Monday, 30 April 2007

What's this pretentious wank of a title then?

Renee Descartes was both a drunken fart (according to Eric Idle, anyway) and a Christian philosopher. I don't have the time (or, to be perfectly frank, the comprehension) to go into why his Christianity was such a core part of his philosophy of dualism, but my rejection of it may become apparent.

Descarte's philosophy of dualism - the mind and the body are distinct, the brain and mind separate - has become a core belief of Western life, to the extent that the medical model of mental health had a hard time convincing people that biology might have anything to do with behaviour - witness the early success of Freud, whose psychoanalysis relied upon biology being, at least, irrelevant (sadly, when the medical model did triumph it forgot about the mind in its focus on the brain, and keeps putting pills into people whose life is going to continue to suck no matter how happy they become about it).

I have studied psychology but, more importantly, I work with people who have acquired neurological damage - a brain injury. And I have this to say about Cartesian Dualism: It's a load of bollocks. If alcohol does not convince you that the brain and the mind are inseparable, then the survivor of a bad stroke will.

I have therefore rearranged the full version of Descarte's famous quote "Dubito ergo cogito; cogito ergo sum", which translates as "I doubt, therefore I think; I think, therefore I am" into a dictum I can accept: "Sum ergo cogito; cogito ergo dubito" - I am, therefore I think; I think, therefore I doubt. To be human is to think. To think is to doubt - otherwise you're just parroting what you're told, and that's not thought at all.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

A hello from paris, I just tumbled upon your posting while searching about descartes.
"Sum ergo cogito; cogito ergo dubito" Reading again your statement, I think you agree with descartes. Human is an animal that think. When you nolonger think, you're no longer human. What happen to a brain-dead stroke victim? Do they think? We don't know the answer don't we?
What's interesting is that Descartes concluded that since you think (and doubt), you must exist, beyond the existence of your body (of which we're still uncertain).

Sorry to have popped-in, just can't help it.

Dubito said...

Yes, humans are animals that think, however equating "human" with "thinking" is a much trickier minefield than you let it out to be. A brain-dead body kept alive on respirators and pace-makers is still fertile, and is still homo-sapiens. We also don't know as much as we thought we did about the criteria for "brain-dead" or even persistent vegatative state. We know that thoughts are equated with neural activity, and we can map areas of the brain to areas of mental function. An absence of electrical activity in the brain indicates an absence of thought. What is still difficult is how to determine conscious thought.

Nor do I think that the existence of the body is uncertain, and I'd have loved to see you back up that assertion with references to who exactly still practices idealism to that degree.

Anonymous said...

I doubt your knowledge in philosophy...

مروان المعزوزي said...

Yes..I'm agree with you..and i'm very suprised to read your article because I just finished writing one like it..but It is in arabic langauge...Thank you DUBITO and I hope from you the best thaughts !! continue Mon ami :)

Anonymous said...

Dude Nietzsche came up with Sum Ergo Cogito first. Just so you know.

If you haven't read any Nietzsche then go pick up The Nietzsche Reader right away and check him out because you would love him. Actually heres a free copy:
http://thepiratebay.org/torrent/5000644/The_Nietzsche_Reader.PDF
Peace bro.

Anonymous said...

DUDE, Nietzsche was born nearly 400 years after Rene Descartes. Read your history DUDE.

Anonymous said...

I think you missed the point. Descartes was trying to prove the existence of God not that the mind and body are separate. Re-read his work.

Like your twist on it, though. Certainly we ARE and therefore we think and doubt.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous #2: I think Anonymous #1 was trying to say that the author of this blog entry didn't come up with "Sum ergo cogito."

Descartes --> Nietzsche --> Jonathan Hepburn

Anonymous said...

I think the confusion is based on the precept that we can compare medical common sense and philosophy. While I can use Ergo Congnito Sum as a Cornerstone of discussing our existence/ how we know what we know. Common sense or medical knowledge can make a real difference in our living reality.

Anonymous said...

I seriously question how many people doubt at all these days and certainly not to the point that their existence could be proven by it. Wonder what the latin is for I am therefore I accept or I accept therefore I am allowed to be. Lol.

Anonymous said...

I entirely disagree. Saying Sum Ergo Cogito is most definetly missing the point of Descartes.
Maybe you should just found a new school of philosophy and try to get published somewhere, but please, do not dirty Descartes' ideas.

Anonymous said...

What about the famous scientist Stephen Hawking is he an example dubito ergo cogito ergo sum

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