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After reading 1984, I was asked by my teacher to prove I exist. How can I do so?

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jtn777 | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

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

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After reading 1984, I was asked by my teacher to prove I exist. How can I do so?

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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 thorough 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 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 mathematician. 

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 occurrence 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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