Differend: Phrases in Dispute by Jean-Francois Lyotard

By Jean-Francois Lyotard

A number one modern French thinker turns his recognition to "differends"--disputes: the flip of all Western philosophy towards language; the decline of metaphysics; the retreat of Marxism; starting to be political depression.

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Sample text

It depends upon knowing that in the past you have sometimes woken up and found you had been dreaming; it depends on the idea that sometimes you sleep, sometimes you wake, sometimes you dream, and so on. So it does depend on knowing something about the world. But then he took another step, to the most extreme doubt possible. He imagined a malign spirit (the malicious demon, as it’s sometimes called in the literature) whose sole intent was to deceive him as much as it could. He then put to himself the following question: suppose there were such a spirit, is there anything he could not mislead me about?

Can you explain how Descartes’s methodological doubt worked? Williams Since he was looking for certainty, he started by laying aside anything in which he could find the slightest doubt. As he famously put it, it’s like having a barrel of apples, and some of them are bad and some of them are sound, and you want to separate out the sound ones. So you take them all out first, look at them one by one, throw away the ones that are dubious and put back only the absolutely sound ones. So he started by trying to empty his mind of all beliefs, laying aside anything in which he could see the slightest doubt.

As he said, the malicious demon can deceive me as he will, but he can never deceive me in this respect, namely to make me believe that I am thinking when I am not. If I have a false thought that is still a thought: in order to have a deceived thought, I’ve got to have a thought, so it must be true that I am thinking. And from that Descartes drew another conclusion, or at least he immediately associated with that another truth, namely that he existed. And so his fundamental first certainty was ‘I am thinking, therefore I exist’; or Cogito ergo sum in the Latin formulation, from which it is often called simply the Cogito.

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