By R. J. Butler
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Extra resources for Cartesian Studies
I n the Notes, Descartes protests that he has never maintained that innate ideas are in any way different from the faculty of thinking itself. ) A T IV, 113f. INNATE IDEAS 51 are active, and that moreover, there are no ideas which are not innate as active dispositions.
These notions are innate in the sense that they are implicit in experience or consciousness. They are not prior to experience or consciousness, they are prior only to reflection on experience. Thus Descartes says 20 T It is indeed true that no one can be sure that he knows or that he exists, unless he knows what thought is and what existence is. Not that this requires a cognition formed by reflection or one acquired by demonstration; much less does it require a cognition of this reflective knowledge by which we know that we know, and again know that we know that we know and so ad infinitum.
The authors of Objections I I suggested to him that it would make things easier for his readers were he to put his argument in the form of definitions, axioms, and postulates, as premises and then go on to theorems as conclusions from these premises. For Descartes to do this would 11 12 11 1 2 Principles, I, 39. A T I X , 41. H R I , 234. To Clerselier, June or July, 1646. A T IV, 444. I N N A T E IDEAS 37 be, in effect, to meet the demand of the critics of the primacy of the cogito ergo sum that we first need to have the definition of 'thought* and 'existence' and the axiom 'he who thinks exists', before we can proceed to the syllogism of which ' I exist' is the conclusion.