In his well-documented work, Discourse on Method, René Descartes discussed the cogito, ergo sum phrase. The French Philosopher did this to build the climbing step towards the attainment of a particular knowledge which he believed was necessary for the world. He could only survive the doubt methodic test using this statement. The statement was unquestionable. Descartes argued that even if the devil tried to deceive him that he no longer exists, he cannot trust because he has to be alive for the demon to deceive him. Therefore, no one had the power to deceive him of the things that were true. This paper discusses the significance of Descartes’s epiphany: "Cogito Ergo Sum "and explains Descartes method of systematic doubt and how he manages to assert his existence, the existence of God and then the existence of the outside world. It also shows how Descartes’s method was a radical departure from the traditional epistemological inquiry.
Cogito Ergo Sum
Descartes argues that most people have doubts about different things in their lives, both the visible and the invisible. They are not sure whether some things accept or not. He uses the first person pronoun to explain what he thinks he doubts. Descartes claims that for a person to doubt that something exists, then that thing must be in existence. He believes that it is not logic for one to start thinking of something that does not exist. In fact, the thoughts of the existence must originate from the object in question. Consequently, the thoughts must have some sense of truth. He gives an example of his own. He says that if he doubts whether he exists or not, then he must be in existence for him to start thinking about it. Furthermore, he must be there to doubt. If he were not alive, there would not be any Descartes doubting his existence. In his view, Descartes believed that human beings should stop doubting about things that they think about. He argued that it is wrong to doubt whether you exist, whereas you are present, and that is why you have the chance to think about yourself. Similarly, he believed that the thoughts of God are a proof that he is there and plays an important role in life. He asks a question that Chuang Tzu had asked many years ago, even though he had no idea of Tzu’s existence. He brought the idea of whether life is a dream or reality. Like Tzu, Descartes concluded that life must be a reality. That is why no one has the same dream every day because life is continuous and dynamic.
Descartes believes that both the body and the mind exist. The body is visible in the eyes of every person. The body does the physical activities needed for survival. Descartes agrees with other scholars who said that the body is made of matter. He also argues that the mind must be in existence. There must be the mind that allows one to think and doubt of its existence. If there were no mind, then, no one would be thinking about it. Descartes concludes that both the body and the mind make a complete human being. However, Descartes does not agree that animals and plants have the soul. He claims that plants and animals function without the mind. Their functionality is mechanical. As a dualist, Descartes believes that the reality is that body and mind are part of human being. Therefore, both must be considered in life. There must be a connection between the body and the mind in human life that cannot be separated. The body supports the mind, and the mind supports the body. They are interconnected and interdependence. They depend on each other for survival. Even if the mind has the capacity to remain after the body dies, they two need each other. The mind is useless without the body, and the body is useless without the mind. The soul is unseen, but it exists. Human beings have the soul that exists even if the body dies. Descartes does not take a lot of time trying to explain what happens to the soul when the body dies. He leaves the reader to have his assumptions about eternal life and life after death. According to Descartes, animals and plants do not have the soul as they are not humans. Whatever happens to their lives just happens because of nature. They have no feelings and emotions as human beings.
Descartes agrees that God exists. He believes that if there were no supreme being, then human beings would not have to think about his existence. In fact, Descartes believes that it is not funny that every community and every individual at one point in life thinks about a God. Then, this God must be in existence. He argues that it is possible that it is the God that gave people the idea of his existence. He believes that the people cannot think from anywhere. The Supreme Being must have convinced the people that he is there. Descartes claims that even if there are evil demons controlling the world, they have supreme power over human beings. That is why they convince people to do certain things in the name of religion. Since Descartes already accepted that God exists, he argues that human beings are free to take the physical world the way it is. Even if the world portrays God as a perfect being, that should not make people try to behave like they are not in the physical world. In fact, people should take the world the way it is to be able to survive with little stress. He believes that those who take things how they are have higher chances of survival than those who seem to be taking the religious or spiritual aspect in everything that they do. Descartes gives proofs of why he believes that God exists. Firstly, every nation in the world believes that a perfect human being exists. He is not visible, but he has the power to control the man. Therefore, Descartes argues that this perfect being must be in existence, or else, everyone would not be talking about his existence. Secondly, the idea of God must have originated from God himself. It is not possible for human beings to give themselves an idea of a supreme being who they have not seen. Therefore, he must be the originator and the author of the ideology. In this case, he must be somewhere.
Descartes uses the first-person pronoun that makes his work exceptional. He narrates his knowledge using his personal views and experiences. This method is different from what the other philosophers of his age did. He attributed his ideas to his personal narration. Unlike novelists, Descartes adds new ideas to knowledge. He explains his thoughts clearly to ensure that the reader understands his point of view. Through Descartes, epistemology becomes philosophers’ center of concentration. Every other philosopher started thinking of “What can I Know?” In addition, Descartes makes the world shift from the non-human world because he believes it is dead matter. He believes that concentration should be made on human beings because that is what matters in the world. He gives an example of the clock that moves its hand without the soul. That is the same case animals and plants function suing mechanical assistance rather than the soul. Descartes argue that material science can be used effectively to add knowledge to the world. He believes that scientists have the capacity to study every material in the universe and come up with concrete conclusions. However, he believes that material science cannot be used alone as it cannot give everything about human beings. People have the soul and the mind that requires studying beyond the material science. Therefore, he advocates for further research to ensure that humans are included in the research properly. He believes that the body of a human being is the extension of the soul. Thus, the body has matter and occupies space. However, the soul is invisible, but it exists.
According to Descartes, human beings have freedom of mind. They are free to think the way they want in different situations. People have the right to make conclusions and decisions depending on what they are going through. In fact, Descartes believes that every person has an independent mind. It is wrong to force an individual think the way he does not want. Furthermore, it is hard to force someone to think in a way that he does not want. It is possible to force someone performs an act in a particular, but that does not mean that the individual has started thinking in that particular manner. Therefore, he wants the world to embrace the freedom of thoughts that nature has provided to every individual. Descartes developed the idea of self-identity. However, he did not mean that everything should be personal. He only used the self-concept to make sure that every individual understands who he is. In fact, the idea was to reveal to the world the facts about self, so that people can now start to understand others. It is only possible to understand another person after understanding yourself. He wants individual to understand that they exist and that God exists. Consequently, they will have the freedom to think about other things. He gave the world the opinion of sing reason in making other decisions in life. After realizing that they exist and that there is a supreme God above them, then they can think about the other factors in the physical world. Descartes believes in rationalism. In his opinion, most of the time there is an internal conflict between reason and experience within a person. An individual tends to wonder whether to believe in experience, or reason. In this case, Descartes believes that such conflicts have one solution. An individual should depend on reason rather than experience. For instance, it is hard to have seen or God. However, reason convinces a person that it is possible that God exists depending on the actions that are mysterious. Thus, one should use reason to resolve the conflict.
In conclusion, Descartes expresses his methodic doubt through the Cogito Ergo Sum phrase. He applied thought experiment to educate the world that there is no need to doubt what we think about. He convinces the audience that the senses deceive the inner person to doubt. Therefore, every individual should believe that what he thinks about is real. He uses the skeptical methodology to critically analyze ideas that are certain, but hard to believe. He takes the most radical skepticisms to make conclusions in his work. Through thoughtful experiment, Descartes managed to change how the universe thought about life, science and philosophy.