Consciousness and Existence in Descartes and beyond
Andrea Sangiacomo (University of Groningen), Andrea Sangiacomo (University of Groningen)

May 9, 2022, 5:00pm - 7:00pm

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  • European Commission, Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant agreement No 892794


University of Venice
University of Venice

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Venue: online Zoom meeting

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Zoom meeting ID: 845 7164 0858; Passcode: gMi180


This paper aims to show that the notions of consciousness and existence are correlative. Introducing a notion of consciousness, it is also necessary to introduce a notion of existence, and vice versa. To illustrate this point, the paper focuses on Descartes’s famous treatment of consciousness and existence in his Meditations on First Philosophy. Descartes’s case exemplifies a way in which taking conscious experience as one’s starting point, existence is eventually posited as a necessary inference, which points to both a ground of experience and yet reveals how this ground does not (and cannot) itself appear within that same experience. Paradoxically, this shows that the appearing of experience is actually groundless in itself. This puzzle is not merely due to Cartesian idiosyncrasies, but it is rooted in the conceptual structure of the correlative notions of consciousness and existence. To illustrate this latter point, the Cartesian case is briefly compared with some elements that emerge from the fundamental ontology proposed by Emanuele Severino (1929-2020), which despite all due differences, eventually encounters similar problems.

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