Philosophical Forum 41 (4):389-412 (2010)

Peter Slezak
University of New South Wales
Kirsten Besheer has recently considered Descartes’ doubting appropriately in the context of his physiological theories in the spirit of recent important re-appraisals of his natural philosophy. However, Besheer does not address the notorious indubitability and its source that Descartes claims to have discovered. David Cunning has remarked that Descartes’ insistence on the indubitability of his existence presents “an intractable problem of interpretation” in the light of passages that suggest his existence is “just as dubitable as anything else”. However, although the cogito argument is widely thought to be central to the force of Descartes’ indubitability, for his part, Cunning does not consider its relevance and force. Accordingly, this article is concerned with the cogito argument and the question central to Hintikka’s seminal contribution, described by Cottingham as “Perhaps the most debated question,” namely, whether or not the cogito can be construed as a logical inference. Clearly, an inferential account has the potential to explain the certainty of Descartes’ conclusion that he exists. Recently, Sarkar offers what he characterizes as “novel and fairly conclusive reasons why the cogito cannot be construed as an argument,” asserting “the discovery of the cogito can only be an intuition not a deduction.” Obviously, it would greatly support the opposing inferential construal if a remotely plausible logical argument could be proposed. Toward this end, I defend the virtues of my ‘Diagonal’ account of Descartes’ cogito Above all, I show how my analysis meets the requirement that any satisfactory solution to the problem of the cogito would reconcile Descartes’ claim that the cogito is a certain inference with his claim that it is an intuitive kind of knowledge. Through a critical discussion of analyses such as that of Gallois , I show that it is possible to provide a textually faithful analysis that permits seeing the cogito as both inference and intuition because it may be seen as an exercise in the mathematical method of Analysis. Above all, as Feldman requires, I show that the Diagonal account is not only textually elegant, but permits crediting Descartes with a worthy insight, thereby resolving the tension between what Howell has termed the Humean and Cartesian problems, namely, the elusiveness and the certainty of the self.
Keywords Descartes' Cogito  indubitability  intuition or inference
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1111/j.1467-9191.2010.00370.x
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 63,417
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

God and Cogito: Semen Frank on the Ontological Argument.Paweł Rojek - 2019 - Studies in East European Thought 71 (2):119-140.
Mario Bunge: Matter and Mind: A Philosophical Inquiry.Peter Slezak - 2012 - Science & Education 21 (8):1213-1221.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Doubts About Indubitability.Peter Slezak - 2010 - Philosophical Forum 41 (4):389-412.
The Cogito Circa Ad 2000.David Woodruff Smith - 1993 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 36 (3):225 – 254.
Hintikka on Descartes's Cogito.Nicola Ciprotti - 2009 - Nordicum-Mediterraneum 4 (1).
Sketch for a Modal Interpretation of Descartes' Cogito.Michael R. Baumer - 1985 - Philosophy Research Archives 11:635-655.
Analytic Method, the Cogito, and Descartes’s Argument for the Innateness of the Idea of God.Murray Miles - 2010 - Epoché: A Journal for the History of Philosophy 14 (2):289-320.
On Cogito Propositions.William J. Rapaport - 1976 - Philosophical Studies 29 (1):63-68.
Cartesian Studies.R. J. Butler - 1972 - Blackwell.
The Incoherence of the Cartesian Cogito.Leon Pompa - 1984 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 27 (1-4):3 – 21.
Descartes's Diagonal Deduction.Peter Slezak - 1983 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 34 (March):13-36.
The Crisis of the Cogito.Paul Ricoeur - 1996 - Synthese 106 (1):57 - 66.


Added to PP index

Total views
241 ( #40,686 of 2,449,083 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
3 ( #223,039 of 2,449,083 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes