take this a little farther, and instead of seeing the divine you will experience it. Think about the fact that all of our knowledge exists as a dichotomy of subject and object.

    “I am here, therefore I am either everywhere, in which case everything else that might exist (my doubts, for instance) exists inside of me, OR, I exist somewhere, and something else is everywhere, in which case I am inside it.”

    If I choose to try to perceive reality soley within myself, if I refuse to acknowledge an external Reality within which I must operate, then I will ultimately find nothing and be nothing, for the thinking subject never sees itself, only the object of it’s thought. Only by becoming what that reality already is can the subject finally apprehend itself and thus become for itself real.

    When the subject meets the object then reality is neither in me, nor am I in reality. I do not see myself in the act of seeing, I finally am myself in the act of seeing. I and my reflection in the mirror are one.

    Reply

  5. Keith,
    I don’t know if this was your intent or not, but the implication of “if X is in Y then Y is in Z” is an infinite regression of somethings in somethings.

    Reply

  6. Keith,

    Does being imply location?

    I’m not sure. At first glance it seems so, but couldn’t there be existing properties that are uninstantiated? If all balls are red and only balls are red, would the property of redness cease to exist once the last ball was destroyed?

    If something is in me, then I am in something. Yes, unless I am everywhere. If I am everywhere, it becomes irrelevant to say that I am somewhere (viz., here), because “here” is “everywhere” and the ground that is gained by pointing to a specific location, rather than the whole, is purely semantic.

    Reply

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