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Confusion

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Posted by Carl Lewis on July 11, 2003 17:09:04 UTC

Why is it that "thought happens" is more true than "I exist"? Both statements are meaningless enough on their own to be either true or false. Only after you make more statements about "I" and "exist", or about "thought" and "happen", can you have a basis to evaluate the truth of your basic postulate.

The problem Descartes didn't understand, which analytic philosophers eventually grasped, is that words don't have meaning by themselves. The statement "thought happens" is as meaningless, taken on its own, as any arbitrary set of words. You need hundreds, possibly thousands of statements to assert the truth of a single one.

No matter how you look at it, there's no way to disentangle the mess without creating even more mess. Descartes thought he had found a way; overlooking the difficulties has always been a good way to make things look simpler than they are.

As to God, the only truth about it seems to be that any statement about God is either false or, more often, meaningless, and that includes statements by agnostics. The agnostic is in fact a funny fellow, for he claims that nothing true can be said about God, without realizing such a claim is false by the agnostic's own criteria.

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