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Reading 1984 my teacher simply asked at the end of the book for us to try to prove we...

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jtn777 | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted May 22, 2012 at 2:35 AM via web

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Reading 1984 my teacher simply asked at the end of the book for us to try to prove we exist. How can you prove that you exist?

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e-martin | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted May 22, 2012 at 1:49 PM (Answer #1)

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After the throrough brainwashing Winston receives in this novel, this question is sensible. Winston loses power over his own thinking which is like losing ownership of his existence and ownership of himself. 

Yet Winston, as a character, exists because with certainty because he is experiencing the events of the novel. He has a mind to be brainwashed. 

This type of proof of existence is drawn from the famous philosophical treatise of Rene Descartes, the French thinker and mathmatician. 

Descartes argued that there is no way to know with certainty that the world we live in is not illusion. Everything we see could be illusory. We could really be brains in a bathtub being stimulated by electrical impulses a la The Matrix. However one thing is certain. The mind that asks the question, "Do I exist?" must, by necessity exist. 

Cogito Ergo Sum. I think therefore I am. 

The question of existence, in your mind, would not be there if there was no "you" there, no mind to formulate the question. Even if the question is senseless and also illusory, inspired by random electrical impulses, there is still a mind present to experience the occurance of the question. 

 One cannot doubt one’s existence, Descartes reasoned, without existing while one doubts.

We know we exist because we have experiences. The act of experience is a sure sign of existence. 


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