René Descartes (1596 - 1650), the respected, enduringly
philosopher and author of the seminal work Principles of
Philosophy, is arguably best known for his
and conclusion "I think, therefore I am (cogito ergo sum).".
René would have us believe / accept that the verifiable
that there are thoughts, proves (ie is evidence of) that there's an I
(or a me) that's thinking those thoughts. He would have us believe /
accept that the proof of the existence of our I (or our me) is
predicated on the fact that there is thinking.
put: there are thoughts, so there's gotta be an I (or a me) that's
thinking them. Get it?
Wait! Is there really an I (or a me) thinking the
thoughts? Does the verifiable
that there are thoughts, really also prove that there's gotta be an I
(or a me) thinking them? Really? Doesn't the verifiable
that there are thoughts, prove little else other than there are
In my younger years, in and around university metatheory
courses and tutorials, and the hippie gab fests of the '60s, I explored
René's line of thinking, his axiom if you will. To
be honest, I didn't totally get it. I did get this much: René
was making two assertions: "I think", then "I am", and I got each of
them individually (it would be another
before I even questioned the "I" in the phrases "I think" and "I am").
But it was his "therefore" with which he connected them, by which I was
never totally convinced. It left "I think, therefore I am" occurring
for me as a bon mot instead of as something profound. As
an axiom, it occurred for me as flawed.
Rather than "I think, therefore I am", the only certainty I could
personally muster in the arena of his pithy assertion, was "I think,
therefore I think.". That much, in a very real
sense, is indubitable, certain. And that much I did get. But I never
got the implied proof that there's gotta be an I (or a me) doing the
thinking, simply because there are thoughts. No matter, I took
on René's axiom (I even proclaimed it occasionally) simply
because it was the best we had at the time. OK, fast-forward.
shocking contribution "There are thoughts" in the Mastery Course
("shocking" in the sense that it shocked me into sitting bolt upright
is outside both René's axiom "I think, therefore I am", as well
as outside my own modest attempt to reconcile his two poles while
avoiding the flaw, with "I think, therefore I think.". And that
there are thoughts appears to be without doubt. Just close
your eyes and look. Well? Any yeah buts? Any how 'bouts? Any what ifs?
For me, even with that qualified, there was no pull to go from
"There are thoughts ..." to "... so there's gotta be an
I, thinking them.". For me,
"There are thoughts" - period - is enough. And it's true:
there are thoughts. Really. So consider the undeniable
existence of thoughts, has never proved the existence of an I (or a
me). I've never needed to have that proof in order to be true to / make
sense of (comprehend) my experience of my own thoughts / thinking.
René assumed it did. Today,
calls that a "miscalculation", a miscalculation which resulted in a
legacy that's lasted nearly four hundred years, a miscalculation which
proclaimed the existence of an I (or a me). It's a miscalculation
which, uncorrected, interferes with and even undermines our
of being transformed
Listen: that which we call "I" or "me"? It isn't who we really
are. It's just something that shows up for us (and that's a subject
on another occasion).
"I think, therefore I am" is both intellectual
(conclusional if you will) and arguable / debatable -
whereas "There are thoughts" is both experiential and
inarguable. More importantly, "There are thoughts" doesn't miscalculate
by inferring an I (or a me), thereby
who we are, with that which we are not.
The presentation, delivery, and style of
I Think, Therefore I Am?
are all my own work.