Problems with Descartes’ Philosophy: ‘I think therefore I am’

This is an interactive blog post, where the philosophyzer gives you a stimulus and questions, and asks you to provide the answers! Today’s focus is Descartes phrase ‘I think, therefore I am.’

I think, therefore, I am – In Latin Cogito Ergo Sum

When Descartes said ‘I think, therefore, I am‘ what did he mean?

What are the problems with this aspect of Descartes philosophy?

Please check out this Descartes image and leave your comments on this blog.

Descartes – I think Therefore I am: Is it Problematic?

Clearly if you stop ‘thinking’, according to Descartes Philosophy, you could effectively make yourself disappear! But, is it possible to stop thinking? Even if you try to thinking nothing, you are still thinking about nothing!

I think Therefore I am in Original Texts

The Phrase ‘I think therefore I am’ first appeared in the Discourse on the Method, in the first paragraph of the fourth part….

And as I observed that this truth, I think, therefore I am, was so certain and of such evidence that no ground of doubt, however extravagant, could be alleged by the Sceptics capable of shaking it, I concluded that I might, without scruple, accept it as the first principle of the philosophy of which I was in search.

I Think Therefore I am in Meditations

The phrase was also found in the Second Meditation Part 1 (Cogito Ergo Sum) in Descartes Meditations, in which he argues….

“So after considering everything very thoroughly, I must finally conclude that this proposition, I am, I exist, is necessarily true whenever it is put forward by me or conceived in my mind.”

Read the Sparknotes on Cogito Ergo Sum in Meditations.

If you are studying Meditations as your set text, I highly recommend that you purchase a copy for just £10.99 on Amazon. This copy edited by John Nottingham is the best I could find, as it contains the objections and replies.

You might also like to read:

Descartes Meditations: What are the main themes in Meditations on First Philosophy?

The Ontological Argument for God’s Existence

Descartes Version of the Ontological Argument

3 thoughts on “Problems with Descartes’ Philosophy: ‘I think therefore I am’”

  1. Tut Tut …this is naught but a Straw Man argument. What evidence do you have that the mind EVER stops thinking? Awake or asleep, your mind is always active. And that holds true for coma victims too. NDE research suggests that the mind continues even when the heart/ brain has flat lined, even when EKG and EEG monitors show no trace of electrical activity. Can a computer keep working without electricity? Not a chance. The computer is a machine, the mind is not. The mind has free will ( and therefore is not constrained by any physical laws or causal agents ). Again, the same cannot be said of a computer/ machine. Moreover, I would submit that if, IF, it really was possible for your mind to stop thinking COMPLETELY, ( as per Descartes ‘ I think therefore I am ‘ ) you would be NOT..Ergo Descartes assertion remains valid / has NOT been negated. .

  2. The problem with this argument is even deeper than the other comment mentioned: you’ve fundamentally created a logically fallacious argument.

    You say: “Clearly if you stop ‘thinking’, according to Descartes Philosophy, you could effectively make yourself disappear!”

    But that’s *not* what Descarte’s cogito ergo sum says: it says *if* you think, you must exist; it does *not* say that if something exists, You’ve committed the formal fallacy of affirming the consequent ( ) This actually has amusing consequences, as you are basically interpreting Descartes to say only thinking things can exist, which means in order for, for instance, a rock to exist, it must think.


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