Chapter 3 Section 7 & 8

Submitted by Tom Last on Mon, 05/21/2007 - 8:06am.

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3-7) PSYCHISM (Pisces)
[18] For everyone, however, who has the ability to observe thinking -- and with good will every normal man has this ability -- this observation is the most important one he can possibly make. For he observes something of which he himself is the creator; he finds himself confronted, not by an apparently foreign object, but by his own activity. He knows how the thing he is observing comes into being. He sees into its connections and relationships. A firm point has now been reached from which one can, with some hope of success, seek an explanation of all other phenomena of the world.

[19] The feeling that he had found such a firm point led the father of modern philosophy, Descartes, to base the whole of human knowledge on the principle: I think, therefore I am. All other things, all other events, are there independently of me. Whether they be truth, or illusion, or dream, I know not. There is only one thing of which I am absolutely certain, for I myself give it its certain existence; and that is my thinking. Whatever other origin it may ultimately have, may it come from God or from elsewhere, of one thing I am certain: that it exists in the sense that I myself bring it forth. Descartes had, to begin with, no justification for giving his statement more meaning than this. All that he had any right to assert was that within the whole world content I apprehend myself in my thinking as in that activity which is most uniquely my own. What the attached "therefore I am" is supposed to mean has been much debated. It can have a meaning on one condition only. The simplest assertion I can make of a thing is that it is, that it exists. How this existence can be further defined in the case of any particular thing that appears on the horizon of my experience, is at first sight impossible to say. Each object must first be studied in its relation to others before we can determine in what sense it can be said to exist. An experienced event may be a set of percepts or it may be a dream, an hallucination, or something else. In short, I am unable to say in what sense it exists. I cannot gather this from the event in itself, but I shall find it out when I consider the event in its relation to other things. But here again I cannot know more than just how it stands in relation to these other things. My investigation touches firm ground only when I find an object which exists in a sense which I can derive from the object itself. But I am myself such an object in that I think, for I give to my existence the definite, self-determined content of the thinking activity. From here I can go on to ask whether other things exist in the same or in some other sense.

Topic: Content Of The Thinking Activity
  • The feeling of having found a firm point led Descartes to base the whole of human knowledge on the principle: I think, therefore I am. All other things, all other events, are there independently of me.
  • Whether they be truth, or illusion, or dream, I do not know. There is only one thing of which I am absolutely certain, for I myself bring it to its certain existence; my thinking.
  • My inquiry finds firm ground only when I find an object, the reason of its existence is derived from object itself. But I am myself such an object in that I think, for I give to my existence the definite, self-determined content of the thinking activity.
  • From here I can go on to ask whether other things exist in the same or in a different sense.
Match-up Quiz

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3-8) PNEUMATISM (Aquarius)
[20] When we make thinking an object of observation, we add to the other observed contents of the world something which usually escapes our attention, But the way we stand in relation to the other things is in no way altered. We add to the number of objects of observation, but not to the number of methods. While we are observing the other things, there enters among the processes of the world -- among which I now include observation -- one process which is overlooked. Something is present which is different from all other processes, something which is not taken into account. But when I observe my own thinking, no such neglected element is present. For what now hovers in the background is once more just thinking itself. The object of observation is qualitatively identical with the activity directed upon it. This is another characteristic feature of thinking. When we make it an object of observation, we are not compelled to do so with the help of something qualitatively different, but can remain within the same element.

[21] When I weave an independently given object into my thinking, I transcend my observation, and the question arises: What right have I to do this? Why do I not simply let the object impress itself upon me? How is it possible for my thinking to be related to the object? These are questions which everyone must put to himself who reflects on his own thought processes. But all these questions cease to exist when we think about thinking itself. We then add nothing to our thinking that is foreign to it, and therefore have no need to justify any such addition.

Topic: Remain Within Thinking
  • While we are observing the other things, there enters among the world-processes -- among which I now include observation -- one process which is overlooked.
  • But when I observe my own thinking, no such neglected element is present. What hovers in the background is just thinking itself.
  • When we make thinking an object of observation, we are not compelled to do so with the help of something qualitatively different, but can remain within the same element.
  • When I weave an independently given object into my thinking, I go beyond my observation, and the question arises: What right have I to do this?
  • But all these questions cease to exist when we think about thinking itself. We then add nothing to our thinking that is foreign to it.
Match-up Quiz
Biography: Stephen Hawking

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