I Think Therefore I Am
-A statement by the seventeenth-century French philosopher René Descartes “I think; therefore I am” was the end of the search Descartes conducted for a statement that could not be doubted.
In the beginning, Descartes was in the process of figuring out his nature, using reasoning instead of experience. He had to start with a first premise which was indubitable. He found that “I exist” is something that is certain, and what follows must be certain as well.
In the meditator’s search for certainty, he had to discard anything that was false or even open to the slightest doubt. He had to tear away all that was previously known to him, and with a new, stronger foundation, start anew. Descartes had conceded that he has no senses and no body. He also noted that the physical world does not exist, which might also seem to imply his nonexistence. Yet, to have these doubts, he must exist. He found that he could not doubt that he himself existed, as he was the one doing the doubting in the first place. For an evil demon to mislead him in all these insidious ways, he must exist in order to be misled. There must be an “I” that can doubt, be deceived, and so on. He then formulates the famous cogito argument, saying that he concludes the “proposition I am, I exist is necessarily true whenever it is put forward by me or conceived in my mind.” He then questions what the “I” that exists is. He first thought that he had a soul, by means of which he was nourished, moved, could sense and think; and also that he had a body. All these attributes can be doubted, except the fact that he thinks. He can exist if any of the other attributes are not there, but cannot exist if he does not think. Further, he states that he exists as long as he is thinking.
The meditator then concludes that in the strict sense, he is only a thing that thinks. In this statement, the Meditator finds his first grip on certainty after the radical skepticism he posited in the first meditation.