Department of Philosophy



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The Department of Philosophy Colloquium Series presents

Elliot Paul, Barnard College/Columbia University

Reasoning Through Time: Cartesian Insights

How many inferences can you focus on at once? According to Descartes, I argue, the answer is: one. If you draw a second inference, then, you have to hold the previous inference in memory. This matters because, for Descartes, what you focus on is clearer than what you hold in memory, and clarity is the source of certain knowledge. I show how this reading resolves one of the most vexed questions in Cartesian scholarship: in Descartes’s cogito — “I am thinking, therefore I am” — is “I am” intuited or inferred? (The answer is both.) And drawing on recent cognitive science, I argue that Descartes was right about how much information we can focus on, and how memory works to supplement our focus as we reason through time. 

Thursday, January 11, 4:00 pm, Watson Hall 517


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