So this term I continue my plan to be the oldest student in a variety of classes across campus, pursuing philosophy in the hopes of understanding the meaning of life.
This is what I’ve found out so far as I sit on one of the few old-fashioned chairs without wheels (the wheeled chairs that dominate the classroom hurt my back):
Cogito ergo what?
So we’re reading Descartes, who seems a bit of a bore, committed to finding implausible proofs for the existence of God. The one thing I knew about Descartes before taking the course was that he was the one who said “Cogito ergo sum” (I think, therefore I am).
Only he didn’t say it; he says things like that; that famous phrase accurately sums up his main approach (which is a skeptical view in which he begins doubting everything he can, and decides he can be sure only that he exists, and he’s sure of that only because he knows he’s thinking; and if he’s thinking, he must exist in some way to do the thinking).
A reasonable point of view, but he never actually sums it up in the famous Cogito phrase. “Yes,” says the prof, “I was surprised to discover that too.” Who did say it first, I ask? The prof shrugs. “Philosophy is full of slogans,” he says.
Hmph, next I’ll find out that Sherlock Holmes never said, “Elementary, my dear Watson.”
And philosophy is full of slogans?