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PHILOSOPHICAL WRITINGS February 7, 2012

Posted by wmmbb in Blogging in general, Philosophy.
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The other day I commented on Catallaxy. Judith Sloan’s daugther had sent her a cartoon that she thought may be of interest to readers.

Here is the cartoon:

I immediately started to think about “cogito ergo sum“. This Latin phrase has stuck with me over the years. I tend to google to see what see what information there is about a topic and I found the claim the full sentence was:”Dubito ergo cogito;cogito ergo sum” (I doubt therefore I think; I think therefore I am”). I cannot find this quote, but I do remember the lecturer going on about “systematic doubt”. The translation is apparently too narrow and cogito is a broader conception of mental processing.

Anyway I started thinking about Descartes to the point of formulating some propositions. It seemed to me philosophy had to be understood in the political and historical context in which he was living and writing. For example, Galileo had been condemned by the Inquisition in 1632. You had to be careful. I seemed to have remembered that he had presented his writings to the University of Paris, and while he said his country was France, Latin as well a wider audience, including Thomas Hobbes, with whom he corresponds.

It occurred to me that his writing may well be part of the secularization of science and with that the development of materialism that is so characteristic of the current sense of who we are, perhaps especially in the West. It seemed to me that in philosophy, or for most of us cultural assumptions, who work yourself out of one box, perhaps the Medieval world view, and then create another. The technological developments in the Middle Ages, such as the adoption of horse harnesses, windmills, optics and the compass may have threatened that world order, but they were not the direct subject of the Inquisition. It is equally true that while banking did not go without sanction.

We can relate to Descartes world in our part of the globe because his contemporary, Abel Tasman, visited us twice in 1642 and 1647. The East India Company had been formed in 1602. There were various sightings on the northern coast of Australia, including Dirk Hartog in 1616. It seems that Tasman’s mission was to look for gold, based on the information provided by Marco Polo. The Dutch were orientating themselves, and the journey south from Mauritius (named after the Prince of Nassau for Descartes was working) was fraught with danger, as they experienced in “Murderers Bay” at the top of South Island of New Zealand. 40 of 90 crew of two vessels on the first trip died. Most of us, do not know, according to Wikipedia:

His navigator François Visscher, and his merchant Isaack Gilsemans mapped substantial portions of Australia, New Zealand and some Pacific Islands.

I suspect that the trajectory that distant, and necessary highly profitable, voyages required development of applied mathematics and science. It was as necessary for Protestants and Catholics, that they had to be separated from religious thinking. And I am proposing that Descartes plays a critical role. Being a mathematician before he published his philosophy, he has a head start.

Propositions at the very least provide, albeit a cartoon type representation, which is a place to  start. It turns out then to read the material. So I went looking and found I still had the text from all those years ago. Here is the evidence:

The original proposition may well have been, “I blog therefore I don’t read, and if I do read books, or would ever be stimulated to do so”. Now this might seem like a long digression, but take comfort that is not as long or arduous as setting out from Batavia to Mauritius, heading south to catch the  winds reaching Zeehan (Tasmania), there visiting the Hemskerck pub before heading off to Tasman Bay in New Zealand, sighting Fiji before getting back to Batavia. Come to think of it, reading philosophy can be somewhat analogous for some of us.

You Tube has some resources for Descartes, including the following lectures by Dr Richard Brown:

It comes back to me, the wax argument, and more:

Cogito Ergo Sum, Wikipedia.

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