Cogito, ergo sum. With one Cog, I am

descartes on fixed gear cycling

The other day, we discussed Kant; I apologise if you are still traumatised by the experience; I thought we could maybe look at skepticism and how it fits in around tracklocross. René Descartes is the person we will be looking at today and how he formulated “Cogito, ergo sum,” which is often translated as “I think, therefore I am,” but it really is “With one cog, I am.”

Originally Descartes wrote that famous maxim in French, but academics changed it to Latin in the hope they could summon a demon. Also why is Latin the universal language of demons? Anyway, what he actually said was, “je pense, donc je suis.” He said it French as more people spoke French than Latin, which made dear René the first sellout in philosophy.

It was also a misprint and what he actually said was, “je pédale, donc je suis.” I pedal, therefore I am. Quite simply put, René believed that if you coasted on a bike then you ceased to exist. As proud a philosophical statement as has ever been uttered, and thankfully the French didn’t give up there with an amazing philosophy of sport quote by Henri Desgrange, “Isn’t it better to triumph by the strength of your muscles than by the artifice of a derailer? We are getting soft; as for me, give me a fixed gear!”

Why would we cease to exist?

René is a bit of a genius, he is the reason we have Cartesian coordinates, without which we would be living in a 2D cartoon. Descartes also gave us five meditations, in the second one which he titled, “”The nature of the human mind, and how it is better known than the body,” is where the famous quote comes from. It is essentially a search for what is real, and to discard as false anything that has been tainted by doubt.

To understand the second meditation, we need to quickly delve back into the first meditation. The first meditation if read by itself can be seen as the foundations of modern skepticism, the style that Hume talked about in our previous philosophical dive. In it Descartes gives us the dream argument, there is still a bit of a philosophical argument, which sadly will never be pay per view mainstream entertainment, on what he meant here. I am going to plump for the universal school of thought, as it makes my points easier, the universal thought is that Descartes meant we live in a dream and we could never be truly awake. The whole world is created inside my head, great news if you are a narcissist.

What the dream argument is simply informing us is that our senses can’t truly be relied on to tell us the whole truth. We also have the fact here that more cerebral matters, such as mathematics, are more certain than for instance geography. We have to remove ourselves from our prejudices.

The argument Descartes created here is still up for debate, because simply how can we be sure without doubt about any idea. It is really hard to actually dismiss skepticism, even if no one truly believes in it. We now reach the second meditation, where Descartes plans to build on this skepticism.

Descartes now talks about what if his memory is faulty, what if what he sees is not truly there, something we can all empathise with. If our senses have faulty moments, then how can we ever trust them? Our only certainty is that certainty is not certain. We can’t then have senses, with no senses can’t feel our body.

If we have no senses and no body how can we exist? We sense the physical world, so the physical world can’t exist. If there is no physical world, that would then tend to imply that I also can’t exist, but here are my thoughts, even if it is only doubts on my existence. We have now reached our cogito point.

So after considering everything very thoroughly, I must finally conclude that this proposition, I am, I exist, is necessarily true whenever it is put forward by me or conceived in my mind.

Why the pedaling nonsense?

Simply because it is my blog and I can do as I feel. I am now going to grasp at the concept very teniously. When we are aware we are pedaling, which we must be as we are pedalling and without creating the thought of pedaling there can be no pedaling. When I am coasting, my mind is no longer thinking about pedaling. I can then no longer exist as my mind is not thinking about pedaling.

We have probably just gone back to our Kant article again.

3 thoughts on “Cogito, ergo sum. With one Cog, I am

  1. Hmmm. You’ve really got me pondering now. And even wondering about my existence. For example, I had a minor spill the other day, on a tight turn of a sand-coated path adjacent to a busy roadway. Embarrassing. But, if I had fallen in the forest and no one had seen or heard it, would it really have happened?

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