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Hi everyone,

Long time follower, first time poster. I came across the following expression in a book by the American poet Ezra Pound:

"Mais, moi, M. Descartes, qui ne pense pas?”

In context, Pound seems to be making fun of the person for misunderstanding Descarte's "Je pense, donc je suis" (“I think, therefore I am”). But I can't make sense of the how to translate the phrase. I'm interpreting it like this:

“But, [what about] me, Mr. Descartes, who does not think?” 

Does this make any sense? Would there be any other way of translating this to make it more meaningful?


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That translation makes sense as is. But only if given that context. Then it is like these:
But, me, who do not think- do I exist or not?
For a person who does not think, like me, does he exist or not?

No, it's not archaic.

Yes  I agree with Robert.

I must clarify though- those 2 statements are for purpose of illustration; I did not mean that "exist" is the same as "être."

I am not quite sure of the original meaning of "I think ,therefore I am".

I think there may be more than one interpretation  of what Descartes said and it may not be as simple as it appears on the surface.

Hello Andrew, Robert, George.

Andrew, Is this sentence is extracted from this page ?

Catch you later.

Looks like that.

Do you read Ezra Pound? Was he interested in philosophy (I see Aquinas is also mentioned)

All I really know about him is that he was American and has a walk on part in "Desolation Row" by Bob Dylan("Ezra Pound and TS Elliot fighting in the captain's tower")

Any idea what "Erigena's dictum" was? Has it any bearing  on the phrase we were discussing?

Hi George.

“Do you read Ezra Pound?”

No. I already have difficulties to read French philosophers in French, so I don't have enough time to read American philosophers in English. However, thanks for your question. ^^

In fact, I looked for to find exactly this French sentence over Internet with the idea to see others French sentences around. That is to say finding a global French context who allows me to explain easier according to the initial Andrew's question.

Indeed, this French sentence could exist elsewhere et could be resumed simply like a sample.

“Any idea what "Erigena's dictum" was?”

Sorry George, I don't understand this question. It's a bit complicated for me. Maybe that you want to say : “Do you have an idea from the Erigena's comment?” ( That is why I taken a lot of time to answer because I wanted to understand before to reply. However, I don't understand yet this question. :-( )

“Has it any bearing on the phrase we were discussing?”

[ “Est-ce que cela à une importance par rapport à la question dont nous discutions ?” ]

Maybe. If Andrew has read this sentence in a French text, maybe that the main context would be different. In this case, maybe I would have been able to understand some things more subtile according to the deep French sense.

A plus tard.

"Erigena's dictum" is simply a phrase from the extract of Pound's novel that Andrew has brought to our attention.

I thought perhaps it had a wider usage but I think not.It  must just refer to something Erigena, one of the characters in the book  seems to have said.

A "dictum" can refer to some general advice or it can just be applied to something a particular has said in a severe way.

“A "dictum" can refer to some general advice or it can just be applied to something a particular has said in a severe way.”

Yes. I understand that you to say. In French, a dictum is “une remarque”, “une affirmation” or “une assertion”. ( Like a lot of words ending by “tion” are common between our both languages, I think likewise these words have the same sense in English. )

However, even if it's only a dictum, in French, several senses can be understood. That is why I wanted to know the original text from where this sentence has been extracted. Indeed, here how this sentence could be interpret in French because its framework isn't standard.

"Mais, moi, M. Descartes, qui ne pense pas?”
- “But, for me, Mister Descartes, who is not able to think ?”
- “But, concerning myself, Mister Descartes, Maybe I am not able to think ?”
- “But, say me please, Mister descartes, do you think that people are able to think ?”

The “mais” introduces the main idea that there is something before this dictum. However, which is it ?

Otherwise, George, does “dictum” is a common English word that I can use everyday in every discussions, or it is a special term showing only poetry and a more specific usage ? ( Thanks by advance for your answer. )

Apparently Johannes Scottus  Eriugena is lesser known philosopher  from the 9th century that Pound developed an interest in.

I still do not know what his "dictum" was but perhaps it was one of his more important arguments. 

I think your first interpretation sounds best to me although there can be an implication for the 2nd and 3rd interpretation.

No ,you would never need to use the term "dictum " in everyday speech and would get strange looks if you did :)

I don't think it would be commonly used in poetry either  ([possibly in law,but more likely philosophy I would say)

It is ,of course taken directly from a Latin use and means ,I believe " that which has been said" and reminds me a bit of the French expression "disit  quelqu'un" that was also discussed here in a quite recent thread  .

Hi, George.

Thanks alot for your advices. Naturally, I keep "dictum" in my new English vocabulary, but I promise to pay attention with his usage. ;-)


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