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I think therefore I am

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    I think therefore I am

    This hallmark quote of philosophy by Rene Descartes has probably had the most lasting impact of all the works of philosophy I've read. The thought is concise and immediately thought provoking, however I've often noticed when brought up in isolation, without the surrounding context, it's often misinterpreted and that is in part a reason for making this thread. Some seem to attach a connotation to the quote as if it was intended for positive self-talk or a visualization mantra, I want to dispel these notions but highlight how it is relevant in a post-modern world or applicable to modern ideas such as The Simulation Hypothesis.

    I will not be referencing Descartes work directly throughout and kind of infusing my own spin as I want to take a more organic, modern and less formal approach to this thread but the work I am most familiar with where he proclaims the thought is in Meditations on First Philosophy. As he arrives at the thought, there are subsequent arguments he makes such as the existence of God and that reality is as it appears but I want to focus on the aspects leading up to the realization of the quote.

    Descartes is contemplating the nature of knowledge of the world. How is it that we know what we experience is actually real? Our perceptions are unreliable some times and completely distorted other times. Think of when you might have heard a sound such as a creaking sound that immediately triggered the thought of a person or animal being the cause of the sound, only after a few seconds to realize it's just a creaking floor board or a gust of wind moving an object from an open window. Or consider the visual of a shadow cast on the ground appearing as an autonomous figure, where upon surveying the origin of the cast shadow it turns out to be from an inanimate object. How about the coy deceptions of magic tricks or 3D technologies replicating reality so throughly to get our heart racing and our minds to be awe-struck. Enumerable examples such as these demonstrate there is a capacity to which our senses cannot be trusted and that they do not process reality appropriately.

    Let's look at another arena of our human experience, dreams. Here we spend a portion of our lives experiencing realms which don't necessarily have any consequence to our waking reality, realms where perceptions can be distorted to the point where many of the truths we understand of waking reality can be violated. We report flying, repeatedly dying, conversing with people who are nowhere remotely close to us in the waking world, living lives of our younger selves, often having a sense that these experiences have a real quality to them while experiencing them. So now, not only do we have precedence for our senses making miscalculations in the waking world but also entire distortions of our existence while asleep.

    As we examine our experience, we find there are more and more illusions which call into question our knowledge of the world. What is causing these illusions? Might there be some evil demon (or simulator for modernity) who has purposefully crafted an imaginary world? To implant in our minds the notion of an understanding of reality all the while twisting and distorting our perceptions to torment and haunt us with the inability to properly understand it? If that is the case, perhaps the distortions run even deeper. Perhaps even situations where it is thought my senses can be trusted they cannot. Might it be that the people around me that I encounter are also part of these illusions? I have a sense of being in a body and being able to control the body autonomously but might the body itself be an illusion? Perhaps the thing that 'I' am is not a human, perhaps I'm a brain in a vat in some laboratory being run through some machine to give the appearance of living a human life in a human body. So if the external world is potentially a complete fabrication, how is it possible to still maintain consistent conscious experience?

    I cannot be certain that my senses are reliable, I cannot be certain that the external world exists as it is, however I can be certain that on some level I experience consciousness. The form of which that presents itself as is not guaranteed to me but at the very least I am something that thinks. Therefore I exist as something that thinks.




    #2
    I cannot be certain that my senses are reliable, I cannot be certain that the external world exists as it is, however I can be certain that on some level I experience consciousness. The form of which that presents itself as is not guaranteed to me but at the very least I am something that thinks. Therefore I exist as something that thinks.
    Yup, I always acknowledged that's the essence of his famous sentence. Not that it is particularly good or bad that we exist/are, or can think about that. But there's something of us that ís', otherwise we couldn't contemplate stuff.

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      #3
      I drink, therefore, I am!

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        #4
        I studied this quote in school, so I'm aware of it's real meaning. What's the Simulation Hypothesis? Also, I'm confused by this thread. Did you already accomplish your goal in post 1 Or am I missing something?

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          #5
          Originally posted by Fundoo View Post
          I studied this quote in school, so I'm aware of it's real meaning. What's the Simulation Hypothesis? Also, I'm confused by this thread. Did you already accomplish your goal in post 1 Or am I missing something?
          Yes goal accomplished, I mentioned that's as far as I wanted to focus in the post.

          Simulation hypothesis is that we're not experiencing base reality and living in a computer simulation of sorts that's feeding our experience. Made nods to it with the simulator and brain in a vat parts.

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            #6
            this is nicely written

            i believe a much greater extent of ability to manipulate "reality" is possible than we currently know.

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            • Jessica
              Jessica commented
              Editing a comment
              Din Djarin amongst other things! Yes!

            • Din Djarin
              Din Djarin commented
              Editing a comment
              I can relate :P But although reality might be able to be manipulated, I'm not sure humans can or will ever. I agree the possibilities are likely there in theory

            • Jessica
              Jessica commented
              Editing a comment
              Din Djarin you could be correct, but only because the chances of long term survival for the species look so grim. given enough time, anything's possible!

            #7
            Originally posted by Audiogen View Post

            Yes goal accomplished, I mentioned that's as far as I wanted to focus in the post.

            Simulation hypothesis is that we're not experiencing base reality and living in a computer simulation of sorts that's feeding our experience. Made nods to it with the simulator and brain in a vat parts.
            Good. lol I mean, I was half expecting this loooong reply. ha! Not that that's necessarily bad, it's just my focus has been on my own writing and reading too much is too much lately. lol

            So Sim Hyp is like the Matrix? Maybe not.

            I think therefore I'm tired. :P

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              #8
              Originally posted by Fundoo View Post

              Good. lol I mean, I was half expecting this loooong reply. ha! Not that that's necessarily bad, it's just my focus has been on my own writing and reading too much is too much lately. lol

              So Sim Hyp is like the Matrix? Maybe not.

              I think therefore I'm tired. :P
              Yes, The Matrix is essentially The Simulation Hypothesis and while I don't recall it being explicitly mentioned, I always equated the humans in those liquid pods being representative of the brain in a vat thought experiment.

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                #9
                It's been 30 years since I took philosophy in college but I do remember we covered Descartes. If I remember correctly, his think=am phrase was to be the start of some logical argument proving...I forget what. Anyway, what I took away from it is that it is impossible to prove anything in the physical world—a statement I agree with and that is in agreement with science. Everything, including the certainty I have that I am typing these words, is in some sense a theory. Theorems only exist in math and geometry.

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                  #10
                  Originally posted by tumbling.dice View Post
                  If I remember correctly, his think=am phrase was to be the start of some logical argument proving...I forget what. Anyway, what I took away from it is that it is impossible to prove anything in the physical world
                  That is my take away as well, I think it's an example where the process in his propositions outshined his conclusions. And by conclusions, I'm not referring to the statement of the thread title but how he builds back up from this position of extreme skepticism to proclaim the world is not illusory.

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                    #11
                    Originally posted by tumbling.dice View Post
                    It's been 30 years since I took philosophy in college but I do remember we covered Descartes. If I remember correctly, his think=am phrase was to be the start of some logical argument proving...I forget what. Anyway, what I took away from it is that it is impossible to prove anything in the physical world—a statement I agree with and that is in agreement with science. Everything, including the certainty I have that I am typing these words, is in some sense a theory. Theorems only exist in math and geometry.
                    Originally posted by Audiogen View Post

                    That is my take away as well, I think it's an example where the process in his propositions outshined his conclusions. And by conclusions, I'm not referring to the statement of the thread title but how he builds back up from this position of extreme skepticism to proclaim the world is not illusory.
                    Woah! Now I'm confused again! Lol I thought therefore I am proves an individual's existence and if one being can exist, then another can.
                    But maybe you two are right in that what we sense (via taste, touch, sight...) is not necessarily what's real...according to this theory, right?

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                      #12
                      I'm sleepy therefor I'm going to bed. 😀

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                        #13

                        Originally posted by Fundoo View Post

                        Woah! Now I'm confused again! Lol I thought therefore I am proves an individual's existence and if one being can exist, then another can.
                        But maybe you two are right in that what we sense (via taste, touch, sight...) is not necessarily what's real...according to this theory, right?
                        Refer to this part of the OP again...

                        Originally posted by Audiogen View Post

                        Perhaps the thing that 'I' am is not a human, perhaps I'm a brain in a vat in some laboratory being run through some machine to give the appearance of living a human life in a human body.
                        If we are to accept the premise following our trail of skeptical assertions about the illusory nature of perceptions, how can I prove myself as a 'being' or embodied person over a brain in a vat?

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                          #14
                          I used a brain in a vat because it's commonly used in philosophy but if that example still suggests a sense of being as in "You are your brain" how about a holographic projection programmed with various algorithms that provide an illusion of a person experiencing a world.

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                          • Fun
                            Fun commented
                            Editing a comment
                            i think both work.

                          #15
                          Originally posted by Fundoo View Post



                          Woah! Now I'm confused again! Lol I thought therefore I am proves an individual's existence and if one being can exist, then another can.
                          But maybe you two are right in that what we sense (via taste, touch, sight...) is not necessarily what's real...according to this theory, right?
                          It proves that I am an existence that can think, nothing else. Not what I am or whether there are any others

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