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.
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?
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.
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.
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.