Cogito ergo sum  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

"Cogito, ergo sum" (Latin: "I think, therefore I am"), sometimes misquoted as Dubito, ergo cogito, ergo sum (Latin: "I doubt, therefore I think, therefore I am"), is a philosophical statement used by René Descartes, which became a foundational element of Western philosophy. The simple meaning of the phrase is that if someone is wondering whether or not he exists, that is in and of itself proof that he does exist.

Descartes's original statement was "Je pense donc je suis," from his Discourse on Method (1637). He uses the Latin "Cogito ergo sum" in the later Principles of Philosophy (1644), Part 1, article 7: "Ac proinde hæc cognitio, ego cogito, ergo sum, est omnium prima & certissima, quæ cuilibet ordine philosophanti occurrat.", by which time it had become popularly known as 'the "Cogito Ergo Sum" argument'.

Predecessors

Although the idea expressed in Cogito ergo sum is widely attributed to Descartes, he was not the first to mention it. Plato spoke about the "knowledge of knowledge" (Greek νόησις νοήσεως - nóesis noéseos) and Aristotle explains the idea in full length:

But if life itself is good and pleasant (...) and if one who sees is conscious that he sees, one who hears that he hears, one who walks that he walks and similarly for all the other human activities there is a faculty that is conscious of their exercise, so that whenever we perceive, we are conscious that we perceive, and whenever we think, we are conscious that we think, and to be conscious that we are perceiving or thinking is to be conscious that we exist... (Nicomachean Ethics, 1170a25 ff.)

Augustine of Hippo in De Civitate Dei writes Si […] fallor, sum ("If I am mistaken, I am") (book XI, 26), and also anticipates modern refutations of the concept. Furthermore, in the Enchiridion Augustine attempts to refute skepticism by stating, "[B]y not positively affirming that they are alive, the skeptics ward off the appearance of error in themselves, yet they do make errors simply by showing themselves alive; one cannot err who is not alive. That we live is therefore not only true, but it is altogether certain as well" (Chapter 7 section 20). Another predecessor was Avicenna's "Floating Man" thought experiment on human self-awareness and self-consciousness.




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Cogito ergo sum" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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