Notes on “I think, therefore I am”

Original statement: The phrase originally appeared in French as je pense, donc je suis in Discourse on the Method by René Descartes.

Latin translation: Cogito, ergo sum. It appeared in Latin in his later Principles of Philosophy

From Wikipedia: Later translated into English as “I think, therefore I am” , so as to reach a wider audience than Latin would have allowed.

As Descartes explained it, “we cannot doubt of our existence while we doubt.”

A fuller version, articulated by Antoine Léonard Thomas, aptly captures Descartes’s intent: dubito, ergo cogito, ergo sum (“I doubt, therefore I think, therefore I am”)

Descartes’s statement became a fundamental element of Western philosophy, as it purported to provide a certain foundation for knowledge in the face of radical doubt. While other knowledge could be a figment of imagination, deception, or mistake, Descartes asserted that the very act of doubting one’s own existence served—at minimum—as proof of the reality of one’s own mind; there must be a thinking entity—in this case the self—for there to be a thought.

One common critique of the dictum is that it presupposes that there is an “I” which must be doing the thinking. According to this line of criticism, the most that Descartes was entitled to say was that “thinking is occurring”, not that “I am thinking”.

View 1:
Essentially, thought cannot end up being the sole provable thing in existence since it has requirements for its own existence.

View 2:
St. Augustine was one of the early proponents of similar thinking. Parmenides 5th Century BC also said something similar.

View 3:
Saiva Siddhantha identifies mind and thoughts as perishing with the body and hence these cannot be associated with the identity of I. The soul is believed to be more subtle than the mind. While energies associated with mental activity can be measured, the soul itself cannot be traced by outside methods.

Hell is Other People

Possible meanings for the phrase “Hell is Other People”

“Hell Is Other People”

Author: Jean Paul Sartre
Novel: No Exit

Common interpretation:
The quote has been hailed as the slogan for introverts and a way to explain any dissatisfaction we encounter with family members, strangers on public transport and our time-stealing co-workers.

However, it cannot be literally true that other people are hellish. Alternate explanations exist based on the context of the novel which has three characters trapped in a room together. Each character wants to escape the watchful gaze of the others. But none can escape because because they’re dead and the room is hell.

Thus, being unable to escape from the gaze of other people who can potentially judge you and assign tags can be a hellish experience.

Alternate Explanation 1:

Without others, I was someone free.
When someone comes along, the new person restricts me with their own idea of what I am.

Alternate Explanation 2:

Once we die, we’re permanently trapped in other people’s interpretations of us.
See also: “Death makes angels of us”

When we are alive we can still do somethings to fix. But once we’re dead, we can no longer speak for our actions.
See also: “History is written by victors”