The work of Marcel Duchamp occupies a unique and enigmatic place in the history of modern
Western art. Starting with his striking cubist painting Nude Descending a Staircase, Duchamp
quickly turned modern art upside down with the succession of Readymades that followed.
These culminated in Étant Donné, presumably an environmental sculpture but more accurately
an environment that incorporates the viewer. Using this as a model for a parallel analysis of
Descartes’ cogito, the claim is made that a similar presence is implicit in the method of doubt,
and that this renders Descartes’ argument circular. Recognizing this exposes the error of
objectification in both cases and confirms the contextual character of art and knowledge.