Talk:Cogito ergo sum

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The correct sentence shall be "Cogito,ego sum", not "Cogito, ergo sum" —Preceding unsigned comment added by Johan11131982 (talkcontribs) 02:39, 24 September 2008 (UTC)

One fundamental problem with "I think, therefore I am" is its supposition of "I"; in constrast to, say, Buddhist doctrine against "the idea of the self". This brings us (back) to the crisis of identity.



It is anchorman, not anchor lady and that is a scientific fact. I love the ladies but they do not belong in the news room!

"Ambrose Bierce said, "cogito cogito, ergo cogito sum" (I think I think, therefore I think I am)."

Not to mention the fact that there is the old joke about Descartes ordering something at a cafe, the waiter asking if he wanted anything else, Descartes saying "I think not", and then instantly disappearing..

"...meaning 'I doubt, therefore I know'." A counterintiuitive interpretation - can anyone find a reference to back it up? DJ Clayworth 17:38, 26 May 2004 (UTC)

all I can find is a reference to Agustine making this argument. I removed it and added a section on Augustine. Zeimusu 01:35, 2004 May 27 (UTC)

My memory of the interpretation has been that because the question ("does anything exist") is being asked, something is doing the questioning (rather than doubting); therefore something must exist, which he calls 'I'. That doesn't seem to tie up with exactly what is written in the article. Any comments? DJ Clayworth 13:32, 27 May 2004 (UTC)

That's probably closer to Descartes' argument, but it's not really captured in the phrase "Cogito ergo sum." Which may be why he never actually said it. Snowspinner 22:45, 27 May 2004 (UTC)

Axiom 3: I know I am, therefore I exist Submitted by cyberlog on Tue, 28/09/2004 - 1:56pm. Cogito ergo sum (trans. I think, therefore I am: René Descartes), hence, I exist. "Being" exists, but the thought process of "I think" breathes life into "being" and therefore "I exist." The thought processes of thinking insight answers to questions on matters relating to who I am, what I am, why I am, how I am, when I am, where I am, inclusive of whatever other answers that arise from questions and thought processes seeking to identify the "I am" and all that which brings about the transition process leading to knowing about the conscious self; the emotional self, the experiential self, the judgmental self, the moral self, the compassionate self, the spiritual self, and the illuminated self. In fact, all that of which constitutes self awareness in the make-up of "knowing that I am," the essence of one's conscious self and hence, therefore, I exist.

The transitional or transcendental processes from thoughts illuminating "being" to conscious awareness of perceiving and knowing the essence of one's self at different focuses and perspectives in the discovery of self awareness and awakening to the meaning and depths of the conscious being is one's on-going journey in the continuum of self revelation throughout life. This is the pure truth of this axiom: I know I am, therefore I exist. m c-s

Shakespeare in Predecessors Section[edit]

I removed the quote from Shakespeare's Hamlet: "to be or not to be." The quote in context, from Hamlet 3:1, is as follows:

To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come

This quote is clearly not a predecessor to Descartes' statement about the awareness of existence as the article now claims, but is instead a fictional character's internal argument as to whether or not to end his own existence by committing suicide.Roobydo (talk) 15:27, 26 July 2008 (UTC)

Section on Cultural References[edit]

Could this be a separate article? It seems unwieldy clogging a significant portion of this page.\

Creationlaw 02:45, 17 May 2007 (UTC)

Unreferenced Criticisms[edit]

Here are some other criticisms that I suggest are included, but write here in case they're rubbish.

  1. Understanding the cogito as something self-evidentially true falls into part of the Cartesian Circle. It is one of Descartes' clear and distinct ideas that he believes must be true, but eventually their truth relies on the truth of the clear and distinct idea of God.
  2. Interpreting it either self-evidentially or inferentially, a serious criticism is that Descartes has not applied his evil demon argument. If Descartes could mistake basic mathematical inferences such as 2+3=5, then he/we could just as easily be mistaken when inferring existence from thought. No matter how much someone cannot refute the logic of the statement, it may still be false
  3. In extension, it can be doubted in the same way as the senses; Descartes has been deceived/incorrect in matters of logic in the past. Descartes did not recognise this deception until the truth was revealed. If Descartes were being deceived/incorrect now, he would not know.
  4. In extension to Hume's statement about "a thought going on," it might be beneficial to expand. The statement 'I think therefore I am' includes this unnecessary self. The assumption, and unstated but necessary premise for the cogito to work in this form is, "Thoughts require a mind to think them." A thought could occur by itself.

Comments please, then I or someone else can edit (or not.) The preceding unsigned comment was added by Fish-Face (talk • contribs) 21:44, 14 February 2006.

(I took the liberty of formatting your comment as I thought that you'd meant it to be. Also, always remember to "sign" your messages with four tildes (~~~~.)
  1. This is part of the claim that there's a Cartesian Circle. It doesn't stand, as the cogito doesn't depend upon anything but itself, and the principle of clarity and distinctness doesn't depend upon the existence of God (it's the memory of having clearly and distinctly conceived something that needs God's existence).
  2. He does explitly apply the evil demon hypothesis, which the cogito survives (and he also explicitly states that the cogito isn't an argument, but a direct intuition; that's why he uses a different, less misleading wording in the Meditations).
  3. Logic isn't subject to the doubt (if it were, the whole project would be short-circuited before it got underway).
  4. This criticism is more complex (it takes Bernard Williams a significant chunk of a chapter to deal with). Essentially, it's impossible meaningfully to talk about thinking without relativising it to something, and nothing else works.
None of this implies that the points you mentio shouldn't be discussed in the article, only that the criticisms fail. --Mel Etitis (Μελ Ετητης) 22:20, 14 February 2006 (UTC)

(Damn, forgot to save previous edit)

Sorry, I always forget to sign. In reresponse:
  1. Although I now remember that the Principle does not apply to the cogito (rather, the Principle came from it, as you hint at) Descartes presents God as the guarantor of knowledge, and the reason for invalidating the Evil Demon Hypothesis. If God is all good, he wouldn't make Descartes think that clear and distinct ideas are true. The reason Descartes supplies for God's existence is that his existence is clear and distinct.
    Again, Descartes explicitly points out (in the Second Replies AT VII 140, and it's anyway clear in his text) that the certainty of clear and distinct ideas doesn't depend upon God's guarantee. The cogito in particular is self verifying, indubitable, immune to the strongest doubt. He also explicitly (again AT VII 140) denies that the cogito is an inference: "When someone says 'I am thinking, therefore I am, or I exist' he does not deduce existence from thought by means of a syllogism, but recognizes it as something self-evident by a simple intuition of the mind." --Mel Etitis (Μελ Ετητης) 23:16, 15 February 2006 (UTC)
    Unfortunately, I do not have any of the Replies to hand. However, in Meditations, Meditation V, 148: "...if I did not know that God existed ... I would never have a true and certain knowledge of anything whatever..." and then, further down: "But after I have discovered that God exists ... [I have] judged that everything I perceive clearly and distinctly cannot fail to be true." And on page 149: "And thus I recognize very clearly that the certainty and truth of all knowledge depends on the sole knowledge of the true God." I can't help but think that Descartes must have changed his mind if he says that God is not the guarantor of knowledge later on.
    No — what he says in the main text is consistent with what he says in the reply. The quotations that you give (which I found, but not via your reference; what do "148" & "149" mean?) come from the explanation of the memory response in AT VII 69-70; you've taken them out of context, but in context Descartes' explantion is very clear (just fill in the sections that you omitted, and that should become clear; add in the text that follows, and it's even clearer). --Mel Etitis (Μελ Ετητης) 22:38, 16 February 2006 (UTC)
    OK, I must admit Descartes' long-windedness got the better of me. Two issues remain: Firstly, that in order to prove his memories of things, Descartes must be 'proving' God as he does it. As far as I know, it is not possible to apply thought to two problems at the same time, thus, by the time Descartes affirms his memory of something, his proof of God is, too, a memory. Secondly, I still have issues with the principle itself. Either way, thanks for pointing this out, as I doubt I would otherwise have spotted that. Fish-Face 22:31, 19 February 2006 (UTC)
    "Long-windedness"? First, yes, there's the threat of a different circle — but one that doesn't involve the cogito, so isn't relevant to this article. Secondly, I don't see a problem with the principle, but again, the cogito doesn't depend upon the principle, so that's a discussion for elsewhere. --Mel Etitis (Μελ Ετητης) 09:20, 20 February 2006 (UTC)
    Further reading in the Meditations calls into doubt the certainty of this interpretation. At the start of Meditation 3, Descartes says he could doubt something so clear and distinct as mathematics because God may be a deceiver. Likewise, the quotation above, "And thus I recognize very clearly that the certainty and truth of all knowledge depends on the sole knowledge of the true God," strongly implies that it is not just the memory of things that Descartes uses God to justify. There is no implication in the Evil Demon Hypothesis that it is only memory that Descartes doubts. In addition, the passage that I initially thought to fully verify this interpretation actually varies between translations in such a way as to call into doubt such an interpretation. Namely, the sentence that in my copy (Discoures & Meditations) runs from page 148 to 149 I have found split in two, the second half reading, "Accordingly, even if I am no longer attending to the arguments which led me to judge that this is true, as long as I remember that I clearly and distinctly perceived it, there are no counter-arguments which can be adduced to make me doubt it, but on the contrary I have true and certain knowledge of it." And this translation very definitely implies that Descartes uses God to guarantee both clear and distinct ideas and the memory of them. I think I shall edit Cartesian_circle accordingly. Fish-Face 11:53, 21 February 2006 (UTC)
    Wikipedia:No original research. Don't edit articles in line with your interpretations of texts. --Mel Etitis (Μελ Ετητης) 21:56, 21 February 2006 (UTC)
    Cartesian_circle has simply no mention of the controversy at all; it is barely more than a stub. Both interpretations are held by other people and I don't see how it is original research to present both opinions. The fact that one opinion is mine need not and will not be relevant.
  2. An intuition is not necessarily true, however. As I recall, Descartes applies the EDH to the cogito as an argument, but I would say this application is not extensive enough:
    "Intition" in Descartes (and other philosophers of the time) refere to an immediate apprehension. I don't understand your comment about the application of the evil-demon hypothesis. Again, though, see above concerning the status of the cogito. --Mel Etitis (Μελ Ετητης) 23:16, 15 February 2006 (UTC)
    Anything, intuitive or not, must have some reason or backup. An intuition, or innate idea, is not necessarily correct.
    Why must everything have some reason? Are you insisting that Descartes accept this principle? What proof can you offer? (And if it were the case, note that nothing could have a reason, for every attempted reason would itself be in need of a reason, and so an ad infinitum.) --Mel Etitis (Μελ Ετητης) 22:38, 16 February 2006 (UTC)
    I have an innate idea that my sense experience of a keyboard and monitor in front of me corresponds to an actual, existing thing in the real world. Innate ideas are not necessarily true, and if there is nothing indicating that they are true, why would I accept them? Perhaps it would be better to ask why you accept intuitive ideas as true? Your point about a regress of reason is partly why I do not believe we can know anything with absolute certainty. Our capacity to reason may always be doubted, because there is nothing that guarantees it. To know, one needs solid foundations, as Descartes says. I don't see any... What are yours?
    I'm afraid that I have deep doubts about the existence of innate ideas (and especially about the kind that you appeal to). In any case, that example is irrelevant to the current discussion, as Descartes is very clear that intuition and the principle of clarity and distinctness apply only to concepts, not to empirical claims about the world. That it's possible to go wrong in rasoning isn't denied by Descartes, but if you read what he says, you'll see that he makes allowances for this and deals with it (why do you think, for example, that conception as to be clear and distinct? What do you think that the clarity and distinctness are doing?). Besides, my original response (below) covers this. --Mel Etitis (Μελ Ετητης) 09:20, 20 February 2006 (UTC)
  3. Logic must be subject to doubt for Descartes to succeed in his aim. If his stated objective was to determine what it was possible to know, provided he has the faculty of reason, this would stand. However, he wants to know exactly what it is possible to be certain of. I would say that our reasoning is firstly similar in nature to our application of mathematics, and hence is subject to the EDH. Secondly, everyone has at one point made incorrect assertions due to not using logic properly. We could all be incorrect now and we would not know it. This leaves a paradoxical situation where we use logic to demonstrate the fallability of logic, but it nonetheless undermines any assumption.
    No, Logic can't be subject to doubt. (One can see the Meditations if one wishes as concluding that either knowledge is possible or the thinker is mad.) Your comments about making logical errors is irrelevant to the question of doubting logic. --Mel Etitis (Μελ Ετητης) 23:16, 15 February 2006 (UTC)
    Irrelevant how? It is exactly the same methodological doubt that Descartes applies to the senses. It is quite valid to say that, if one does not take logic to hold true, one cannot talk meaningfully about anything, but in the situation of epistemology, this really ought to be stated explicitly, as Descartes cannot know that he possesses the faculty of reason - or that he is not mad. In a subject where one searches for absolute certainty, it is misleading to omit logic from doubt, even if only to suspend doubt of it in order to produce a meaningful conversation.
    The best that you can say is that Descartes should have made this clearer; I agree, but the point stands. --Mel Etitis (Μελ Ετητης) 22:38, 16 February 2006 (UTC)
    Ummm, which point? :)
    The one in my first comment in this sub-thread, above. --Mel Etitis (Μελ Ετητης) 09:20, 20 February 2006 (UTC)
  4. While I can't respond directly without reading said chunk, I think it's worth giving credence to Russel's 'Bundle of Perceptions.' Our introspective thoughts are only aware of other thoughts, processes, perceptions and so on, and so far see no reason why the self we attribute ourselves could not be that bundle.
Well, Hume rather than Russell, but not only is Hume's discussion notoriously sloppy, but it's not really relevant here. We're not talking about the nature of the self, but of the use of "I"; neither Hume nor Russell denies that we can sensibly use "I". The chunk of Williams isn't as huge a I remembered; I've just looked at it, and it's pp 95–101 (of Descartes: The Project of Pure Enquiry). --Mel Etitis (Μελ Ετητης) 23:16, 15 February 2006 (UTC)
I guess that at some point, I'll just compile all wranglings into something that should approach NPOV (when I get bored/scared I'm wrong) and others can make sure I do it properly. It's too much to hope that some element of bias won't slip through... Also, the statement, "... the preceding two arguments fail..." Seems somewhat POV, especially given that there is no explanation. Fish-Face 19:36, 15 February 2006 (UTC)

I think that this discussion has gone on long enough (at least), as it's essentially a misuse of the Talk page. before editing anything, make sure that you can cite it from reputable secondary texts. --Mel Etitis (Μελ Ετητης) 21:56, 21 February 2006 (UTC)

Existentialism is seen as a rejection of "Cogito ergo sum", and asserts that existence precedes essence... this may be worth mentioning in the "criticisms" section... maybe? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 11:44, 6 October 2007 (UTC)

Debunking Descartes - ext. short paper i wrote[edit]

What if the the existence of the individual is made up of two separate Lives. The Physical Life and The Mental Life, both of which are incorporated simultaneously daily yet are separate. The Physical Life, is that of an actual human body it self. The time between birth and death when the body is functioning either naturally or in a forced mechanically supported state. That of which 'life' is defined. The Mental Life is; by definition any time we have consciousness; and formulate voluntary thought, perception, emotion, will, memory, and imagination. The Mental Life does not refer to instances where the physical brain is used to regulate bodily functions(involuntary thought).

Explantion of Relationship: Each body's Physical Life has the ability to nurture and develop a correlating Mental Life. As evident with neurological disorders developed from birth, some body's never get the chance to develop their Mental Life or are hindered from developing further due to trauma or disorder, which is usually of a physical cause or nature. A deduction, that a Physical Life must be present in order to sustain any form of Mental Life can be made. However the inverse is not true: mental capacities cannot function or exist, with out a physical being. So it can be concluded that: A Physical Life must be present for a Mental Life to exist. However, not vice versa.

Debunking Descartes: The Cogito Ergo Sum argument can be used to illustrate the validity of the Dual Lives Theory with a compromise of the rationalist and empiricist paradigms, by incorporating conditionals and converses using elaborated definitions. If I have consciousness; and formulate thought, perception, emotion, will, memory, and imagination; then, I exist in actuality, have life, and reality. If I exist in actuality, have life, and reality; then I have consciousness; and formulate thought, perception, emotion, will, memory, and imagination. The latter is not true. If one was suddenly pronounced to be in a state of unconsciousness to where no part of one’s brain was measurably working to formulate any of the aforementioned faculties constituting mental existence, yet the body itself was being forced to perform the actions of life sustainment, in effect keeping the body functioning, would the subject therefore cease to exist entirely? In the physical respect, no. The body would still in fact be real and have life, the definition of existing. Ergo the subject’s Physical Life would still have existence, while the existence of the Mental Life (the consciousness and voluntary thought processes) would cease.

I fail to see the debunking of Descarte's statement. The above text debunks: "I think" <= "I am". As far as I understand it Descarte's statement is: "I think" => "I am". Not "I think" <= "I am" or "I think" <=> "I am". --Teglsbo 23:19, 7 December 2005 (UTC)
This paper is a not very well written iteration of epiphenomenalism, and I've got no idea what you're trying to say about Descartes.

"original French statement"[edit]

The article as it currently stands says the following:

"Cogito ergo sum" is a translation of Descartes' original French statement, "Je pense, donc je suis".

...but then in the next section:

The phrase "cogito ergo sum" is not used in Descartes' Meditations. The closest Descartes comes is "I am, I exist"; that is, a statement, not an inference.

One of these statements is clearly wrong, and I would assume it's the first one. Afterall, Descartes wrote The Meditations in Latin (the original text is available at Gallica). I will remove the first statement from the article. If anyone disagrees, they may bring it up here. --Iustinus 23:13, 19 July 2005 (UTC)

  1. There's no contradiction; the phrase is found in the Discourse (which was written in French and translated into Latin); it isn't found in the Meditations (which was written in Latin and translated into French).
(I don't think I agree with that part of that statement. Overall you are correct, but I would say that Meditations not "transltated into French"... I think it is more accurate to say it was written in both Latin and French. The reason I say this is because there are a significant amount of additional sentances in the French version. Sorry to nitpick DrDisco)
  1. The old standard translation is misleading; newer translations, such as Stoothoff's (in The Philosophical Writings of Descartes volume I. Edd Cottingham, Stoothoff, & Murdoch. Cambridge U. Press, 1985) use "I am thinking, therefore I exist". The old "I think, therefore I am" misrepresents the logic of Descartes' position — it's not that he thinks in general, but that he's thinking at the moment that he utters the cogito. --Mel Etitis (Μελ Ετητης) 09:23, 20 July 2005 (UTC)
OK, that's some very useful information. Might I suggest we incorporate it into the article? I'll make the basic changes, but I'll need you to put in some of the deeper details, e.g.
  1. If the phrase originally occured in Discourse, why even bother to say that it never occurs in Meditations? Can we get some more on the context in Discourse?
  2. I see your argument. I'm not 100% I agree, but it is still a good argument. That said, "I think therefore I am" is such a common translation that not to include it in this article would be ridiculous, so I suggest we mention both translations? For now I'll just put both in, and maybe you can add more detail in the appropriate section.
--Iustinus 23:12, 20 July 2005 (UTC)
I agree that it's somewhat misleading (and this is mirrored by most books on the subject); the Meditations is universally (so far as I'm aware) regarded as being much more important than the Discourse, upon which it improves in many ways; Descartes' discussion of the first certainty (in the second meditation) brings out very clearly the logical structure of his thought (that there's no inference from thinking to existence, but a direct intuition of the thinker's existence). Nevertheless, commentators (from the authors of the Objections to the present) have tended to refer to the first certainty as the cogito, and often to treat it as an inference (even though Descartes explicitly denies this in the Replies). All this does need saying, but it's not a simple matter of sticking a sentence or two into the text; I've been meaning to do it for a while, but haven't managed to find the time.
With regard to the translation — I suppose that we could add a mention of the common mistranslation (most translations and reference books that I've seen merely give the correct translation (and one or two stubbornly stick to the incorrect form)). I don't think that it's "ridiculous" not to mention the mistake; most people misquote Shakespeare ("Alas poor Yorick, I knew him well", etc.), but we don't have to mention this when we give the correct quotations, I think.
I do plan very soon to add more material, so watch this space! --Mel Etitis (Μελ Ετητης) 08:28, 21 July 2005 (UTC)
This isn't a question of a misconception, really, it's a question of translation style. I would compare it instead to including the King James version of a bible quote: it may be misleading to modern readers, but if it's more famous it kinda needs to be there.
I agree with this -- it's not a mistranslation, because both "cogito, ergo sum" and "je pense, donc je suis" can be quite accurately translated as "I think, therefore I am."
This involves a misunderstanding of the nature of languages, and of translation. The correct translation depends upon what the author was saying, not some mechanical process of looking words up in a dictionary; indeed, even ignoring the author's intention and the context, one can't simply translate in that way — how would you translate "il y a", for example? Would you say that "he there has" is a correct translation, just because it accurately translates each of the words?. "I think, therefore I am" is a mistranslation because it misrepresents what's being said (it makes Descartes' thought nonsensical). --Mel Etitis (Μελ Ετητης) 10:48, 27 September 2005 (UTC), this issue has more or less been resolved to my satisfaction, so whether or not the translation is accurate is not all that relevant anymore (unless you have a problem with the page as it stands). But for what it's worth, Mel, I think you're being too strict in your interpretation of "I think therefore I am." There is no question in my mind that in literary English that can mean the same thing as "I am thinking therefore I exist." I will grant, though, that the more colloquial translation is clearer. --Iustinus 03:55, 29 September 2005 (UTC)
And I look forward to your other additions. --Iustinus 11:09, 21 July 2005 (UTC)


I find a common interpretation of cogito ergo sum is: thinking=being; while I think the intention is: I am the only fixed point.

fine ....i am thinking therefore i must exist as there has to be something doing the thinking. so what , if a person ceases to exist the person disapears?....brain dead people are not existing?

descartes argument is so irresistable and fragile because in actual fact he´s trying to reinforce the fact the he does not believe it himself he´s trying to destroy skepticism.

See Talk:Cogito ergo sum#Interpretation. The point isn't that you can only exist if you think. The point is that if "I" am thinking there must exist an "I" to think. Of course you can't proove anyone is thinking but yourself. I don't know that I understand this any better or worse than you do, but my point is that brain death has nothing to do with it. --Iustinus 23:34, 6 December 2005 (UTC)

Of course being brain dead has nothing to do with it not only was the state of being brain dead was not known in Descarte's time nor(evidently) to Descarte's. plus it actually refers to people being controlled since it really means if you do not think you are as good as dead because you are letting other people controll you which means that you are not activly adding to the sum of human knowledge which of course descartes would think was a good aim ( the increasing human knowledge part).

Again, Descartes did not argue (at least to my understanding) that if you don't think you don't exist, what he argued is that if you do think you do exist. The point is that one can prove one's own existence by the mere fact that you are thinking about it. This argument says nothing about whether or not other people exist, just weather or not one's own self exists. Obviously people who are brain dead or otherwise incapable of thinking are intrinsically in the "other people" category, not the "own self" category. --Iustinus 17:50, 5 January 2006 (UTC)

Critic to this solpsistic argument:

"Note, however, that there is a more fundamental potential refutation to the cogito; i.e., namely of the thesis that 'perception' requires 'thinking.' If the solipsist were merely being created instantaneously from moment to moment with all memory intact and updated, he would only think he is 'thinking' — i.e., have a perception of thinking. In fact, no operation or activity has truly taken place from percept to percept (think of how the 'still' frames of a moving picture film strip blend into the appearance of motion) — only the passage of time."

A frame or just memory at a certain POINT of time, would just be frozen, but not THINKING. Thinking only exists when time is running, there is not thinking without time, since this would be really a frozen memory. Thus a creation from moment to moment with all memory would be not thinking.

"he would only think he was "thinking"", or perceive, as you say. This thought/perception requires a thinker/perceiver. If the premise is that an action is being done, the doer of the action necessarily exists. Descartes uses thought because other actions can only be known through sensory perceptions which may be unreliable. There is no doubt to a thinker that thought takes place, however. This applies regardless of the state of time. Let's take it a step farther than what you mentioned. Suppose that there only is a single instant of time in which the thought (not thinking, since that's an action, therefore requiring time) takes place. The thought (suppose it's "I think, therefore I am") exists. By virtue of being a thought, it needs a mind. Therefore, the mind exists in that moment. The mind can therefore be sure of its own existence in that moment even though it can't be sure of the existence of other moments. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:28, 19 June 2009 (UTC)

Williams' Argument vs. Hume's Solipsism[edit]

Ok, someone needs to do Hume's Solipsism of the Present moment criticism that totally vanquishes this. I'm too lazy right now. (The preceding sentence was originally added to the article by User:, and moved here by me. Piquan 07:12, 27 November 2005 (UTC))

Will this help?

Where Descartes finds an innate knowledge of the self easy and forthcoming, and accordingly so the existence of God -- the logic of which argument has been well-protested through the following centuries -- Hume finds only traces and pointers, but looking inward, is never able to find what is in essence himself. In Part Four, Section VI of his Treatise of Human Nature Hume writes, "There are some philosophers who imagine we are every moment intimately conscious of what we call our Self, that we feel its existence and its continuance in existence and are certin, beyond the evidence of a demonstration, both of its perfect identity and simplicity. ...for my part, when I enter most intimately into what I call myself, I always stumble on some particular perception or other...and can never observe anything but the perception."
Hume concludes finally that “If anyone…thinks he has a different notion of himself, …I can reason no longer with him…I am certain there is no such principle in me.” This complete logical denial of self merits criticism, for by allowing a point of view from which to examine the apparitions of his senses, he allows for a certain kind of self, furthermore this reasoning may be considered problematic in refuting Descartes notion of the self as an innate knowlege of a self must exist for Descartes to have thought of it without any knowlege of it having come from the senses.

"Unhelpful" Section[edit]

Mel Etitis recent removed the following text:

A common misunderstanding of "I think, therefore I exist," is that it can be reversed as "I do not think, therefore I do not exist." A rock does not think, but it exists, so some people view this as a refutation of Descartes' argument. However, this is a logical fallacy called denying the antecedent. The correct corollary by modus tollens is "I do not exist, therefore I do not think."

That section might have been poorly written and/or poorly integrated into the text, but I'm not sure it was unhelpful: notice the number of comments we have on this talk page of people saying the cogito is bullshit because braindead people still exist and all that. We probably should have a section reminding people that the meaning of the cogito is not "existence > thinking" but rather "if you're wondering whether or not you exist, that is in and of itself proof that you do exist." --Iustinus 22:40, 18 January 2006 (UTC)

It seems to me that anyone who reads the article carefully won't make the mistake; comments making it come from people who haven't bothered to read this or any other article. The section that I deleted is in fact itself misleading, given that the supposed corrolary is absurd (and its absurdity is part of the point of the cogito. Incidentally, the text quoted above is, in fact, only part of the deleted text; it was preceded by a joke that was inappropriate for an encyclopædia article. --Mel Etitis (Μελ Ετητης) 22:45, 18 January 2006 (UTC)
I would agree with you on all those points. The problem is that not everyone reads the articles carefully, so perhaps we could give this point a little more prominence. --Iustinus 23:59, 18 January 2006 (UTC)
This isn't about the people who read the article. It's about social phenomena surrounding cogito, since it's probably the most famous philosophical statement. Many people do think cogito is nonsense, and then conclude that philosophy on the whole is a bunch of nonsense. I agree that it wasn't written that well, but I was hoping someone would fix it up. ViewFromNowhere 02:40, 19 January 2006 (UTC)
The article says:
This fallacy and its prevalence is illustrated by the popular joke:
Descartes is sitting in a bar, having a drink. The bartender asks him if he would like another. "I think not," he says, and vanishes in a puff of logic.
While amusing, this joke does not illustrate any fallacy. Descartes's argument of his existence is based on that he thinks, and in this joke that basis is taken away, at which point the deceiving demon smirks and is promptly "allowed" to terminate his existence (not that there was any promise of Descartes's continued existence, but it's a joke.. think of those cartoons where they fall down only when they realize they're running on nothing but air). In no way does it claim that not thinking necessitates nonexistence.
Also, could someone clarify the section about Williams's argument? It says this.
He claims, for example, that what we are dealing with when we talk of thought, or when we say "I am thinking", is something conceivable from a third-person perspective; namely objective "thought-events" in the former case, and an objective thinker in the latter. The obvious problem is that, through introspection, or our experience of consciousness, we have no way of moving to conclude the existence of any third-personal fact, [...]
I do not understand what this means. Naive interpretation would suggest that "I" is an impossible concept except if it can be conceived from a third-person perspective, but surely this is not common usage. If everyone except one person in the world would suddenly die, there would be no third person to conceive of him, and thus he would not be allowed to think of himself as "I"? Nonsense. "I" is a fine concept independent of the existence or not of any third person, and of what they can or can't do. It is part of a conceptual framework, and there's no need for every part of the framework to actually exist for it to be useful ("I" am "I", whether or not anyone or anything else exists). I think there's some miscommunication here, and the section needs to be clarified. 20:19, 1 March 2006 (UTC)

How did this end up in Latin?[edit]

I was really surprised to find out that this statement was so recent; I've always heard the Latin version, so I assumed it was from some ancient philosopher. If Descartes was a French philosopher, and he originally wrote the French version, how did a version from a different language get popularized? -- Creidieki 22:02, 11 April 2006 (UTC)

There is some information on this at Talk:Cogito ergo sum#"original French statement." I guess it doesn't actually answer your question, but it will help. --Iustinus 01:29, 12 April 2006 (UTC)
A more general answer is that Latin was the language of scholarship for some time after Descartes. --Mel Etitis (Μελ Ετητης) 12:40, 12 April 2006 (UTC)
Yes, the French version was for everyday people the Latin version for those who studied. Although to expand slightly: Descartes didn't really popularise the phrase. As it says in the article, Descartes never even said 'cogito ergo sum' in Meditations. Critics summarised the argument as 'the "Cogito Ergo Sum" argument', so in fact, they were the ones that popularised the phrase. Because they did it in Latin, it is known in Latin Disco

Circularity Talk[edit]

"The Cogito CAN be shown to be a circular argument, but only with recourse to Descartes' other writings."? This sounds like some kind of inverted red herring. Let's, instead, examine cogito ergo sum as the self-contained argument that it is...and in the usual dry way:

Premise --> cogito (I [am] think[ing]; je pense)


Conclusion--> sum (I am/exist; je suis)

As always, we can omit ergo, the conclusion indicator, and simply let the dashed line stand in its place. Great. Now, take a hard look at what is lurking about in the sole premise: "I". That's right, the conclusion about the existence of an "I" is simply smuggled into the premise and then used to conclude the very same thing, viz. there is an "I" that is. (Eat your heart out, Bill Clinton.) Latin grammar obscures this, as would Spanish if that were your choice of tongue.

Nevertheless, the argument runs in a big circle. Let's try 1st person plural, too:

Premise --> cogitamus (We [are] think[ing]; nous pensons)


Conclusion--> sumus (We are/exist; nous sommes)

As you can see, we are plagued by the same problem: The algebraic quantity [We] is inserted into the premise that supposedly serves to prove that there's a "We" that exists. (Pardon my Babelfish trans. into French.) Making any recourse to "other writings" is just a tacit way to admit that "cogito ergo sum" is flapdoodle and renders the argument moot, anyhow, since there would be new premises and thus a a different argument to analyze. Descartes should have known better. Or was it a cruel joke for your Phil. 101 TA? Beware of those who merely invert the argument into "sum ergo cogito....ergo sum" or "cogitamus ergo sum." The later substitutes circularity for a non sequitur.

Write me if you have any comments:

If not, let's sweep away all the academic pretensions and boil this article down to the simple explanation as above, then create a new English lang. one titled "je pense donc je suis" since "je pense..." is what D actually wrote. As for the Buddhadhamma and doctrine of anatta (anatman): These are interesting and related topics but of no relevance to assessing the structural flaw of Descartes' arguement.

Allan Chicago

Just cleaned up the article—whilst the last section which has been added to the Williams argument (I don't remember the name of the guy there was a Z and some double-barrelling) was interesting, if you look at the earlier arguments, specifically the claim the the cogito is a syllogistic inference, then you'll see that there was no need to complicate the conclusion. More importantly, the rhetorical question at the end had to go. The Cogito CAN be shown to be a circular argument, but only with recourse to Descartes' other writings. To suddenly make a random claim that it is circular at the end of the article was drastically unhelpful—if someone wants to put it back in then please include sections on what it is to be make a philosophical argument and why the Cogito is circular. Also moved the very out-of-place-looking point on the Cogito not being in the Meditations to the introduction. There was no need to have this sentence at the beginning just to make a point. Some other minor grammatical changes and a few to make it flow better. Hope these changes are welcome - Cheers. Cheerio!

The difference between "I think" and "We think" is that "We think" supposes the existence of other thinkers. Do you know of them through sensory information? If so, you can't be sure of their existence. Do you know of them because you experience their thoughts? Then you're the same mind after all, and the pronoun "I" applies. The same problem applies to other quantities you may wish to plug into the form. Any particular substitution is tautological, but you can't be sure the premise is correct. The difference with "I" is that you can't deny the premise. If you were to try, that act of trying, being an action, requires the actor (you) to exist. The significance of the Cogito is therefore not its logical form but that its premise can't be denied. (talk) 17:51, 19 June 2009 (UTC)

Williams, the end all[edit]

Right now Williams sort of has the final say in this article, as though he should be our final understanding of the cogito... But I'm sure plenty of people have objected to his stance. Can we work some of them in? Or else just make his section a little less final-sounding?

For example, a postmodernist might see the whole argument as nothing more than a discussion of our system of language (rather than metaphysical essences). Williams argues that the predicate "think" needs an "I"--a subject who's doing it. Okay great. But what does that tell us about reality? Just because our language has one word that requires another before it doesn't tell us anything about magical essences floating around, nor does it give us any idea what this "I" could possibly mean.

What led us to have the word "I" in our language? I don't want to expand on that question here, I just think postmodernism is sometimes a little bit naive in how it thinks of language as completely separable from the history that created it. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 03:30, 2 May 2008 (UTC)

Regardless of arguments current validity/invalidity in order for the wikipage to be balanced it should include mention of valid criticisms of descarts argument. (including debunking the bad arguments against it such as the logical fallicy of "I don't think therefore I ain't" ) —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 10:44, 2 October 2008 (UTC)

Cogito ergo sum[edit]

I remember my high school French teacher telling us students how to say "I think, therefore I am" in French. She said we could say, "Je pense, donc, je suis," which is simple and carries the meaning, but is not the way Descartes said it. The entry here puts the simple version in Descarte's mouth, which could be wrong. I wish I could remember the actual French version, but I cannot. I thought I would alert you. 21:03, 6 December 2006 (UTC)

The logical and empirical conclusion of 'I think' is simply this: 'therefore I am a thinker'. 'Thinking' is noted by a subject and thus that subject concretely concludes that he or she is, among other things, a thinker. In other words, the thinking subject, now noting that fact, has affirmed himself or herself as a thinker. Occam's Razor applied! —Preceding unsigned comment added by Doughoff65 (talkcontribs) 21:35, 17 January 2010 (UTC)

OR and Inapprpriate tone[edit]

I moved the following paragraphs from the article to here becuase the tone of the writing is strongly POV, and is without any sources. Further, the section on Umansky's argument is most likely OR (added by User:Adamumansky, who has made four edits total:adding an unsourced quotation to Existence and the section in this article. In addition, Google search shows only the references to Adam Umanksy originate in Wikipedia)

History of the Quotation
In Descartes' Meditations on First Philosophy, he employs hyperbolic doubt to re-establish his existence. Through hyperbolic doubt, he disbands his belief in the existence of everything that has questionable existence. His purpose is to rebuild the true things in the world. With everything doubted and falsifed, anything recognized as true will completely be true and there can be no doubt about its validity. Through his method, he derives his first major saying "dubito sum" meaning "I doubt, I am". He recognizes that to be able to doubt, he must exist--within the doubting, there is existence, and vice versa. And as doubting is a form of thinking, "cogito sum" was born.

He isn't saying that existence necessarily exists because of God like Umansky's argument. That's a different argument that came before the cogito where he stated that it's possible that an evil demon could be controlling our perceptions and because of that we have no way to know for sure that this isn't true. What Descartes was trying to do was refute the skeptical argument that knowledge is not possible, because skepticism was basically irrefutable at that point in time. What the cogito was, was an argument that transcended the skaptics tools of doubt. He wasn't attempting to prove the existence of god, he was attempting to refute the skeptics. The cogito, as previously said, is the statement translated to "I think, therefore I am." What is failed to be explained is that, what this means, is that just because he is able to think means that he exists in one form or another. This doesn't infer the properties of his existence, it just means he, one way or another, exists. How does he know this? Because he is able to think that thought. All it means is if you are able to think you deductively know that you somehow exist as a consciousness because you couldn't have one if there was no such thing as existence. And, in fact, by thinking about such a concept you are proving him right. This is because by thinking you prove you have a consciousness and by having a consciousness you prove that you somehow exist. Whether this is as you perceive your existence or maybe you're just a brain floating in the vat like you're in the matrix. It is impossible to think if you don't exist somehow. So by thinking you prove that you exist in some way. This doesn't imply that there must be a God unless you yourself infer that there must necessarily be a God for there to be an existence, which I'm not refuting. I'm merely stating that you can't say the cogito was made to prove that there was a god. He made Ontological arguments for that 'fact.' All the cogito meant to do was to appease the 'knowledge is a true justified belief' requirements of knowledge in epistemology and show that skepticism is wrong.

Umansky's argument
Another flaw in Descartes' method, which perhaps invalidates all he hoped to achieve, is the fact that though he claimed that the ultimate level of doubt was assuming God to be a great deceiver rather than a benevolent creator, he never doubted the existence of God, only His attitude towards humanity. This is the flaw of cognito; since he states in his introduction to the Meditations, that he feels it necessary to try, as all good Christian philosophers should, to logically prove the existence of God. This was his true intent; to prove the existence of God. To doubt the existence of everything was only for the purpose of trying to find out what could be objectively true, and since Descartes was a believer in God, he was not interested in doubting His existence. Rather, he was trying to prove the existence of something, namely God, who he was already convinced did exist. Therefore God was immune to the radical doubt he employed to doubt the existence of all things, even though God, regardless of qualities ascribed to Him, must be included in the set that includes all things.

So if cognito, sum is is dependent upon Descartes' proving that everything can be doubted except the existence of doubt itself, and he never truly doubted the existence of God, then cognito, sum is dependent upon the existence of a Creator Being, and is therefore not necessarily true.

Reading through these paragraphs quickly, I think that they should stay on the talk page until some sort of verification/heavy style editing can be done to improve them. Otherwise their presence mocks the article. - Sam 06:35, 19 January 2007 (UTC)

nor is it reassuring that he apparently doesn't know how to spell cogito ;) --Iustinus 07:59, 19 January 2007 (UTC)
Just as an aside for Mr Umansky, assuming he hasn't figured out the error in his reasoning already: The reason you didn't find anyone else's name associated with this argument is that it's a mistaken one.
Descartes knows that he receives sensations purporting to be the objective world and, for a variety of reasons, espouses a belief in a benevolent divine creator of those sensations. He continues to express that belief before, during, and after his project. However, his programme of radical doubt did include doubt in our ability to rationally know of God's existence, even though he might have taken exception to your calling Him a "thing". Knowledge of God's existence was not assumed but "proven" through Descartes's version of Anselm's ontological argument. You may object to it but it at least purports to be a rational argument, not a question-beg or slight-of-hand trick. — LlywelynII 03:40, 12 August 2015 (UTC)

External link[edit]

The "Descartes and Language: What is the Cogito?" external resource references Wikipedia as a source, creating a circular reference (though it does refer to other sources as well). Remove or not? Naphra 20:01, 24 April 2007 (UTC) Yeah, I'd remove it. Kosh3 (talk) 19:12, 23 June 2008 (UTC)

An attempt to clarify[edit]

I tried to clarify:

  • the recurring question of "I doubt, thus I think..." (which is definitely not Descartes);
  • the prehistory of the idea of self-evidence (the most important predecessor being Aristotle);
  • the question of Meditationes, i.e. why Descartes did not use the words "cogito, ergo..." there (because he felt they suggest inference).

Being a foreigner, I would be grateful for a supervision, at least as to language.

--Sokoljan (talk) 06:31, 8 June 2008 (UTC)


Shouldn't this article have a higher importance rating? While it is not a high quality article, it is an important one. It needs a better explanation. I read it and couldn't follow it at all. It is in need of a higher rating before people will improve it but it will not be rated higher until it is improved. Kosh3 (talk) 19:09, 23 June 2008 (UTC)

It should be a high profile article because of it's immense cultural importance... On the otherhand how profound is "I... therfore... I" = ) ?? Chris B Critter (talk) 08:07, 14 August 2008 (UTC)

Wired Thing[edit]

on i found a section called criticism which is quite good. The funny thing is that it says is an article from wikipedia even if on this page there isn't such a thing. If no one objects i will copy and paste it back on this article. Gio 2/12/08


might want to add a link solipsism. because that is what this article depends on. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:03, 7 January 2009 (UTC)

Influences section[edit]

I deleted the influences section because, while there is obviously a direct influence of the cogito on Asimov's Three Laws, the cogito also is the foundation of most of Modern philosophy, a major target of refutation for the Post-moderns, and part of the basic assumption which allows most of us to go about our daily lives. So, let's either skip Influences altogether or for the sake of completeness just say "Most of Western thought is influenced by Cartesian philosophy, which is predicated on the cogito." (talk) 03:39, 9 January 2009 (UTC)


Cogito ergo sum is a statement that has been philosophically scrutinized and objected to by certain philosophers, if I had more time I would find those, and put them in. Someone go research this, any philosphy article should have a criticism section. All statements may be proven false (including this one). —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:10, 16 February 2009 (UTC)

The more I think...[edit]

You know, the more I think about this proposition, the more I think it's a load of something or other - the chair that I'm sitting on certainly doesn't think, yet it exists. Therefore, it would appear that thinking isn't much of a criterion for existing. Now, onto Wittgenstein...Jmdeur (talk) 14:53, 16 July 2009 (UTC)

The chair you're sitting on may exist, but it's not certain. Senses may be fooled, after all. Now, can you be mistaken that you're thinking? (talk) 15:22, 12 August 2009 (UTC)
"I am this wiki page. I think therefore I am"
or atleast... I make you think that 'I think' —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 09:11, 27 August 2009 (UTC)
Nah, new day, same ol' demon. — LlywelynII 03:45, 12 August 2015 (UTC)

Predecessors restored[edit]

The section "Predecessors", however well documented and philosophically relevant, has been - I hope inadvertently - deleted. I restored it in another place, after "Introduction" and without the misleading Hamlet quotation. On the other hand, the section "Criticisms" only repeats the misunderstanding, as if the Cogito would have been for Descartes a syllogism. Descartes himself responded to it, as it appeared in the "Objections" to his Meditations, and in the article it is explained in the first paragraph of the section "Introduction". In this discussion, User:Mel Etitis explains it correctly as well. But some people seem to prefer writing (or deleting) before reading. --Sokoljan (talk) 13:26, 28 August 2009 (UTC)

the really long latin phrase[edit]

could someone tranlsate the really long latin phrase in the introduction.

 Done. Racconish Tk 16:24, 28 April 2010 (UTC)

References in popular culture[edit]

This is a common theme in movies and television: "The Matrix," "Inception," etc. . . I just felt this could be something worth mentioning. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 01:19, 12 October 2010 (UTC)

Unnecessary Images?[edit]

The two images under the Criticism section have little to no relevance to the section or the article at all, and seems they were put there only to be captioned. Wikipedia:Style makes no mention of using images in this way, furthermore it looks unprofessional and doesn't add anything. I am deleting them . Ajoones (talk) 23:44, 20 October 2010 (UTC)

I generally disagree. Wikipedia:The perfect article does recognize the usefulness of images to break up large amounts of text for the sake of reader engagement. What's more, I have always found that a picture and caption provides a good opportunity to summarize the text beside it. Far from "unprofessional", I think images used this way make for a more pleasant read - especially for highly visual audiences like myself.
That having been said, the question mark picture was a little weak. Less so Rodin's Thinker. My point would be that, rather than removing images completely, I would always prefer to see them replaced with even more creative, helpful metaphors or examples.-Tesseract2 (talk) 04:13, 21 October 2010 (UTC)
You make a good point, and a relevant picture would definitely be more aesthetically pleasing. Feel free to revert my edit or add a better picture. Ajoones (talk) 06:59, 21 October 2010 (UTC)

Small change to beginning[edit]

I deleted the section saying that Descartes had not used the term 'therefore' in the meditations because he wanted to avoid the implication that the cogito depended upon an inferential argument.

Although this is the kind of thing that you sometimes read in introductory texts, there is simply no textual evidence for it at all. Indeed, as the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy points out, the idea that the meditations doesn't contain an inferential argument for the conclusion whilst the Discourse does is dead wrong: the meditations is the place where the argument is most explicitly developed.

Of course, Descartes in the objections and replies, and later letters, did sometimes assert that the cogito was not based on a syllogism (see Williams' book for a sophisticated and moderately plausible interpritation of exactly what he meant). The point remains: in Meditations 2 he phrases it as an arugment.

BTW, here's what I think: the argument leads us to the cogito conclusion, but isn't required to justify it. The 'cogito ergo sum' argument is propoganda, but isn't justification. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 10:48, 6 December 2010 (UTC)

I think therefore I am/exist?[edit]

Why are there two translations given in the text "I think therefore I exist" and later on "I think therefore I am"? Sarahhofland (talk) 06:51, 4 August 2011 (UTC)

The traditional, and best-known, translation is "I think therefore I am". That's also the most literal translation. However, the meaning is closer to "I think therefore I exist" in modern word usage. Piquan (talk) 10:39, 4 August 2011 (UTC)

Well, it can't be clearer than that. Sarahhofland (talk) 11:56, 6 August 2011 (UTC)

'''Cannot Figure Out How To Post Properly section'''

Just a question regarding modern extrapolations, or colloquialisms of the phrase: Is it proper to note them, or reference them? If so, how is it done?

I am asking regarding this phrase that brought me here: Cogito ergo armatum sum (talk) 12:18, 5 January 2012 (UTC)

The response to the Lichtenberg point is from Kant, not Williams[edit]

Williams refers to the argument later in the book as "of course, just an argument from Kant" from, I believe, the Prolegomena. Typical Williams to not make it clear in the Cogito chapter. The slogan from the Critique is "the rational psychologist mistakes the unity of apperception for the perception of a unity". Clearly this needs fixing. Maybe I will do it at some point. —Sean Whitton / 16:30, 14 May 2012 (UTC)

Kierkegaard.......not quite the breakdown I recall.....[edit]

I'll certainly yield to the authors here, but I remember that a fundamental tenet to the Kierkegaard criticism was that, yes, the I does in fact presuppose the existance of its own narrator, but that the breakdown is something more akin to:

I think therefore I am
I think

Tgm1024 (talk) 20:05, 16 May 2012 (UTC)

"You not think, therefore I am, and You are"[edit]

"I think, therefore I am"

Using Game Theory,

I think that you think, though You do not think, therefore I am and You are (relative to me). You are DEAD!

Likewise, I think You think that I think, therefore I am, You are and I am. (I2+You)

Likewise, I think You think I think, though You do not think I think, therefore I 2 am and You2 are. You are ALIVE!

Are both I the same, when think(s) are different? NO, I change. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:30, 5 August 2012 (UTC)

That's neither an example of game theory nor what "think" means in this context. The cogito is using the intransitive sense of "cogitate", not the transitive sense of "believing X to be true". My beliefs about your state are entirely based on my sense experiences, which can't be trusted prior to the deus ex cogitatione which restored Descartes trust in the external world. At that point, there's no need to bring the cogito into it. I think you exist because I again trust my senses that you're taking up space and wasting my time on the internet. — LlywelynII 03:52, 12 August 2015 (UTC)

"original French statement" -- capitalization[edit]

The article begins:

Cogito ergo sum (French: "Je pense donc je suis"; English: "I think, therefore I am") is a philosophical Latin statement proposed by René Descartes.

The original, in Discourse, appears as a non-capitalized, mid-sentence phrase:

"Mais aussitôt après je pris garde que, pendant que je voulois ainsi penser que tout étoit faux, il falloit nécessairement que moi qui le pensois fusse quelque chose; et remarquant que cette vérité, je pense, donc je suis, étoit si ferme et si assurée, que toutes les plus extravagantes suppositions des sceptiques n'étoient pas capables de l'ébranler, je jugeai que je pouvois la recevoir sans scrupule pour le premier principe de la philosophie que je cherchois."

Capitalization of the phrase quite arguably contributes to the assumption that "I think therefore I am" was a complete statement in and of itself. (It is often restated as a sentence.) That, in turn, discourages many from any further exploration to discover Descartes' intent.

As indicated further down in the introduction, Descartes repeated this phrase mid-sentence in Principles of Philosophy (here in Latin), where he referred to the phrase as a proposition:

"Ac proinde hæc cognitio, ego cogito, ergo sum, est omnium prima & certissima, quæ cuilibet ordine philosophanti occurrat."
English: "This proposition, I think, therefore I am, is the first and the most certain which presents itself to whoever conducts his thoughts in order."

What if we begin the article:

The phrase "cogito ergo sum" (French: "je pense donc je suis"; English: "I think, therefore I am") is a Latin proposition by René Descartes.

Parallel minor adjustments should then made elsewhere in the article for consistency. humanengr (talk) 16:06, 26 October 2012 (UTC)

What a poorly-taken understanding. In every example you cite, Descartes is explicitly setting off that thought as a separate proposition—as a distinct sentence. The punctuation and capitalization in the original have no bearing on the fact that it's perfectly correct to discuss the proposition itself as a single laconic expression. It's what Descartes himself was doing. — LlywelynII 03:55, 12 August 2015 (UTC)

NEW SECTION: In Descartes' Writings[edit]

The historical provenance should be made clear in a new section entitled "In Descartes' Writings". I've gathered the relevant material in my sandbox. (NB: This pulls in the "Ac proinde …" and translation sentences from the current summary -- to address criticism re summary length; it also includes the dubito, ergo cogito, ergo sum material that had been in the summary.)

Would this work as the lead section, preceding what is now the Introduction (which would be renamed "Interpretation")? Or should the new Intro contain only the first sentence in the sandbox and the rest of the material split off for a section at the bottom of the article? humanengr (talk) 07:07, 14 May 2013 (UTC)

suis vs. sois[edit]

Descartes himself said "je pense, donc je suis". But doesn't "je pense, donc je sois" seem somehow more grammatically correct in French? (The subjunctive doesn't work as well in English -- "I think, therefore I be", but it does work in French...) — Preceding unsigned comment added by 2620:0:1000:1502:26BE:5FF:FE1D:BCA1 (talk) 22:44, 26 July 2013 (UTC)

Just in case anyone is still interested at this point, no, there is no case whatsoever for the subjunctive sois being needed here. The questioner is probably half-remembering the fact that the subjunctive is required in the subordinate clause following the verb penser used in the negative: Elle ne pense pas que cela soit possible (She doesn't think that's possible), as opposed to Elle pense que c'est possible (She thinks it's possible). Penser in the interrogative, rare in present-day French, can also take the subjunctive when the person asking the question already thinks the response will be negative: Pensez-vous que ce soit possible? (You don't really think it's possible do you?), as opposed to Pensez-vous que c'est possible? (Do you think it's possible?). But in D's statement, there's no negative, no interrogative, and no subordinate clause, so no case for the subjunctive. Your resident French pedant, Awien (talk) 18:08, 20 August 2014 (UTC)

Other Forms Section[edit]

The italicization of the final extended Latin quote in this section changes in the middle of it. I didn't want to change it in case the author meant something, but it looks to me like a typo... Cogito-Ergo-Sum (talk) 00:08, 6 December 2013 (UTC)

Thanks for the catch -- I removed the italics. (I had intended boldface, but now see it's better plain.) humanengr (talk) 15:47, 18 March 2014 (UTC)

pronunciation of cogito ergo sum[edit]

The Latin pronunciations, both as rendered in modern English and in Classical Latin, were initially included in June 2013. The reader is referred to the Reference Desk/Language discussion on rendering OED pronunciation for Latin words in IPA on recent edits. The below continues that discussion:

The original version of ‘sum’ was transcribed as per OED and Collins as ‘sʊm’. Subsequent edits changed that to 'sʌm'. It is proposed now to include both versions so the article would begin:

Cogito ergo sum[a] (/ˈkɡɪt ˈɜːrɡ ˈsʊm/, also /ˈkɒɡɪt/, /ˈsʌm/ Classical Latin: [ˈkoːɡitoː ˈɛrɡoː ˈsʊm], "I think, therefore I am") … humanengr (talk) 07:17, 23 March 2014 (UTC)

Fine by me. — kwami (talk) 07:22, 23 March 2014 (UTC)
Naahh. See below, in addition to which it's inaccurate: plenty of speakers use the French g; no one spoke classical Latin in Descartes time and most current Latin doesn't use it either; and we aren't proscriptivist here. Leave it to the Wiktionary entry. — LlywelynII 03:06, 10 August 2016 (UTC)

OK, I accept the conclusion above: pronunciation belongs on Wiktionary -- but then there should be a Wiktionary link. But where? I tried putting a Wiktionary template understand the Descartes box, but this leaves it well down the page, and not very obvious to anyone who wonders how to pronounce the Latin. Is it possible to add a Wkt link as a footnote somehow? Suggestions? Imaginatorium (talk) 05:43, 10 August 2016 (UTC)


By leaving out Dubito (as promoted by religious people), you have changed the message of Descartes. His doubting (Dubito) of religious authority is the beginning of his thinking (Cogito). Then, because he can think about things (not be a pawn in the game of "controlling people with religion." ie the Dark Ages) he concludes that he does exist (Ergo Sum). I'm very disappointed with this omission. It also should go under Teleology since that article promotes "Ends" and ignores the rejection of same. (talk) 19:04, 9 June 2014 (UTC) Randy C Hamilton

Please clarify -- are you referring to a particular section of the article? 'Doubt' appears over 20 times on the page; 'dubito' and 'god' 3 times each. humanengr (talk) 19:45, 9 June 2014 (UTC)

Cogito ergo sum[edit]

a more accurate translation is - i doubt, therefore i am

That would be "dubito", not "cogito". --Pfhorrest (talk) 07:33, 20 November 2014 (UTC)
I.e., that's a less accurate translation. — LlywelynII 03:32, 12 August 2015 (UTC)


Not sure how important he is these days but Franz von Baader's cogitor ergo cogito et sum seems like a pretty clear homage, even if he did reject Descartes as slippy on the slope to atheism. — LlywelynII 03:32, 12 August 2015 (UTC)


French pronunciation of French, let alone laundry lists of English mispronunciations of Latin, don't go here. They go in Wiktionary. It would be different in a case like Thailand where the recognizably "correct" pronunciation doesn't follow standard English orthography, but to the extent that the cogito has a "correct" pronunciation, it's a perfectly straightforward one. Further, the IPA mess of regional variations to the pronunciation (which didn't even include the British pronunciation of ergo yet) is just an eyesore. — LlywelynII 04:08, 12 August 2015 (UTC)

Here's a link to the Latin entry for cogito ergo sum for the curious. Variant French and English pronunciations could be added [edit: there], since they both use this expression as well. — LlywelynII 03:03, 10 August 2016 (UTC)

Computers do not think.[edit]

I would like to point out that even though this conversation is actually using a computer zipping bytes through the ether, it does not have even the inkling of an idea that it is doing so. Yet, it still exists. This does not, therefore, prove existence on non-existence. It just asserts that the observer can state he exists even though he may be disembodied as a spirit.-- Michael Flower (talk) 06:04, 30 August 2015 (UTC)

a. Of course it knows that it's sending the packets of information. If the internet weren't checking the packets for errors, receipt, &c., it wouldn't work.
b. Regardless of that, your 'argument' is a non sequitur. If the computer weren't thinking or aware in the sense Descartes intends, then it falls outside the scope of his argument entirely. You probably mean something closer to a rock exists and doesn't think, therefore Descartes is wrong that thinking is a necessary condition for existence. However, that's not something he ever argued. You only know the rock's existence from your senses and, from his vantage of extreme doubt, it could be doubted. The assumption of the rock is already the assumption that your senses are perfectly valid. Fine, in its way, for getting through your life but completely irrelevant to Descartes's project of seeing if it's possible to philosophically ground our understanding without the initial use of information from our untrustworthy senses. — LlywelynII 03:15, 10 August 2016 (UTC)

Regarding WP:OR[edit]

@Wikid77: I saw you had mentioned this article on Jimbo's talk page here. (FYI. I am well familiar with the phrase and Descartes' Meditations on First Philosophy having studied it in graduate school.) This article and another I looked at (An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding) appear to me to be more WP:OR than anything else. I brought this up at the second article here and at WikiProject_Philosophy here and the only response was from Blue_Mist_1 (thank you):

Unfortunately, many of the very best philosophy pages lack Wikipedia acceptable references. It is what it is. It takes scarce expertise and time to make corrections, then the pages need to be protected against well meaning but ignorant editors and just plain vandalism. ~~ BlueMist (talk) 21:28, 20 November 2015 (UTC)
If this happened on the GMO pages, all h*ll would break lose. LOL. Do you have any thoughts on this issue and if we can do something about it? --David Tornheim (talk) 02:22, 27 February 2016 (UTC)
Just try to dedicate some time every week to find sources to fill the page with published opinions, and perhaps keep those pages on a to-do list as a reminder to yourself. -Wikid77 (talk) 16:36, 27 February 2016 (UTC)

The Plato section of those who preceded him in the cogito ergo sum section seems off[edit]

I think the attribution of Plato as preceding Descarte in his cogito formulation is wrong and should be removed. The order is wrong, for in Plato it is the sensibleness of the external world which indicates there is something which is sensing, and this makes absolute sense given Plato's epistemology being tied to his ontology of the forms. However, in denying Platonism as Descarte did his epistemology starts with doubting the sensibleness of the external world, and it was this very doubting with caused him to retreat to the formulation of the cogito as being the stable existent internal subject. In short, Plato is an inverse Descartes and does not precede him. In Plato the external illuminates, while in Descarte it is the internal. My guess is Plato would have though Descartes extremely misguided. In fact, Catherine Pickstock in her work "After Writing" convincingly ties Descartes epistemology to the Sophism of Plato's opponents and lays out in some detail how Platonic and Descartian epistemology and ontology are diametrically opposed."I think therefore I am", it can be said, is a direct refusal of Plato's epistemology, not indebted to it.Jgayaldo (talk) 20:27, 8 December 2016 (UTC)
Your raising this issue prompts broader review of the Predecessors section in that, up to discussion of Adi Shankar, the focus is on the literal cogito rather than Descartes's intent as captured by Thomas in the dubito (see the intro and Other forms sections). Perhaps the preceding 'predecessors' shouldn't be presented so much as earlier claimants but rather as referents for contrast? humanengr (talk) 12:03, 12 February 2017 (UTC)

Criticism section is too long[edit]

Philosophical articles and articles in similar topics often have much 'critique', meaning disagreeing response from others in the field, but this one is ridiculous. The criticism section shouldn't be half of the article. It makes the statement look like it has been debunked into oblivion when in reality it's still an important concept in philosophy. I'm going to cut a lot of this section per WP:UNDUE. Some of the criticism isn't even criticism; as noted above, Heidegger says the statement could be shortened and is a bit awkwardly formed, not that it's wrong. Some of the others very generally criticize the concept, not the statement. I'll remove the sort of overview thing because the only criticism of things like these should be addressed as criticism from others in the field. It shouldn't be a compressed collection of individual criticisms. Prinsgezinde (talk) 11:53, 9 January 2018 (UTC)
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