The Department of Philosophy is pleased to invite you to our 2022/2023 colloquium series.
Our next talk will be given by Dr. Gurpreet Rattan, Professor in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Toronto and Professor and Chair at the Department of Philosophy at the University of Toronto at Mississauga.
Talk Title: “I think therefore I am not”
Time: 3 – 5 pm, March 31, 2023
Location: Buchanan A103
Descartes thought that he could conclude based on his occurrent thinking that he himself exists, as a thinking thing. Lichtenberg and Russell objected that Descartes was entitled to conclude a judgment, not that he himself exists, but only that there is thinking going on. Kant and Wittgenstein envisioned a middle position, according to which the self is apperceived and not intuited (Kant), and is not an object in the world, but a “limit” of the world (Wittgenstein). These ideas from the history of philosophy suggest a framework for thinking about the metaphysics of the self in terms of what I call three grades of self involvement. I explain this framework, articulate it in relation to some contemporary work on the metaphysics of the self, and then use it to argue that a move from the second grade to the metaphysically most robust third grade is problematic. The argument concerns the limits that the self, understood as the subject of judgment, encounters when it tries to incorporate what contemporary epistemologists call “higher-order evidence” about itself into its judgments about the world. One consequence of my argument is that Descartes should have said cogito ergo non sum. I can conclude from my occurrent thinking that I am thinking, but precisely because of this, I cannot be an object in the world about which I am thinking.
Gurpreet Rattan is Professor in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Toronto and Professor and Chair at the Department of Philosophy at the University of Toronto at Mississauga. He works mainly in the philosophy of language, the philosophy of mind, and epistemology. His current research project focuses on developing an account of the intellect and intellectual norms – the faculty of mind responsible for adhering to norms that prescribe intrasubjective conceptual clarity, intersubjective understanding, and objectivity in the evaluation of one’s own and others doxastic attitudes. The project encompasses many issues of contemporary significance, including issues about the nature of concepts, the value of truth, the significance of disagreement, the possibility of conceptual relativism, and the limits of intersubjective understanding and objectivity. More recently, he has also begun working on issues about the metaphysics of the self.