UCFORUM: The value of thinking

In the UCFORUM we celebrate thinking and critically and positively explore radical doubt. Thanks to Tim O’Dwyer we have the following reflection from the great Rene Descartes often called the father of modern philosophy.  His unfinished treatise on method, the Rules for the Direction of the Mind, which set out a procedure for investigating nature, was based on the reduction of complex problems to simpler ones solvable by direct intuition. From these intuitively established foundations, Descartes tried to show how one could then attain the solution of the problems originally posed.:

The Latin cogito, ergo sum, usually translated into English as “I think, therefore I am“,[a] is the “first principle” of René Descartes‘s philosophy. He originally published it in French as je pensedonc je suis in his 1637 Discourse on the Method, so as to reach a wider audience than Latin would have allowed.[1] It later appeared in Latin in his Principles of Philosophy, and a similar phrase also featured prominently in his Meditations on First Philosophy. The dictum is also sometimes referred to as the cogito.[2] As Descartes explained in a margin note, “we cannot doubt of our existence while we doubt.” In the posthumously published The Search for Truth by Natural Light, he expressed this insight as dubito, ergo sum, vel, quod idem est, cogito, ergo sum(“I doubt, therefore I am — or what is the same — I think, therefore I am”).[3][4] Antoine Léonard Thomas, in a 1765 essay in honor of Descartes presented it as dubito, ergo cogito, ergo sum (“I doubt, therefore I think, therefore I am”).[b]

Descartes’s statement became a fundamental element of Western philosophy, as it purported to provide a certain foundation for knowledge in the face of radical doubt. While other knowledge could be a figment of imagination, deception, or mistake, Descartes asserted that the very act of doubting one’s own existence served—at minimum—as proof of the reality of one’s own mind; there must be a thinking entity—in this case the self—for there to be a thought.

One critique of the dictum, first suggested by Pierre Gassendi, is that it presupposes that there is an “I” which must be doing the thinking. According to this line of criticism, the most that Descartes was entitled to say was that “thinking is occurring”, not that “I am thinking”.[5]

Reference: Cogito, ergo sum – Wikipedia 25th October 2022


3 thoughts on “UCFORUM: The value of thinking

  1. paul wildman

    “thinking is occurring”, not that “I am thinking”.[5] … well what then? Post-post-nihilism? says what there can be an I? I suspect so – but this I is transformed into what? I wonder. I did not know the original says ‘i doubt therefore I am’….seems like another follow-on article is needed. I will be very interested to read if it is forthcoming. Thanks for this. ciao paul

  2. Bev

    An ‘I’. Now That’s a thought.

    Pere Teilhardin de Chardin and others would call that Reflection. Animals ‘know’; people ‘know they know’. But Teilhard goes further when he says Reflection leads to communication and eventually to the unity of humanity.

    It may take quite a while but hey…. why not. It could be the meaning of everything.

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