‘I think, therefore I am’

I think, therefore I am,' is a self-affirming term proposed by one of France's leading philosophers to describe the precept of reasoning and how it might be utilized to eradicate doubt. According to René Descartes, the mind and body are two different beings that require each other to exist. The mind gives sense to the body, while the body executes the mind's directives and gives it purpose (Descartes, 1988). Knowing that the power of reason is as important as life itself is critical, because the body loses purpose when the mind is missing, and vice versa. The mind believes what it is taught and what it has experienced. Descartes explains that because the mind believes what it is fed to be true when awake, the illusions or dreams that occur during the subconscious state of the mid should also be regarded as true. He further elaborates that there is no certainty when it comes to the conscious and subconscious mind because in both states of the mind the mind is absorbed into information that is not verified. According to Descartes when a person speaks in the first person tone they are sure of what they say despite of its truth being questionable. His conclusion is drawn from the fact that his conscious mind is the same as his subconscious mind because the presentations in the mind while awake are the same during sleep time (Descartes, 1988). The first person expression particularly the word ‘I’ shows that the person is convinced of what they believe in regardless of public opinion. From the philosopher’s point of view, his existence cannot be questioned because he has convinced himself that he exists as he states ‘I think, therefore I am’. The statement shows that because he has thought that he exists therefore he does exist as the mind has the power to accept the truth as much as false perceptions. The validity of the concept does not count when the mind is convinced it would believe in a lie and live by it and vice versa. The manner in which an individual thinks of themselves and the environment around them is informed by their reasoning. The mind is a powerful tool whether in the conscious or subconscious state. Consciously or subconsciously accepting a principle or idea in the first person tone affirms that the individual has the power to convince themselves and a counter idea would not change their mind hence the statement ‘I think, therefore I am’.

Information presented to an individual can be influential in determining the logical approach of the person to happenings around them. Most of the time individuals receive information and utilize it by applying their own reasoning. This can be said of the statement ‘I think, therefore I am’ because it was based on information given that the thought of being was provoked. The mind perceives a situation and analyses it such that by the time it is spoken the person is certain that their position on the situation at hand is right. It is difficult to change the mind over the issue because the mind has processed their idea to be true and they are willing to defend their position on the issue (Levene, 2013). The mind is therefore a powerful tool that is used by individuals to develop their truths and disregards others despite their popularity in a given society. The manner in which an individual thinks defines who they are as the mind communicates to the body and they will act according to their decision. The mind is therefore responsible for the character of people. Once the mind is made up doubt cannot be expressed as it is impossible to doubt and believe at the same time. Doubt is inevitable when it comes to approaching issue with logic. Doubt questions the truth or false notion of ideas. As such it is crucial to know that external influence to the mind can only affect ones thinking to a level that they allow. Additionally, when an individual states their position from a first person tone they are expressing their conformation to an idea (Descartes, 1988). The mind cannot be deceived when it has perceived a concept to be factual. Since different people have different points of view, their perception will differ in terms of facts and false.

Descartes’ argument about the thought of being was based on his experience and understanding of life. He expresses that his view is not representative of the entire human race. That believing in the concept of life is a personal venture that one has to address from their understanding (Levene, 2013). When he declares ‘I think, therefore I am’ he asserts that it is an individual’s opinion that is not influenced by other lines of thought or biased based on the social dynamics. The mind is able to think and make decisions without prejudice as it exists as an entity. Thinking that an idea is feasible makes it believable and a course for meditation that eventually informs the decision made by an individual makes regarding believes (Descartes, 1988). The phrase stated by Descartes is informed by self-evidence where he declares in the first person that he exists because he thought he does. He declares in his conviction that his existence is necessary because he thought it was and he does not need supernatural forces to affirm his convictions. He has the power to decide whether or not he exists based on self-evidence and not belief in supernatural influence. In his works on knowledge and learning, the philosopher shows a tendency to embrace generalized doubt as a common factor when reasoning is centralized in a community. The doubt of one person influences the proposition of the entire society because it challenges the truth or false perception of an idea (Descartes, 1988). For this reason, he believes that an individual should rationalize an idea without influence from the society as many minds together generate generalized doubt. Descartes’ uses his knowledge in science and mathematics to establish ground for his belief that the mind has the power to decide and be sufficient in its convictions.

The expression ‘I’ in the phrase ‘I think, therefore I am’ holds the essence of the statement in that it represent one unit. It focuses on one person’s conviction and their thoughts that they declare as the foundation of what they believe to be true (Levene, 2013). From the expression it can be concluded that the philosopher avows that beings with the ability to think do exist. The proposition insists that an individual mind is able to make a decision without consulting as affirmed by the first person tone in the phrase by Descartes. Although it is true that the property of thinking is existent in beings with the prowess for it, it is vague to conclude that the expression ‘I’ refers to an individual that has convinced themselves of truth just because they thought a concept to be true (Descartes, 1988). Thinking is not the underlying determinant for existence of beings. The thought process of individuals is not the same and there capacity to process information and ascertain whether it is false or true with respect to the situation at hand. Descartes’ claim focuses on an independent approach to ideas that allows a person to reflect and meditate over issues without seeking advice from others. ‘I’ gives an implication of self-centered attitude towards the society which could be detrimental because of the difference in thinking levels of persons in the society (Levene, 2013). Descartes’ conclusion that ‘I think, therefore I am’ is derived from his experience of self-evaluation and meditation on his existence. His thinking gives him the right to believe that because he has the capacity to think and come to a conclusion his precept is valid and justified. This implies that his thinking does not need to be justified by other people but himself seeing as he is the source of the concept. His position on existence and the capacity to think and declare that he is a necessary being is based on self-evidence. He achieves his self-evidenced idea through meditation and comparison with his colleagues and that is the reason he chooses to express his conclusion in the first person tone to affirm that the declaration is his conviction.

Descartes’ ideology of thinking offers an opportunity for a society to evaluate itself from an individual point of view. Advantages associated with the phrase ‘I think, therefore I am’ include open minded approach to situations. Addressing issues as an individual creates an understanding that other people are also capable of looking into the same issue from a different perspective. It is therefore, prudent to be accepting of other people’s ideas and suggestions on the matter without imposing ones conclusions (Descartes, 1988). Descartes firmly insists that his declaration is based on self-evidence meaning that other individuals could have a different approach to the same issue he addressed hence open mindedness.

Self-evaluation and acceptance is another merit derived from the phrase ‘I think, therefore I am’. The phrase is a confirmation of being because an individual thinks they are worth being where they are in life (Levene, 2013). It also symbolizes acceptance of one’s strengths and short comings and being able to use them to self-evaluate and find their worth and why it is necessary for them to exist as purported by Descartes when he proclaims that it is necessary for him to exist because he is able to think by himself that he exists.

Sufficient decision making calls for thoughtfulness which is depicted in the phrase stated by Descartes in his writings of philosophy. ‘I think, therefore I am’ expresses the sufficiency in the power of thought which informs the decisions that an individual makes (Levene, 2013). Seeing as consultation is not needed the decision made is sufficient because the element of generalized doubt common with mass decision making is eliminated. Sufficient decision making is a crucial aspect that contributed to Descartes’ declaration.

On the flip side, the phrase ‘I think, therefore I am’ disregards communal approach to issues. It is disadvantageous to approach social or communal issues as an individual because such issues could be sensitive and lack of scrutiny from members of the society may lead to poor decision making (Levene, 2013). The community is made up of different individuals with different perceptions of how to handle communal issues leaving the decision making to one individual could affect the society negatively. Therefore, the first person tone of expression presented by Descartes is not applicable to communal settings.

Descartes’ assertion propels a Self-centered mindset that fails to recognize that team effort can be a quick solution to certain issues. He believes that being able to approach issues individually minimizes the chances for doubt. More so, from the statement it is clear that he disregards the possibility of being questioned and insists that his conclusions are justified because he is the initiator of the thought that confirms to him that he exists (Levene, 2013). He goes further to impose that his declaration is true for all beings with the capacity to think. This assertion shows that he considers his opinion on the subject matters to be fundamental hence, expressing a self –centered mindset.

In conclusion, ‘I think, therefore I am’ is a statement with layers that need to be uncovered in order to understand the deeper meaning that underlies the superficial meaning. Descartes uses his declaration to provoke a discussion on the power of thinking and how it influences the basic factors of life. The phrase expresses both advantages and disadvantages that could be applicable in different fields of life. Sufficiency in decision making, open minded approach to situations, self-evaluation and acceptance are some of the merits that can be borrowed from the statement by Descartes. The phrase has drawbacks that include self-centered approach to issues and disregard for communal contribution to problem solving tactics. The community today needs such philosophical phrase to trigger the power of thought in everyday life.

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Descartes, R. (1988). Descartes: Selected philosophical writings. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Levene, L. (2013). I think, therefore I am: All the philosophy you need to know. London: Michael O’Mara

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