Dubito ergo sum

We indeed recognize in ourselves the image of God, that is, of the supreme Trinity. For we both are, and know that we are, and delight in our being, and our knowledge of it. Moreover, in these three things no true-seeming illusion disturbs us.

Without any delusive representation of images or phantasms, I am most certain that I am, and that I know and delight in this. In respect of these truths, I am not at all afraid of the arguments of the Academicians, who say, What if you are deceived? For if I am deceived, I am. For he who is not, cannot be deceived; and if I am deceived, by this same token I am. And since I am if I am deceived, how am I deceived in believing that I am? For it is certain that I am if I am deceived. Since, therefore, I, the person deceived, should be, even if I were deceived, certainly I am not deceived in this knowledge that I am. And, consequently, neither am I deceived in knowing that I know. For, as I know that I am, so I know this also, that I know.

St. Augustine – Of the Image of the Supreme Trinity in Human Nature. The City of God XI, 26

The Autumn of the World

When the world was half a thousand years younger all events had much sharper outlines than now. The distance between sadness and joy, between good and bad fortune, seemed to be much greater than for us; every experience had that degree of directness and absoluteness which joy and sadness still have in the mind of a child. The great events of human life–birth, marriage, death–by virtue of the sacraments, basked in the radiance of the divine mystery.

There was less relief available for misfortune and for sickness; they came in a more fearful and more painful way. Sickness contrasted more strongly with health. The cutting cold and the dreaded darkness of winter were more concrete evils. Honor and wealth were enjoyed more fervently and greedily because they contrasted still more than now with lamentable poverty. The lepers, shaking their rattles and holding processions, put their deformities openly on display.

In their external appearance, too, town and countryside displayed the same contrast and colour. The city did not dissipate, as do our cities, into carelessly fashioned, ugly factories and monotonous country homes but, enclosed by its walls, presented a completely rounded picture that included its innumerable protruding towers. Just as the contrast between summer and winter was stronger then than in our present lives, so was the difference between light and dark, quiet and noise. The modern city hardly knows pure darkness or true silence anymore, not does it know the effect of a single small light or that of a lonely distant shout.

Johan Huizinga – The Autumn of the Middle Ages

Collective Solipsism

Winston shrank back upon the bed. Whatever he said, the swift answer crushed him like a bludgeon. And yet he knew, he knew, that he was in the right. The belief that nothing exists outside your own mind — surely there must be some way of demonstrating that it was false? Had it not been exposed long ago as a fallacy? There was even a name for it, which he had forgotten. A faint smile twitched the corners of O’Brien’s mouth as he looked down at him.

I told you, Winston, that metaphysics is not your strong point. The word you are trying to think of is solipsism. But you are mistaken. This is not solipsism. Collective solipsism, if you like. But that is a different thing: in fact, the opposite thing. All this is a digression. The real power, the power we have to fight for night and day, is not power over things, but over men.

George Orwell – 1984

The Way to the Transcendental Ego

Anyone who seriously intends to become a philosopher must once in his life withdraw into himself and attempt, within himself, to overthrow and build anew all the sciences that, up to then, he has been accepting. Philosophy – wisdom [sagesse] – is the philosophizer’s quite personal affair. It must arise as his wisdom, as his self-acquired knowledge tending toward universality, a knowledge for which he can answer from the beginning, and at each step, by virtue of his own absolute insights.

The meditator keeps only himself as having an absolutely indubitable existence, as something that cannot be done away with, something that would exist even though this world were non-existent. Thus reduced, the ego carries on a kind of solipsistic philosophizing. He seeks apodictically certain ways by which, within his own pure inwardness, an objective outwardness can be deduced.

flammarion

Anything belonging to the world, any spatiotemporal being, exists for me that is to say, is accepted by me in that I experience it, perceive it, remember it, think of it somehow, judge about it, value it, desire it, or the like. Descartes, as we know, indicated all that by the name cogito. The world is for me absolutely nothing else but the world existing for and accepted by me in such a conscious cogito.

In these my whole world-life goes on, including my scientifically inquiring and grounding life. By my living, by my experiencing, thinking, valuing, and acting, I can enter no world other than the one that gets its sense and acceptance or status in and from me, myself.

Edmund Husserl – Cartesian Meditations

The Best of All Possible Worlds

The claim that beliefs in themselves do not have a grain of truth, and at the same time that an important or even guiding social role of religion is to meet the needs of cognition, is logically impeccable. We never lack arguments to justify the doctrine in which, for whatever reason, we want to believe.

Of course, faith would not be needed, if the course of world affairs applied directly and reliably to the norms of justice, as this would mean that we live in Paradise. Adam and Eve did not believe in the existence of God in the sense in which their descendants believed, as they lived in a real theocracy under direct and visible rule of God.

There is no such thing as rational worship. If we talk about God’s qualities and works as objects that can be conceptually separated, it is only because in this way our finite minds try to capture Infinity, which we can not understand.

Neither party was convinced, nor will probably ever find the arguments of the opposing party convincing, which is also a common fate of all the fundamental questions in philosophy for the past twenty-five centuries.

Leszek Kolakowski – Religion: If there is no God

Morals

Morals are the only proper subject of philosophy; for these inquiries are practicable and useful, but the discussions about nature are quite the contrary, neither being comprehensible, nor having any use, even if they were clearly understood.

For it would be no advantage to us, even if we could with our very eyes survey the whole world, and the nature of all beings, of whatever kind that is. For we certainly shall not be on that account wiser, or more just or brave or temperate, nay, not even strong, or beautiful, or rich, without which advantages happiness is impossible.

Wherefore Socrates was right in saying that of existing things some are above us, and others nothing to us: for the secrets of nature are above us, and the conditions after death nothing to us, but the affairs of human life alone concern us.

Eusebius – Praeparatio Evangelica