Month: February 2015

I Think Therefore I Am – Descartes

Since I’ve been pondering Rene Descartes lately, and before reassigning him to the dusty storage bins of my mind, I would like to poke at his famous quote, “I think therefore I am”. Easily one of my favorites.

Descartes began his philosophy by doubting everything in order to figure out what he could know with absolute certainty.

Although he could be wrong about what he was thinking, it was undeniable that he was thinking.

Upon the recognition that “I Think”, Descartes concluded that “I Am”.

On the heels of believing in himself, Descartes asked, “What am I?”  His answer: A thinking thing (res cogitans) as opposed to a physical thing extended in three-dimensional space (res extensa).

So, based on this line of reasoning, Descartes knew that he existed, though he wasn’t sure if he had a body.

It’s a philosophical cliff-hanger; You’ll have to read his ‘Meditations’ to see how it ends.


Waking Up Early Killed Descartes

They say Waking up early never killed anyone, but that may not be true.

Rene Descartes never really had an actual job.

After college he traveled Europe, spending much of the time as a gentleman volunteer in the army, a rather cushy gig that required no actual combat.

He retired to the Netherlands in his thirties, but not for the pot and hookers as much as for peace and toleration.

He spent mornings in his bed, philosophizing a little and sleeping a lot.

Descartes enjoyed some successes as a philosopher, scientist, and mathematician. In fact, his works drew the attention of the powerful and the intelligent of his day.

One of these powerful admirers was Queen Christina of Sweden, who often invited him to join her court and instruct her in philosophy, and offer that he repeatedly declined calling Sweden “the land of ice and bears”.

In 1649 however, finding himself flat broke, he grudgingly accepted the queen’s offer.

Upon arriving, Descartes discovered that Queen Christina (who could stand barefoot in the snow) insisted on having her lessons at 5 AM.

Rising at this ungodly hour and trudging through the elements soon killed Descartes.

The formal cause of death was pneumonia, but we all know it was that early wakeup that did him in.