Updated: Dec 14, 2021
"Wrong!" you quickly say! "The correct phrase is "I think; therefore I am."" Ah yes, the brilliantly constructed phrase by Renee Descartes, the man responsible for the foundation of geometry. This phrase is commonly referenced by many people across many fields. The assertion and its implications serve as the foundation for many modes of thinking and perceiving; it is the cornerstone of our paradigm.
A very arrogant and close minded paradigm.
'I think; therefore I am" came to Renee Descartes when he sat in his room, alone with his thoughts. He decided to deduce himself to his simplest end. He sat there in silence and heard nothing but his voice. The voice of his own reasoning and *light bulb moment* he deduced that this was his starting point. The voice of reason allowed him to perceive and understand. It was the reference point for his awareness and thus the natural conclusion: because I have the ability to think, I am thus able to exist.
A quick perspective change reveals how the statement "I think; therefore I am" is a false translation of Descartes' experience. According to Eastern philosophy, when one sits in a meditative and introspective state, you become increasingly aware of your thoughts. But that is not the starting point. You can actually go deeper and watch various thoughts go by. You can choose to hold onto a thought or let it go. To ignore it or explore it. We have the power to completely silence our thoughts, be one with our breath and simply breathe. Simply exist and realize "I am." Not as a thought but as an observer of thoughts. As an observer of experience. Thought is merely a translation of experience, NOT the starting point.
Our existence is not defined by our intelligence and our experience is not limited to our ability to reason, define and assign meaning to everything around us. "I am" is the starting point, the semi-colon is the bridge and thinking is the translation. One of many translations available.
I am ; therefore I think.
I am ; therefore I create.
I am ; therefore I swim.
I am ; therefore I exist.
"I am" is a fully formed thought. Nothing else is needed to support the meaning held within these two words. But it can be continued if the observer so chooses to think, to create, to swim. It is important to recognize the way in which we structure our words and our thoughts because they directly affect the way we exist in the world.
To invert "I am; therefore I think" is to assert that because we can THINK we are thus SUPERIOR to other forms of life that do not THINK. And the better we can THINK the more valid our existence is. The more important our experience is. Anything without the ability to think and reason cannot and does not exist.
Trees don't think, yet they exist. Planets don't think yet they exist. "I think ; therefore I am," while undeniably brilliant, is rooted in arrogance and perpetuates problematic assumptions that deem non-human beings as irrelevant. It segregates humans from other life forms and has embedded itself into the very fabric of human thought as the perfect justification for animal abuse. The perfect justification for polluting the planet. The perfect justification for just about any form of segregation and discrimination.
So next time you find yourself thinking alone in a room, ponder this. What does "I am" really mean and in what ways does "thought" alter the meaning?
This is an Æra Hope x N. writing collaboration.