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Also included are selections from Thomas Aquinas' work. Listen to a succinct account of the philosophy of Sartre in just one hour. Listen to a succinct account of the philosophy of Hegel in just one hour. Listen to this succinct account of the philosophy of Descartes in just one hour. Descartes was the first modern philosopher. His scepticism led him to doubt all certainties, until finally he arrived at his famous maxim 'I think therefore I am'. He would also apply his rationalism with great effect in science and mathematics, conceiving a scheme for scientific method and inventing Cartesian co-ordinates in geometry.

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I find them hard to stop reading. I cannot think of a better way to introduce oneself and one's friends to Western civilization. Like all other works by Paul Strathern this brief introduction to the life and the work of Descartes is excellently put. Enough food for thought. I recommend it for students and instructors of philosophy. What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

Tried to download this onto my phone. I bought it and the transaction came through, I pressed download I think the title does not describe what it is exactly. It is perhaps more exact to call it philosopher's biography. The philosophy part where the argument is put forth and become an object of analysis is thin so thin that it could fit half of a small page. However as a biography it succeed. The story is enjoyable and would be useful in providing context to the philosophical work. I would say that it is well worth the money but I also have to say that if one is looking for an analysis or summary of philosophical concept one should avoid this product.

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At the same time, the rude intensity and the passionate Edition: current; Page: [ 10 ] earnestness of his life were not unworthily sealed by his bloody death on the Eve of St. The death of Ramus, though attributed directly to personal enmity, was really a blow struck alike at Protestantism and the freedom of modern thought. Bruno, Vanini, Campanella, and Ramus foreshadowed Descartes and the modern spirit, only in the emphatic assertion of the freedom, individuality, and supremacy of thought.

What in thought is firm, assured, and universal, they have not pointed out. They were actuated mainly by an implicit sense of inadequacy in the current principles and doctrines of the time. It was not given to any of them to find a new and strong foundation whereon to build with clear, consistent, and reasonable evidence. Alongside of those more purely speculative tendencies, Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, and Bacon represented the new spirit and theory of observation applied to nature.

The formalism of the Schools had abstracted almost entirely from the natural world. Bacon had given to the world the Novum Organum in , seventeen years before the Method of Descartes, but his precept was as yet only slightly felt, and he had but little in common with Descartes, except an appeal to reality on a different side from that of the Continental philosopher.

Descartes had not seen the Organum previously to his thinking out the Method. He makes but three or four references to Bacon in all his writings. If to these influences we add the spirit of religious reformation, the debates regarding the relative authority of the Scriptures and the Church, and mainly as a consequence of the chaos and conflict of thought in the age, the course of philosophical scepticism initiated by Cornelius Agrippa — , and made fashionable especially by Montaigne — , and continued by Charron — , with its self-satisfied worldliness and its low and conventional ethic, we shall understand the age in which the youth of Descartes was passed, and the influences under which he was led to speculation.

We shall Edition: current; Page: [ 11 ] be able especially to see how he, a man of penetrating and comprehensive intelligence, yet with a strong conservative instinct for what was elevating in morals and theology, was led to seek for an ultimate ground of certainty, if that were possible, not in tradition or dogma of philosopher or churchman, but in what commended itself to him as self-verifying and therefore ultimate in knowledge—in other words, a limit to doubt, a criterion of certainty, and a point of departure for a constructive philosophy.

The man in modern times, or indeed in any time, who first based philosophy on consciousness, and sketched a philosophical method within the limits of consciousness, was Descartes; and since his time, during these two hundred and fifty years, no one has shown a more accurate view of the ultimate problem of philosophy, or of the conditions under which it must be dealt with. The question with him is — Is there an ultimate in knowledge which can guarantee itself to me as true and certain? In the settlement of these questions, the organon of Descartes is doubt. This with him means an examination by reflection of the facts and possibilities of consciousness.

Of what and how far can I doubt. I can doubt, Descartes would say, whether it be true, as my senses testify, or seem to testify, that a material world really exists. I am not here by any necessity of thought shut within belief. I can doubt, he even says, of mathematical truths — at least when the evidence is not directly present to my mind. At what point then do I find that a reflective doubt sets limits to itself? This limit he finds in self-consciousness, implying or being self-existence. It will be found that this method makes the least possible postulate or assumption.

It starts simply from the fact of a conscious questioning; it proceeds to exhaust the sphere of the doubtable; and it reaches that truth or principle which is its own guarantee.

If we cannot find Edition: current; Page: [ 12 ] a principle or principles of this sort in knowledge, within the limits of consciousness, we shall not be able to find either ultimate truth or principle at all. Philosophy is impossible. But the process must be accurately observed. There is the consciousness — that is, this or that act or state of consciousness — even when I doubt. This cannot be sublated, except by another act of consciousness. To doubt whether there is consciousness at a given moment, is to be conscious of the doubt in that given moment; to believe that the testimony of consciousness at a given time is false, is still to be conscious — conscious of the belief.

This, therefore, a definite act of consciousness, is the necessary implicate of any act of knowledge. The impossibility of the sublation of the act of consciousness, consistently with the reality of knowledge at all, is the first and fundamental point of Descartes.

The act and the Ego are the two inseparable factors of the same fact or experience in a definite time. It is not cogitatio ergo ens , or entitas , but cogito ergo sum; that is, the concrete fact of me thinking. That this is so, can be established from numerous statements.

From this it follows that the principle does not tell us what consciousness is; it knows nothing of an abstract consciousness, far less of a point above consciousness; but it is the knowledge and assertion of consciousness in one or other of its modes—or rather it is an expression of consciousness only as I have experience of it—in this or that definite form.

Arnauld and Mersenne in their criticism of Descartes were the first to point out the resemblance of the cogito ergo sum. Descartes himself had not previously been aware of these. The truth is, he belonged to the school of the non-reading philosophers. He cared very little for what had been thought or said before him. The passage from Augustin which has been referred to as closest to the statement of Descartes is from the De Civitate Dei , 1.

Nulla in his veris Academicorum argumenta, formido dicentium: Quid, si falleris? Si enim fallor, sum. Nam qui non est, utique nec falli potest: ac per hoc sum, si fallor. Quia ergo sum, qui fallor, quomodo esse me fallor, quando certum est me esse si fallor? On this passage Descartes himself very properly remarks, that while the principle may be identical with his own, the consequences which he deduces from it, and its position as the ground of a philosophical system, make the characteristic difference between Augustin and himself.

The specialty of Descartes is that he reached this principle of self-consciousness as the last limit of doubt and made it then the starting-point of his system. There is all the difference in his case, between the man who by chance stumbles on a fact, and leaves it isolated as he found it, and the man who reaches it by method—and, with a full consciousness of its importance, develops it through the ramifications of a philosophical system.

To him the fact when found is a significant truth as the limit of restless thought; it is not less significant and impulsive as a new point of departure in the line of higher truth. But what precisely is the relation between the cogito and the sum? Is it, first of all, a syllogistic or an Edition: current; Page: [ 14 ] immediate inference? Is the cogito ergo sum an enthymeme or a proposition? There can be no doubt that Descartes himself regarded it as a form of proposition, an intuition, not a syllogism.

Pre-judgment there is none, when the cogito ergo sum is duly considered, because it then appears so evident to the mind that it cannot keep itself from believing it, the moment even it begins to think of it.

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But the principal mistake here is this, that the objector supposes that the cognition of particular propositions is always deduced from universals, according to the order of the syllogisms of logic. He thus shows that he is ignorant of the way in which truth is to be sought. For it is settled among philosophers, that in order to find it a beginning must always be made from particular notions, that afterward the universal may be reached; although also reciprocally, universals being found, other particulars may thence be deduced.

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Whereas, on the contrary, this is rather taught him, from the fact that he experiences in himself that it cannot be that he thinks if he does not exist. For it is the property of our mind to form general propositions from the knowledge of particulars. It also points to the guarantee of the principle — the experiment of not being able to suppose consciousness apart from existence — or unless as implying it. This and other passages might have saved both Reid and Kant from the mistake of supposing that Descartes inferred self-existence from self-consciousness syllogistically or through a major.

We easily, however, discover substance itself from any attribute of it, by this common notion, that of nothing there are no attributes, properties or qualities. In fact, the second statement that substance or being is not cognizable per se , disposes of any apparent ground for the syllogistic character of the inference.

For this implies that the so-called major, as by itself incognizable, is not a major at all. What Descartes points to here, and very properly, is the original synthesis of the relation of quality and substance. He here approximates very nearly to a distinct statement of the important doctrine that in regard to fundamental principles of knowing, the particular and the universal are from the first implicitly given, and only wait philosophical analysis to bring them to light.

But misrepresentation of the true nature of the cogito ergo sum still continues to be made. It cannot be doubted, for the very doubt is an existent thought. But the first and third, whether true or not, may be doubted, and have been doubted; for the asserter may be asked, how do Edition: current; Page: [ 16 ] you know that thought is not self-existent, or that a given thought is not the effect of its antecedent thought or of some external power?

There are not three distinct assertions first, which have been rolled into one. It is not a distinct proposition. The thought is me thinking. Thought, divorced from me or a thinker, would be not so much an absurdity as a nullity. And as to some external power, I must wait for the proof of it, and if I ever get it, it must be because I am there to think the proof, and distinguish it from myself as an external Edition: current; Page: [ 17 ] power.

And further, this external power can only be known, in so far as I am conscious of it. Its known existence depends on my consciousness, as one factor in it, and therefore my consciousness could never be absolutely caused by it. The cogito ergo sum is thus properly regarded by Descartes as a propostion. It is in fact, what we should now call a proposition of immediate inference,—such that the predicate is necessarily implied in the subject.

The requirements of the case preclude it from being advanced as a syllogism or mediate inference. For in that case it would not be the first principle of knowledge, or the first stage of certainty after doubt. The first principle would be the major— all that thinks is, or thinking is existing. To begin with, this is to reverse the true order of knowledge; to suppose that the universal is known before the particular.

It is to suppose also, erroneously, a purely abstract beginning; for if I am able to say, I am conscious that all thinking is existing , the guarantee even of this major or universal is the particular affirmation of my being conscious of its truth in a given time; if I am not able to say this, then I cannot assert that all or any thinking is existing, or indeed assert anything at all.

In other words, I can connect no truth with my being conscious. I cannot know at all. But what precisely is the character of the immediate implication? What is implied? There are four possible meanings of the phrase. My being or existence is the effect or product of my being conscious. My being conscious creates or produces my being. Here my consciousness is first in order of existence.

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My being conscious implies that I am and was, before and in order to be conscious. My being conscious is the means of my knowing what my existence is, or what it means. Here my consciousness is identical with my existence. My consciousness and my being are convertible phrases. My being conscious informs me that I exist, or through my being conscious I know for the first time that I exist.

Here my being conscious is first in order of knowledge. With regard to the first of these interpretations, it is Edition: current; Page: [ 18 ] obviously not in accordance with the formula. Implication is not production or creation. But, further, it does not interpret the sum in consistency with the cogito. If I am first of all supposed to be conscious, I am supposed to be and to exercise a function or to be modified in a particular form.

This interpretation may be taken as a forecast of the absolute ego of Fichte, out of which come the ego and the non-ego of consciousness. There is no appearance of this having been the meaning of Descartes himself. And, indeed, it is not vindicable on any ground either of experience or reason. With regard to the second interpretation, nothing could be further from the meaning of Descartes. I am conscious; therefore, I must be before I am conscious, or I must conceive myself to be before I am conscious. The inference in this case would be to my existence from my present or actual consciousness, as its ground and pre-rcquisite, as either before the consciousness in time, or to be necessarily conceived by me as grounding the consciousness.

There are passages which seem to countenance this interpretation — e. This rather points to the view that the I am of the formula is simply another aspect of the I am conscious — not really independently preceding it in time or in thought, but found inseparable from it in reality, though distinguishable in thought. That my existence preceded my consciousness, Descartes would be the last to maintain; that I was before I was conscious, he would have scouted as an absurdity.

That another Ego — viz, Deity — might have been, even was, he makes a matter of inference from my being, revealed to me even by my being. But existence in the abstract, or existence per se as preceding me in any real sense, either as a power of creation or self-determination — whether in time and thought, or in thought only—he would have probably looked on as the simple vagary of speculation. He was opposed to the absolute ego as a beginning— the starting-point of Fichte—which as above consciousness Edition: current; Page: [ 19 ] is above meaning. He was opposed equally to abstract or quality-less existence as a starting-point, which is that of the Logic of Hegel, whatever attempts may be made to substitute for it a more concrete basis — viz, consciousness.

But for the intuitional knowledge of myself revealed in a definite act, it is obviously the doctrine of Descartes, and of truth, that I could not even propose to myself the question as to whether there is either knowledge or being; and any universal in knowledge is as yet to me simply meaningless. With regard to the third interpretation, it seems to me not to be adequate to the meaning of Descartes, or the requirements of the case. It either does not say so much as Descartes means, or it says more than it professes to say.

If it be intended to say my consciousness means my existence in the proper sense of these words,— i. We have but compared two expressions, and said that the one is convertible with the other. But we may do this whether the expressions denote objects of experience or not. This is a mere comparison of notions; and Descartes certainly intended not to find a simple relation of convertibility between two notions but to reach certainty as to a matter of experience or fact — viz, the reality of my existence. This interpretation, therefore, does not say so much as Descartes intends.

But further, if instead of a statement of identity or convertibility between two notions it says that the one notion — viz, my being conscious—is found or realized as a fact, this is to go beyond the mere conception of relationship between it and another notion or element, and to allege the reality of my being conscious in the first instance, and secondly, its convertibility with my being. But in that case the formula of Descartes does not simply say my consciousness means my being. This interpretation might be stated in the form of a hypothetical proposition.

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If I am conscious, I am existing. But Descartes certainly went further than this. He made a direct categorical assertion of my existence. The decision of the question as to what my existence is may be involved in the assertion that it is, but this is secondary, and, it may be, immediately inferential, but still inferential.

We are thus shut up to the fourth interpretation which, with certain qualifications, is, it seems to me, the true one. My being conscious is the means of revealing myself as existing. In the order of knowledge, my being conscious is first; it is the beginning of knowledge, in time and logically. But it is not a single-sided fact: it is twofold at least. No sooner is the my being conscious realized than the my being is realized. In so far at least as I am conscious, I am. This is an immediate implication. But it should be observed that this does not imply either the absolute identity of my existence with my momentary consciousness, or the convertibility of my existence with that consciousness.

All, therefore, that can be said, or need be inferred, is that my existence, or the me I know myself to be, is revealed in the consciousness of a definite moment; but I am not entitled to say from that alone that the being of me is restricted to that moment, or identified absolutely with the content of that moment. Nay, I may find that the identity and continuity of the momentary ego are actually implied in the fact that this experience of its existence is not possible except as part of a series of moments or successive states.

In this case, there would be added to the mere existence of the ego its identity or continued existence through variety or succession in time. Thus understood, the cogito ergo sum. It is a real basis, the basis of ultimate fact; it provides for the reality of my conscious life as something more than a disconnected series of consciousnesses or a play of words; it opens up to me infinite possibilities of knowledge; the reality of man and God can now be grasped by me in the form of the permanency of self-consciousness.

It has been objected to the formula of Descartes, that it does not say what the sum or existo means; and further, that existence per se is a vague, even meaningless expression, and that to become a notion at all, existence must be cognized in, or translated into, some particular attribute, to which the term existence adds no further meaning than the attribute already possesses.

This twofold objection seems to me to be unfounded. When it is said I am , it is not meant that I am indefinitely anything, but that I am this or that, at a given time. In consciously asserting that I am, I am consciously energizing in this or that mode. I am knowing, or I am feeling and knowing, or I am knowing and willing. This is a positive form of being. I am not called upon to vindicate the reality of existence as an abstract notion or notion per se , or even in its full extension.

I merely affirm that in being conscious, I am revealed or appear as an existence or being,— a perfectly definite reality, but not all reality,—all possible or imaginable reality, though participating in a being which is or may be wider than my being. Nor are the attempts that have been made to find the express form of existence, which Descartes is held necessarily to mean, more successful than the general criticism.

But Descartes's answer to this would be very much what he said in reply to Gassendi, who, following precisely the same line of thought, suggested ambulo ergo sum. Unless the living or the walking be a fact of my consciousness, it is nothing to me, and is no part of my existence or being. Life is wider than consciousness,— at least if it is to be in any form identical with my being, it must be conscious life, just as it must be conscious walking. But the second suggested interpretation is still worse.

Nothing could be Edition: current; Page: [ 22 ] further from the meaning of Descartes than this, as is indeed admitted, or from the truth of the matter. I am not something , that is, a wholly indefinite. I am as I think myself to be, as I am conscious in this or that definite mode, as I feel, apprehend, desire, or will. Being thus definitely conscious, I am not a mere indeterminate something. I am something simply because in the first place I know myself to be definitely this thing — myself. And as I know myself to be cognizant, I know myself to be definitely the knower, or, if you will, the subject.

But the only object necessary to my knowledge in this case is a subject-object, or one of my own passing states. I require nothing further in the form of a not-self, in order to limit and render clear my self-knowledge. A mere sensation or state of feeling apprehended by me as mine is enough to constitute me a definite something. Besides the alleged vagueness or emptiness of the term sum in the formula, there is a twofold objection,— one that it is not a real inference; the other that it is not a real proposition. It seems odd that it can be supposed possible for the same person to object to it on both of these grounds.

It may be criticised as a syllogism, and it may be criticised as a proposition; but surely it cannot be held to admit of both these characters. If it can be proved to be not a real proposition to begin with, it is superfluous to seek to prove it an unreal inference. But the statement would neither be tautological nor useless: it would be a proposition of immediate certainty, in which the subject explicated involved a definite being as another aspect of itself.

And this meets the objection to the formula as a proposition. It is said to be not a real proposition, seeing that the predicate adds nothing to the subject. This, in the first place, is not the test of a real Edition: current; Page: [ 23 ] proposition, or of what is essential to a proposition. A proposition may be simply analytic, and yet truly a proposition. All that is necessary to constitute a proposition is that it should imply inclusion or exclusion, attribution or non-attribution.

When I explicate four into the equivalent of i i i i , I have not added to the meaning of the subject, but I have identified a whole and its parts by a true prepositional form. I have analyzed no doubt merely, but truly and necessarily, and the result appears in a valid proposition.

But I do more, for I assert definitude of being in the thinking or consciousness,— and this, though inseparable from it in reality, is at least distinguishable in thought. It excludes, in fact, Hume on the one hand and Fichte on the other. The proposition is therefore merely verbal or analytic. By some test or other—by some form of experience. And what is this but falling back upon the principle of the cogito ergo sum as the ultimate in knowledge? This would give the formula importance and validity. Surely there is a misconception here of what Descartes aimed at, or ought to have aimed at.

This must guarantee itself to me in some way; that is the question which must be settled first; that is the question regarding the condition of the knowledge alike of feeling and Edition: current; Page: [ 24 ] willing. It was nothing to the aim of Descartes what was associated in experience; he sought the ultimate form, or fact, if you choose, in experience itself, and his principle must be met, not by saying that it only gives certain real inferences through subsequent association and experience, but by a direct challenge of the guarantee of the principle itself—a challenge which indeed is incompatible with its being the basis of any real inference.

To the cogito ergo sum of Descartes it was readily and early objected, that if it identified my being and my consciousness, then I must either always be conscious, or, if consciousness ceases, I must cease to be. Descartes chose the former alternative, and maintained a continuity of consciousness through waking and sleeping. As a thinking substance, the soul is always conscious. Through feebleness of cerebral impression, it does not always remember.

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What wonder is it, he asks, that we do not always remember the thoughts of our sleep or lethargy, when we often do not remember the thoughts of our waking hours? Traces on the brain are needed, to which the soul may turn, and it is not wonderful that they are awanting in the brain of a child or in sleep. Whether consciousness be absolutely continuous or not — whether suspension of consciousness in time be merely apparent, — is a mixed psychological and physiological question. But it is hardly necessary to consider it in this connection; and Descartes probably went too far in his affirmative statement, and certainly in allowing it as the only counter-alternative.

For consciousness must not be interpreted in the narrow sense of the conscious act merely, or of all conscious acts put together. That would be an abstract and artificial interpretation of consciousness. That is but one side of it; and we must take into account the other element through which this conscious act is possible, and which is distinguishable but inseparable from it. When we seek to analyze my being , or my being conscious , we must keep in mind the coequal reality or necessary implication of self and the conscious act, and keep hold of all that is embodied in the assertion of the self by itself.

This we shall find to be existence in time in this Edition: current; Page: [ 25 ] or that definite act or mode, and a continuous and identical existence through all the varying and successive modes of consciousness in time. The variation and succession of the modes of consciousness do not affect this identical reality, and no more need the suspension do, even though the suspension of the mode were proved to be absolute, and not simply such a reduction of degree as merely to be below memory. In our experience we find that after at least an apparent absolute suspension of consciousness, the I, or self, on the recovery of consciousness, asserts itself to be identical with the I, or self, of the consciousness that preceded the suspension.

There is more than a logical or generic identity. It is here that psychology and physiology touch. The bodily organism, living and sentient, is the condition and instrument of consciousness. The temporary manifestation of consciousness is dependent on physical conditions.

Consciousness may be said to animate the body; and the body may be said to permit the manifestation of consciousness. But there is the deeper element of the Ego or self which is the ground of the whole manifestations, however conditioned Through a non-fulfilment of the physical requirements, these manifestations may be absolutely suspended, or at least they may sink so low in degree, as to appear to be so; they may subside to such an extent as not to be the matter of subsequent memory; but the Ego may still survive, potentially if not actually existent; capable of again manifesting similar acts of consciousness, continuous and powerful enough to assert its existence and individuality, in varying even conflicting conscious states, and to triumph over the suspension of consciousness itself.

The deductive solution which has been given of this question does not meet the point at issue. It is said that though I am not always conscious of any special act Edition: current; Page: [ 26 ] or state, I am yet always conscious: for, except in consciousness, there is no Ego or self, and where there is consciousness there is always an Ego. This self, therefore, exists only as it thinks, and it thinks always.

To say that the Ego does not exist except in consciousness, and to say that it exists always, is to say either that consciousness always exists, or to say that when consciousness does not exist, the Ego yet exists, which is a simple contradiction, or to say that consciousness being nonexistent, the Ego neither exists nor does not exist, which is equally incompatible with its existing always.

In fact, the two statements are irreconcilable. If the Ego does not exist except in consciousness, it can only exist when consciousness exists; and unless the continued existence of consciousness is guaranteed to us somehow, the Ego cannot be said to exist always. If the statement is meant as a definition of an Ego, the conclusion from it is tolerably evident: in fact, it thus becomes an identical proposition, An Ego means a conscious Ego; therefore there is no Ego except a conscious one.

Still, it does not follow that there is always a conscious Ego, or that an Ego always exists. The existence of the Ego in time at all is still purely hypothetical, much more its continuous existence. Such a definition no more guarantees the reality of the Ego, than the definition of a triangle calls it into actual existence.

But what is the warrant of this definition? Is it a description of the actual Ego of my consciousness? Or is it a formula simply imposed upon actual consciousness? It cannot be accepted as the former, for the reason that it is a mere begging of the question raised by reflection regarding the character of the actual Ego of consciousness. The question is — Is it true or not, as a matter of fact, that the Ego which I am and know now or at a given time survives a suspension of consciousness?

It seems at least to do so, and not to be merely an Ego which reappears after the suspension. To define the actual Ego as only a conscious Ego is to beg and foreclose the conclusion to be discussed. The definition thus assumes the character of a formula imposed, and arbitrarily imposed, upon our actual consciousness. Let it be further observed that this doctrine does not even guarantee the continuous identity of the Ego , Edition: current; Page: [ 27 ] through varying successive states of consciousness.

It cannot tell me that the Ego of a given act of consciousness is the one identical me of a succeeding act of consciousness. All that it truly implies is that in terms of the definition an Ego is correlative with a consciousness; but it does not guarantee to me that the Ego of this definite time is the Ego of the second definite time. It might be construed as saying no to this, and implying that logical identity is really all. But it does not, in fact, touch the reality of time at all. This is an abstract definition of an Ego, and a hypothetical one.

The Ego of our actual consciousness may possess an identity of a totally different sort from that contemplated in this definition; and therefore, as applied to consciousness in time, it either settles nothing, or it begs the point at issue.