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Arguments Against the Premise "I think, therefore I am"?  Since "Discourse on...

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unwritten | eNotes Newbie

Posted July 28, 2008 at 7:40 AM via web

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Arguments Against the Premise "I think, therefore I am"?  

Since "Discourse on Method", have there been any critiques or arguments against the premise "I think, therefore I am"?  Who made them?

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sullymonster | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted July 28, 2008 at 12:48 PM (Answer #2)

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There have been many discounters of Rene Descartes philosophical idea, but none quite so well published as Friedrich Nietzsche.  He broke down his argument against the Cogito into a series of assumptions that would have to be made before one could accept the statement ("I think, therefore I am") as true.  Here are the basics:

(1) that it is I who thinks;

 

(2) that there must necessarily be something that thinks;

 

(3) that thinking is an activity and operation on the part of a being that it assumed to be a cause;

 

(4) that there is an "ego" (meaning that there is such a thing as an "I")

 

(5) that it is already determined what is to be designated by thinking--that I know what thinking is.

There argument is this:  for a statement to be true, it must be free of assumptions.  This one is full of assumptions, and therefore can not eliminate doubt.Bernard Williams, a 20th century British philosopher, also argued against the Cogito.  He suggested that no third person entity would be able to prove that "I think".  Because the thinking is personal, it can not be verified.  Therefore, the statement "I think" is still based on individual perception and lacks substantiation.
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amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted July 30, 2008 at 3:30 AM (Answer #3)

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Fascinating!  I will have to look this up and bring this into my discussions in drama about why characters on stage must speak aloud their "thoughts" or have a voice-over to relay those thoughts to the audience.  This philosophy is something I have never truly jumped into, but I may need to wade in and try it out.  Thanks, Sullymonster!

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earthairfirewater | eNotes Newbie

Posted November 15, 2011 at 3:45 AM (Answer #4)

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There have been many discounters of Rene Descartes philosophical idea, but none quite so well published as Friedrich Nietzsche.  He broke down his argument against the Cogito into a series of assumptions that would have to be made before one could accept the statement ("I think, therefore I am") as true.  Here are the basics:

(1) that it is I who thinks;

 

(2) that there must necessarily be something that thinks;

 

(3) that thinking is an activity and operation on the part of a being that it assumed to be a cause;

 

(4) that there is an "ego" (meaning that there is such a thing as an "I")

 

(5) that it is already determined what is to be designated by thinking--that I know what thinking is.

There argument is this:  for a statement to be true, it must be free of assumptions.  This one is full of assumptions, and therefore can not eliminate doubt.Bernard Williams, a 20th century British philosopher, also argued against the Cogito.  He suggested that no third person entity would be able to prove that "I think".  Because the thinking is personal, it can not be verified.  Therefore, the statement "I think" is still based on individual perception and lacks substantiation.

@Sullymonster Could you please rephrase the third point so that It's easier to understandand. Also 2 and 4 seem the same. E.g '2.) That there must necessarily be something that thinks' Wouldn't that be the first person/ego or "I" the same as mentioned in point 4? I'm not sure why or how these arguments against Descartes are valid.

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