“I think, therefore I am” (Cogito ergo sum) is one of the most famous phrases of the French philosopher René Descartes, which appears in his work Discourse of the Method (1637).
This sentence has become one of the most famous in the history of philosophy and represents the beginning of modern rationalism. But what is its meaning, and where does Descartes’ sentence come from?
I Think, Therefore I Am (Cogito Ergo Sum) Meaning
The phrase “I think, therefore I am” comes from the French “Je pense, donc je suis“. It was later translated into Latin as “Cogito, ergo sum“.
Beyond the literal translation, this sentence turns out to be a self-evident truth and the first principle of knowledge. According to descartes, the only thing that cannot be doubted is precisely that we doubt. And, therefore, if I doubt, my thought exists, and so do I.
Origin and Explanation
To understand the meaning of the sentence “I think, therefore I am”, one must refer to its context and to René Descartes.
With his thinking, the philosopher opens the way to rationalism and the origin of modern philosophy. Descartes was a wandering man who tried to gain new knowledge and establish the foundations of philosophical knowledge, leaving behind old ideas based on tradition or experience. For him, reason alone can give us certain knowledge. We must not rely on our senses.
Descartes believed, however, that in philosophy, as in the sciences, such as mathematics, there could be a method for arriving at certainties.
In a sense, he was trying to make philosophy an organized science that goes from the simple to the complex. In this sense, philosophical reflection could be something like mathematical demonstration. To this end, he established four rules:
- Clarity and proof
- Division or analysis
- Enumeration or revision
The answer to the question who was the philosopher known for the principle I think, therefore I am? is: French philosopher René Descartes.
- Recommended content: Plato’s Allegory of the Cave: Summary.
René Descartes Facts:
- René Descartes was born on March 31 in March 31, 1596, La Haye, Touraine, France
- In 1596 He studied at the Jesuit college of La Flèche
- He studied Law and Medicine
- He enlisted in the army to participate in the Thirty Years’ War
- Recommended content: What is the meaning of cognition and what do we know about it