Privacy guaranteed - Your email is not shared with anyone.

Welcome to Glock Forum at

Why should YOU join our forums?

  • Reason #1
  • Reason #2
  • Reason #3

Site Description

Cogito ergo sum

Discussion in 'Religious Issues' started by Geko45, Mar 4, 2012.

  1. Geko45

    Geko45 Smartass Pilot CLM

    Nov 1, 2002
    I think therefore I am

    Descartes most famous postulation. Perhaps the only valid argument pointing towards something more than what we can study, observe and measure in science and it rarely gets the attention it truly deserves (especially here in the RI forum of GT).

    In an abstract metaphysical sense, I can not be sure of reality. I can't be sure that the world exists as I observe it. I can't be sure that the other people I interact with are real and not figments of my own imagination (although, I have no idea why I might subconsciously dream up Paul7 :tongueout:).

    I can't be sure that I am actually sitting at a desk, typing on a computer and posting on GT. I can't even be sure that I exist in the form that I perceive myself. It could all be an invention of my own mind. A world I have created for myself to keep me occupied. This, I can not rule out.

    But I can be sure I exist, cogito ego sum proves that. I must exist in some form in order for me to be able to dream it all up (even if nothing else is real). It tells me nothing with certainty about what form that existence takes, but it must be. I am, this is all I can know for certain.

    Which brings me to my core point for this thread. There is one more thing we can derive from this first principle. The human body (as I perceive it) is made up of a variety of chemical compounds reacting in a liquid medium (water). Its construction can be understood as a bio-mechanical machine controlled by an analog electrochemical computer (albeit a very advanced one). And no matter how advanced a computer gets, it should not be capable of the self-awareness that can be derived from this simple statement.

    I should be a mindless automaton. There would be no discernible outward difference if this were true. We would still argue, bicker, build things and organize ourselves into societies and whatnot, but we would be thoughtless inside. Just machines working through their programming. So why is that not the case for me? There must be something more that gives me the ability to be self-aware.

    Now, many theologies have labeled this element the "soul". Some have envisioned a cosmic battle between good and evil over the control of our "souls". Others believe that the "soul" is immortal and continually re-inhabits new corporal vessels using the mechanism of reincarnation.

    None of the traditional explanations are particularly compelling to me. Mostly because they depart from the chain of logic of what can and can not be known and venture off into the realm of conjecture, speculation and even superstition. What I would like to know is if there are any others here that have pondered this chain of thought and were you able to get any further with it?

    So, any amateur philosophers here that have any additional thoughts on this? I am most interested in hearing the take of other atheists. Theists are, of course, welcome to comment as well. It is an open forum after all. But understand that I do not see this elemental conclusion as supporting any particular belief system. Certainly not in any sense greater than a minor inductive point.
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2012
  2. steveksux

    steveksux Massive Member

    Jul 12, 2007
    I sense a flaw in this premise.... Why not?

    Animals have similar bio-mechanical machines controlled by analog electrochemical computers, some are self aware, some not. Seems the self awareness is not linked to the electrochemical/biological vs silicon/electronic nature of the computer, but to either its complexity or programming, or both, as they're rather interconnected.


  3. Geko45

    Geko45 Smartass Pilot CLM

    Nov 1, 2002
    I would first point out that you can't actually know whether or not they are self-aware (or if they are even real and not constructs of your own mind). The whole point of cogito ergo sum is that you can only be certain of that for yourself. Even if they are (which I believe to probably be the case) then all that does is include them in the same question that I ask of us.

    Complexity is an argument. Supposedly, if you arrange enough of these components together self-awareness occurs. I get that, but I find it uncompelling. I work with computers, I understand their design and how they function. I believe that one day we will make a computer advanced enough to create a convincing simulation of self-awareness. We might even fool ourselves into believing we have created artificial intelligent life, but knowing what I know about the operation of computers, I just can't seem to accept that argument. It doesn't matter how complex you make a machine. It is still just a machine. Why does this not seem to apply to us?

    At any rate, I was hoping to tackle this problem from more of a philosphical first principles angle and see if we can derive any further truth out of Descartes initial statement. Taking a scientific tack has its merits, but can't really address my fundamental question.
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2012
  4. Danny Reid

    Danny Reid

    Sep 11, 2005
    This will be a great thread! I will be back when I get my thoughts together.
  5. Geko45

    Geko45 Smartass Pilot CLM

    Nov 1, 2002
    I look forward to it! Let me reiterate the basics as far as I have been able to take them thus far.

    "I think therefore I am": I know this to be true for me and me alone. I can't really know if other people exist at all, let alone if they are self-aware.

    Which leads to the proposition: "Everything that is real, exists." which is either true or false.

    If it is false then reality is a construct of my own mind. This includes my perception of how my own body is constructed. Therefore I conclude, "I am more than the perceived sum of my parts".

    If it is true then reality exists separate from me and is governed by the laws of physics. Other people and animals are real, but I still can't be sure that they are self-aware like I am. However, from what I know of physics, simple causality chains (electrochemical reactions) should not be able to support self-awareness no matter what level of complexity is demonstrated. Therefore, I conclude similarly, "I am more than the actual sum of my parts".

    In either case, the questions arise: Where does that something more come from? What is it nature? How does it work? etc, etc...

    (PS. I am going to be outside taking care of my imaginary lawn for awhile, but will revisit this thread this imaginary evening to read the imaginary responses. :supergrin:)
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2012
  6. Einstein had a problem with quantum mechanics for the same reason. He called it spooky. Quantum mechanics tend to indicate that space and time do not really exist as we perceive them. Perhaps we are nothing more than an idea in the mind of God.
  7. steveksux

    steveksux Massive Member

    Jul 12, 2007
    I'm merely addressing the assumption that computers cannot be self aware. Sounds like you maybe should instead be arguing that we can't know whether computers really exist or are figments of our imagination, rather than what they are intrinsically incapable of doing.

    There are problems a Turing machine can't solve. Been too long since I had that class, but I don't think "self awareness" is the sort of thing that's included. Its as much an assumption that self awareness is so special that computers can't be designed to be self-aware as it is to assume the human brain is so special that it can't arise as a result of unguided evolution, it seems to me. Although that may be a side argument not really related to the meat and potatoes, should meat and potatoes actually exist outside of our minds... :supergrin:

    Last edited: Mar 4, 2012
  8. Geko45

    Geko45 Smartass Pilot CLM

    Nov 1, 2002
    Can't help it, I understand them to well. I realize drawing on one's own expertise is poor form in a debate, but for me, knowing what I know, I'm quite certain it can't happen, but maybe that's a confirmation bias on my part.

    I guess I'm not making the distinction well. I have no difficulty in seeing how a digital or analog computer can become so sophisticated that it would be indistinguishable from self-aware beings. I can even see them sitting around on an internet discussion board carrying on a conversation about the significance of cogito ergo sum, but, for all of its convincing nature, it would still be just an empty simulation.

    So, the question remains, why can I truly think as opposed to simply being a highly evolved machine?

    I'm more than happy to pick at the imaginary appetizer until somebody decides to take a bite at the imaginary meat and 'taters.

  9. Japle

    Japle John, Viera, Fl

    Feb 26, 2000
    Viera, Florida
    I often fly in my dreams. I used to take that for granted, but now when I find myself flying, I know it’s a dream. I can prove to myself it’s a dream, no matter how real it seems, by looking at my watch, noting the time, looking away and then looking again. The times never match. Usually, I can’t read the time at all. That tells me it’s a dream and I can do whatever I want and enjoy myself.

    I fly, therefore I dream.
  10. Geko45

    Geko45 Smartass Pilot CLM

    Nov 1, 2002
    Funny you should mention that to a pilot.

    I fly, therefore I am broke...

  11. Gunhaver

    Gunhaver the wrong hands

    Jan 24, 2012
    Is it possible for a computer to be advanced enough to make the calculation that it must exist if it's making calculations? That may be you.

    Also, if I were a figment of your imagination you'd know what kind of car I drive, how I take my coffee, what my girlfriend has tattooed where, etc. and you don't.

    Do you?
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2012
  12. Japle

    Japle John, Viera, Fl

    Feb 26, 2000
    Viera, Florida
    It is me.

    Keep away from that plug!!
  13. berniew

    berniew Liberty

    Nov 3, 2002
    With no editing or endorsement I'll dump my notes from a Philosophy class into the hopper - use or ignore them as you see fit

    <style> <!-- /* Style Definitions */ p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal {mso-style-unhide:no; mso-style-qformat:yes; mso-style-parent:""; margin:0in; margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:12.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";} .MsoChpDefault {mso-style-type:export-only; mso-default-props:yes; font-size:10.0pt; mso-ansi-font-size:10.0pt; mso-bidi-font-size:10.0pt;} @page WordSection1 {size:8.5in 11.0in; margin:1.0in 1.25in 1.0in 1.25in; mso-header-margin:.5in; mso-footer-margin:.5in; mso-paper-source:0;} div.WordSection1 {page:WordSection1;} /* List Definitions */ @list l0 {mso-list-id:108476239; mso-list-type:hybrid; mso-list-template-ids:-437587214 -1658970286 67698713 67698715 67698703 67698713 67698715 67698703 67698713 67698715;} @list l0:level1 {mso-level-tab-stop:.75in; mso-level-number-position:left; margin-left:.75in; text-indent:-.25in;} @list l0:level2 {mso-level-number-format:alpha-lower; mso-level-tab-stop:1.25in; mso-level-number-position:left; margin-left:1.25in; text-indent:-.25in;} @list l0:level3 {mso-level-number-format:roman-lower; mso-level-tab-stop:1.75in; mso-level-number-position:right; margin-left:1.75in; text-indent:-9.0pt;} @list l0:level4 {mso-level-tab-stop:2.25in; mso-level-number-position:left; margin-left:2.25in; text-indent:-.25in;} @list l0:level5 {mso-level-number-format:alpha-lower; mso-level-tab-stop:2.75in; mso-level-number-position:left; margin-left:2.75in; text-indent:-.25in;} @list l0:level6 {mso-level-number-format:roman-lower; mso-level-tab-stop:3.25in; mso-level-number-position:right; margin-left:3.25in; text-indent:-9.0pt;} @list l0:level7 {mso-level-tab-stop:3.75in; mso-level-number-position:left; margin-left:3.75in; text-indent:-.25in;} @list l0:level8 {mso-level-number-format:alpha-lower; mso-level-tab-stop:4.25in; mso-level-number-position:left; margin-left:4.25in; text-indent:-.25in;} @list l0:level9 {mso-level-number-format:roman-lower; mso-level-tab-stop:4.75in; mso-level-number-position:right; margin-left:4.75in; text-indent:-9.0pt;} @list l1 {mso-list-id:116266067; mso-list-type:hybrid; mso-list-template-ids:1019219436 -1752266936 67698713 67698715 67698703 67698713 67698715 67698703 67698713 67698715;} @list l1:level1 {mso-level-tab-stop:.75in; mso-level-number-position:left; margin-left:.75in; text-indent:-.25in;} @list l1:level2 {mso-level-number-format:alpha-lower; mso-level-tab-stop:1.25in; mso-level-number-position:left; margin-left:1.25in; text-indent:-.25in;} @list l1:level3 {mso-level-number-format:roman-lower; mso-level-tab-stop:1.75in; mso-level-number-position:right; margin-left:1.75in; text-indent:-9.0pt;} @list l1:level4 {mso-level-tab-stop:2.25in; mso-level-number-position:left; margin-left:2.25in; text-indent:-.25in;} @list l1:level5 {mso-level-number-format:alpha-lower; mso-level-tab-stop:2.75in; mso-level-number-position:left; margin-left:2.75in; text-indent:-.25in;} @list l1:level6 {mso-level-number-format:roman-lower; mso-level-tab-stop:3.25in; mso-level-number-position:right; margin-left:3.25in; text-indent:-9.0pt;} @list l1:level7 {mso-level-tab-stop:3.75in; mso-level-number-position:left; margin-left:3.75in; text-indent:-.25in;} @list l1:level8 {mso-level-number-format:alpha-lower; mso-level-tab-stop:4.25in; mso-level-number-position:left; margin-left:4.25in; text-indent:-.25in;} @list l1:level9 {mso-level-number-format:roman-lower; mso-level-tab-stop:4.75in; mso-level-number-position:right; margin-left:4.75in; text-indent:-9.0pt;} @list l2 {mso-list-id:134874804; mso-list-type:hybrid; mso-list-template-ids:-135873066 -1162072030 67698713 67698715 67698703 67698713 67698715 67698703 67698713 67698715;} @list l2:level1 {mso-level-tab-stop:.75in; mso-level-number-position:left; margin-left:.75in; text-indent:-.25in;} @list l2:level2 {mso-level-number-format:alpha-lower; mso-level-tab-stop:1.25in; mso-level-number-position:left; margin-left:1.25in; text-indent:-.25in;} @list l2:level3 {mso-level-number-format:roman-lower; mso-level-tab-stop:1.75in; mso-level-number-position:right; margin-left:1.75in; text-indent:-9.0pt;} @list l2:level4 {mso-level-tab-stop:2.25in; mso-level-number-position:left; margin-left:2.25in; text-indent:-.25in;} @list l2:level5 {mso-level-number-format:alpha-lower; mso-level-tab-stop:2.75in; mso-level-number-position:left; margin-left:2.75in; text-indent:-.25in;} @list l2:level6 {mso-level-number-format:roman-lower; mso-level-tab-stop:3.25in; mso-level-number-position:right; margin-left:3.25in; text-indent:-9.0pt;} @list l2:level7 {mso-level-tab-stop:3.75in; mso-level-number-position:left; margin-left:3.75in; text-indent:-.25in;} @list l2:level8 {mso-level-number-format:alpha-lower; mso-level-tab-stop:4.25in; mso-level-number-position:left; margin-left:4.25in; text-indent:-.25in;} @list l2:level9 {mso-level-number-format:roman-lower; mso-level-tab-stop:4.75in; mso-level-number-position:right; margin-left:4.75in; text-indent:-9.0pt;} ol {margin-bottom:0in;} ul {margin-bottom:0in;} --> </style> Mental state – a thought you might have, think of red, would not see red

    Physical state – a chemical reaction in your brain

    The mind is immaterial, the brain is physical

    1<sup>st</sup> 4 are substance dualistic view

    Interactionism – (Descartes) –interact in some way- the mind affects the body, the body affects the mind (pineal gland)

    Parallelism - they do not cause each other; happen to occur at same time, they correspond

    Pre-established harmony – (Liebnitz) – pre-ordained to correspond

    Occasionalism – (Malenbanche) on the occasion of physical stimulation, God creates the ‘right’ mental state

    Next 2 are Property dualistic

    Epiphenominalism – the mind is a property of the brain (smoke is a property of fire)

    Double-aspect Theory – Spinoza – all reality is ultimately one substance , the mind and body are both properties of the one substance, distinguishable but not separable

    Next 2 are monistic views

    Materialism – no mind

    Idealism – no such thing as matter – “the metaphysical theory that all things, material and immaterial, are ultimately reduced to mind and ideas”

    Objective idealism – ideas exist independent of the mind (Hegel)

    Subjective idealism - ideas are dependent on being perceived by a mind to exist (Barkley)

    Epistemological dualism (representative realism) – 2 factors in knowing: thing out there / idea

    Primary qualities – don’t change

    Secondary qualities – change

    “Esse est percipi” – to be is to be perceived

    Berkeley’s 5 arguments
    1. Discontinuity of Dualism (it doesn’t work)
    2. Meaninglessness of material substance
    3. The unexperienced as unconceivable
    4. The inseparability of primary and secondary qualities
    5. The relativity of all qualities

    Solipsism – the belief I am the only thing that really exists, everything else is a result of my thinking

    Current causation

    Materialism – everything is reducible to matter or physical states

    Determinism – belief that everthing is determined ahead of time

    Quantum mechanics
    Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle

    Identity thesis- all mental states are equal to and identical to brain states

    Co-extensionality – saying a is related to b is not te same as saying a=b

    Behaviorism – all mental states are reducred to descriptions of actual or potential behavior patterns; the mind is merely the disposition and cpacity of our bodies to beave according to certain stimuli

    Arguments against dualism
    1. Simplicity (O.R.)
    2. Explanatory impotence
    3. Dependence
    4. Evolutionary history (animals don’t have mind)

    Mechanistic materialism – all things are reducible to matter and motion

    Soft behaviorism – all I can observe is behavior

    Hard behaviorism – all you are is behavior

    Functionalism – mental states are reduced to a physical process (computer)

    Eliminative materialism – all mental talk should be eliminted

    The eight arguments for dualism
    1. Materialism leads to dualism
    2. The great difference between mental and physical properties
    3. The private access of mental states
    4. The incorrigibility of mental states
    5. The experience of 1<sup>st</sup> person subjectivity
    6. Secondary qualities argument
    7. Intentionality – aware and think of others
    8. Personal identity through time

    Incorrigible – un able to be wrong

    Intentionality - otherness

    The indiscernability of the identicals - if any two things are said to be identical; whatever is true about one *must be true about the other