I Think, Therefore I am - Essay Example

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In his famous Discourse on Method the renowned philosopher Ren Descartes originally said in French: "Je pense, donc je suis". This later became popular in its Latin version as "Cogito ergo sum", or, "I Think, Therefore I am."
"after considering everything very thoroughly, I must finally conclude that the proposition, I am, I exist, is necessarily true whenever it is put forward by me or conceived in my mind." (AT VII 25; CSM II 16-17)
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In his famous Dis on Method the renowned philosopher Ren Descartes originally said in French: "Je pense, donc je suis". This later became popular in its Latin version as "Cogito ergo sum", or, "I Think, Therefore I am."
The following quote from his work points out one of the main points he has to stress:
"after considering everything very thoroughly, I must finally conclude that the proposition, I am, I exist, is necessarily true whenever it is put forward by me or conceived in my mind." (AT VII 25; CSM II 16-17)
This clearly means that Descartes believed that if and when he was thinking of his existence, and could conceive of it, he indeed actually existed. Here, he claims his own existence from a first-person point of view, and does not refer to a second or a third person's viewpoint. This means that he is allowing credibility to only his consciousness and cognitive powers, and not to that of any other objective audience. Indeed his method leaves no room for the derivation of a third-person truth, which would require the acknowledgement of premises beyond the perceiving being's conscious self.
Descartes arrives into this insight into the nature of existence after undergoing the three 'waves' of doubt. The first of these brings up the fact that knowledge based on sensory inputs has not always been shown up as reliable. The second is a doubt that all that we experience and feel, indeed, our very existence itself maybe only a dream, because a lot of our thoughts that take place while dreaming, are not in fact real, but they are very similar to our waking thoughts. The third, and the most diabolical one of them all, is that we may be the subject of deception by an evil demonic force that presents to us as irrefutable knowledge, that which is not true at all.
The conclusion of "I think, Therefore I am", has been criticized on various grounds. Many have disagreed with the transition from "I am thinking" to "I exist" claiming that this requires the consideration of an extra premise "Whatever has the property of thinking, exists" and is therefore, a syllogistic inference. But though Descartes admitted the requirement of an extra premise and refused the accusation of syllogism, it can be stated with reason that "Whatever has the property of thinking, exists" is an axiom, requiring no demonstration. It is therefore not part of the method of doubt.
There have also been various criticisms of the need and justification of the "I" in the statement, but its entity has not been satisfactorily replaced by any other word, that fully performs all the functions required of the "I". To say "There is some thinking going on" as some like George Litchenberg have suggested, is not adequate, as long as the statement is not impregnated with meaning by a subject, "I" in this case.
Rene Descartes is considered the father of modern philosophy. His famous "doubts" have made it difficult for other thinkers to find the basis of true knowledge, and hence a turn towards skepticism that was seen during the last century. But he believed that in order to arrive at indubitable knowledge, one must begin somewhere to stand and restore one's beliefs. This may not necessarily be the foundation for further knowledge, but definitely had its uses. As he himself put it:
"Archimedes used to demand just one firm and immovable point in order to shift the entire earth; so I too can hope for great things if I manage to find just one thing, however slight, that is certain and unshakeable."
(AT VII 24; CSM II 16) Read More
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