What a Thinking Thing is?

Renaud Barbaras

After having discovered the indisputable character of the existence of the ego, involved by the very experience of thinking as such, Descartes comes to the point of characterizing ego as a thing that thinks, that is to say, as a substance whose attribute is thinking. This article aims at questioning the precise meaning of this conclusion. In fact, Husserl interprets this turning point – that consists in reducing the ego to substantia cogitans, that is mens sive anima – as a serious misinterpretation, that of transcendental realism, which amounts to making the transcendental part of the world. It is a question of showing that this accusation expresses Husserl’s presuppositions much more than the truth of Cartesianism itself. As shown by Merleau-Ponty, if thinking is not hidden from itself and if it touches itself instead of knowing itself, then thinking is as well the experience of my existence. Res cogitans names this existence, whose disclosure is the same as that of existence: it is “not a substantialist construction but a way of saying that this opening to something is not a zero of being„


Keywords: Cartesianism · res cogitans · Merleau-Ponty · Husserl · phenomenology

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