Is Tolle right & Descartes wrong?

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ZenOfNow
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Is Tolle right & Descartes wrong?

Post by ZenOfNow » Thu May 24, 2007 7:08 pm

Hello,
I'm new to this forum and have a question. In Power of Now, Tolle wrote:
"The philosopher Descartes believed that he had found the most fundamental truth when he made his famous statement: "I think, therefore I am." He had, in fact, given expression to the most basic error: to equate thinking with Being and identity with thinking.
On another discussion board( Lightmind Forums Forum Index -> World of Ken Wilber), "John" suggested that:
This statement does not equate thinking with being. It affirms the correlation between thinking and being. There's a difference. Thinking is a sufficient condition to confirm beingness. They are not equivalent, they are correlated. Smoke is not equivalent to fire.
To which I replied:
Equate may have been a poor choice of words on his part? It was, after all, a quote from an interview.

So plug in "correlate" or "link" where equate is and it reads:
"He had, in fact, given expression to the most basic error: to correlate thinking with Being and identity with thinking."

I'm not trying to put words in his mouth, but to keep it in context with the rest of the paragraph.

Tolle might say that while thinking can confirm Beingness, it is not a prerequisite... probably a handicap in fact.


John is not letting me off the hook that easy.

So our question is, did Tolle really mean "equate" or "correlate"?

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Webwanderer
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Post by Webwanderer » Thu May 24, 2007 7:32 pm

Hi ZenOfNow, and welcome.

I tend to lean towards John’s take on it being a correlation. But to be certain we would have to ask Descartes for a little more context in his statement. I’m no authority on Descartes but I believe his position to be more philosophical than experiential. That may have led to writing in such a way as to be more evidentiary in nature.

Tolle may have taken the statement as being equivalent, but I doubt he would argue for it if he were clear that Descartes was not intending the famous line to be exclusive of all other evidence, either subjective or objective.

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Post by ZenOfNow » Thu May 24, 2007 8:18 pm

Descartes may have been referring to his actual existence and not "Being" since he had philosophically refuted the existence of everything else.




OK, this is interesting: (from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cogito_ergo_sum)
Criticisms of the cogito

There have been a number of criticisms of the cogito. The first of the two under scrutiny here concerns the nature of the step from "I am thinking" to "I exist". The contention is that this is a syllogistic inference, for it appears to require the extra premise: "Whatever has the property of thinking, exists", and that extra premise must surely have been rejected at an earlier stage of the doubt.

It could be argued that "Whatever has the property of thinking, exists" is self-evident, and thus not subject to the method of doubt. This is because the instantiation principle states that: "Whatever has the property F, exists", but within the method of doubt, only the property of thinking is indubitably a property of the meditator. Descartes does not make use of this defence, however; as we have already seen, he responds to the criticism by conceding that there would indeed be an extra premise needed, but denying that the cogito is a syllogism. Jaakko Hintikka offered a non-syllogistic interpretation. "I exist" is immune to Descartes' method of doubt because it is impossible to be mistaken about one's own existence. If we do not exist then we cannot be mistaken, so we might as well believe we do.

Perhaps a more relevant contention is whether the 'I' to which Descartes refers is justified. In Descartes, The Project of Pure Enquiry, Bernard Williams provides a history and full evaluation of this issue. The main objection, as presented by Georg Lichtenberg, is that rather than supposing an entity that is thinking, Descartes should have said: "thinking is occurring." That is, whatever the force of the cogito, Descartes draws too much from it; the existence of a thinking thing, the reference of the "I", is more than the cogito can justify. Friedrich Nietzsche put forward a similar form of criticism, suggesting a more appropriate phrase would be "it thinks".

Williams provides a meticulous and exhaustive examination of this objection. He argues, first, that it is impossible to make sense of "there is thinking" without relativising it to something. However, this something cannot be Cartesian egos, because it is impossible objectively to differentiate between things just on the basis of the pure content of consciousness.


[edit] Williams' argument in detail

In addition to the preceding two arguments against the cogito, other arguments have been advanced by Bernard Williams. He claims, for example, that what we are dealing with when we talk of thought, or when we say "I am thinking", is something conceivable from a third-person perspective; namely objective "thought-events" in the former case, and an objective thinker in the latter.

The obvious problem is that, through introspection, or our experience of consciousness, we have no way of moving to conclude the existence of any third-personal fact, to conceive of which of which would require something above and beyond just the purely subjective contents of the mind.

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Post by JD » Thu May 24, 2007 8:19 pm

John and ET are both wrong.

http://www.lightgate.net/boards/viewtopic.php?t=6726

John writes:
I think, therefore I am.

This statement does not equate thinking with being. It affirms the correlation between thinking and being. There's a difference. Thinking is a sufficient condition to confirm beingness. They are not equivalent, they are correlated. Smoke is not equivalent to fire.

The problem with Tolle is that he doesn't think very well.

You may not be trying to, but you are putting words in Tolle's mouth. You changed what he said. He's a famous author that should be expected to choose his words carefully. You're pretending he meant something he did not say. If he is careless with his words, then why are we discussing him?
Here's my reply to John - you can post it there if you want. I'd do it myself, but registration is closed.
You may not be trying to, but you are putting words in Tolle's mouth. You changed what he said.
That's exactly what you're doing to Descartes.

"I think, therefore I am" is a crude mistranslation of Descartes's proposition. It misrepresents the essence of Descartes's philosophy because most philosophers now regard the process of thinking as a kind of invisible mechanical action (i.e. stimulus-response).

Historians, philosophers and many scientists have repeated this mistranslated phrase for more than three hundred years. But Descartes's meant something entirely different, as can be seen when "cogito ergo sum" is read in context.

The Latin word, cogito can mean "I think", "I know" or "I am aware"; ergo always means "therefore" in any context. However, sum can mean "I am" or "I exist". To suggest that, "I know, therefore I am" would be wrong as it's possible to accept wrong knowledge as correct.

If you read Descartes's Philosophical Writings in context, it becomes obvious that he was concerned with awareness rather than with thinking or knowing and with existence rather than being.

Properly translated, Descartes's phrase should therefore read: "I am aware, therefore I exist" - a subjective rather than a mechanistic generalization. No machine can be self- or globally aware, no matter how many sensors are attached to it.

In fact, the philosopher Spinoza translated cogito ergo sum as "I am conscious, therefore I exist". Even that's wrong, although it's closer to the truth than the usual lazy mistranslation which has unfairly earned Descartes's the reputation of being a crude reductionist.

It's true that he stated the obvious: that physiological functions are pseudo-mechanical. But he also insisted that man was much more than a machine because of his subjective awareness of the self and of the universe.

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Post by Webwanderer » Thu May 24, 2007 9:10 pm

Thanks JD for a great post.
JD wrote:If you read Descartes's Philosophical Writings in context, it becomes obvious that he was concerned with awareness rather than with thinking or knowing and with existence rather than being.

Properly translated, Descartes's phrase should therefore read: "I am aware, therefore I exist" - a subjective rather than a mechanistic generalization...

...It's true that he stated the obvious: that physiological functions are pseudo-mechanical. But he also insisted that man was much more than a machine because of his subjective awareness of the self and of the universe.
I could smell the smoke, but it took one as informed as you to point out the fire. How much more insightful is :"I am aware, therefore I exist", than is "I think therefore I am".

This misinterpretation is what happens when translation is left to one who is attached to separate-self identity. Unfortunately scriptures and writings often suffer the same translation problems. All the more reason to look for one's self.

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Post by JD » Thu May 24, 2007 9:36 pm

Webwanderer wrote:How much more insightful is :"I am aware, therefore I exist", than is "I think therefore I am".

This misinterpretation is what happens when translation is left to one who is attached to separate-self identity. Unfortunately scriptures and writings often suffer the same translation problems. All the more reason to look for one's self.
Yes, I don't think ET would have much quarrel with: "I am aware, therefore I exist", although he might prefer, "I am awareness, therefore awareness exists". :D

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Post by buckeyeboywonder » Thu May 31, 2007 8:57 am

I smiled when I read this, I think Eckhart would too.

Does the answer truly matter?

:D

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Post by Ives » Thu May 31, 2007 11:53 am

JD wrote:"I am awareness, therefore awareness exists".
It's like a beautiful mantra.

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