Explain the cogito argument in your own words, and explain how Descartes reaches it, that is, why does he claim that “I am, I exist” is necessarily true and cannot be doubted?
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In my opinion, the cogito argument may be explained by the idea that when a person thinks, they therefore exist. It is possible to cast doubt on many things in our life, but it is impossible to call into question a person’s capability of thought. As Descartes puts it, even if we imagine that everything we see “is false” and that we have “no senses whatever,” our ability to think is an indispensable part of our nature (Meditation Two 25, p. 63). Even when he mentions that the only true thing is that “nothing is certain,” Descartes still leaves hope for humanity’s understanding of their own existence (Meditation Two 25, p. 63).
This hope lies in the fact that as long as a person thinks, they undoubtedly exist. It is possible to doubt many issues, but the very fact that one is contemplating something means that one must exist. According to Descartes, when a man thinks, he is truly alive. Thus, the phrase “I am, I exist” has become the most valid explanation for the continuous living of each individual (Descartes, Meditation Two 25, p. 64). This claim is necessarily valid and cannot be doubted because a person’s ability to comprehend, reflect, and analyze already presupposes that a person is a living being and that they indeed remain a part of this world. Descartes reaches the cogito argument through the investigation of his doubts and certainties (Meditation Two 24-25, p. 63). He arrives at a conclusion that even when we assume that everything in our lives is false or imaginary, the very act of assuming or doubting proves that we exist. Thus, Descartes’s claim is true and cannot be doubted.
After reading through Meditation Two, explain what Descartes understands by a “thinking thing.” Why does he argue that the “I” is a thinking thing, and what counts for him as “thinking”?
By a “thinking thing,” Descartes means a person who can understand or doubt, affirm or deny, and agree or refuse to do something (Meditation Two 28, p. 66). In addition to that, a “thinking thing” can imagine and sense (Descartes, Meditation Two 28, p. 66). For the philosopher, “thinking” counts as the ability to comprehend the world around him and react to other individuals’ words or actions. Descartes remarks that doubting, understanding, and affirming or refusing things presupposes that one is a thinking thing (Meditation Two 28-29, p. 66). The imagination holds an important place in Descartes’s understanding of the “thinking thing.” The philosopher mentions that even if everything he imagines is false, he still has the power of imagination, which means that he must be a “thinking thing” (Descartes, Meditation Two 29, p. 66).
Another crucial aspect of understanding this issue, according to Descartes, is cognition: he remarks that “sensing” is synonymous with thinking (Meditation Two 29, p. 66). The relationship between sensing and imagining is very close since the mind “loves to wander” and will not accept the idea of being “restricted within the confines of truth” (Descartes, Meditation Two 30, p. 67). In the conclusion of his meditation, Descartes reiterates the concept that mind and intellect are the most significant constituents of a “thinking thing” (Meditation Two 34, p. 69). Therefore, the philosopher’s understanding of a “thinking thing” is related to such processes as analysis, meditation, and imagination, among others. Descartes considers thinking as the ability of a person to understand the processes happening around as well as inside one’s mind. In the process of a thorough analysis of these processes, one becomes “a thinking thing.”
Descartes, Rene. “Meditation Two: Concerning the Nature of the Human Mind, that It is Better Known than the Body,” n.d.