"I think, therefore I am" - How does "I" establish "I" before "I" can "think"?



The famous Cogito ergo sum opens with "I" can think, therefore "I" am. How does "I" establish "I" before "I" can "think"?

in other words how did "I" establish "I" before it could think in the first place

I believe that this was due to bad articulation even though the quote is still valid, it seems that Cogito ergo sum assumed his existence before his thoughts.


Posted 2012-06-16T03:23:05.640

Reputation: 73

1You need to clarify your question and ask something specific. – pichael – 2012-06-16T06:29:22.817

2If this confuses you, you really ought to read Descartes's Meditations, the work in which the Cogito appears. It's short, and understanding the context of the quote will clear up most (if not all) of your confusion. – Michael Dorfman – 2012-06-16T10:19:37.010

2I couldn't figure out what the second sentence means. I thought I could, but then it dawned on me that I really am not entirely sure why you are confused, i.e., whether you are asking the common question of "why does thinking presuppose existence", vs. some strange problem you might have with starting with the premise "I think" (you seem to think that one is not allowed to do that). Needs some clarification there. – stoicfury – 2012-06-16T16:28:52.050


As the others, I'm unsure I understand the question, but it might be related to the controversy about whether Descartes is warranted to use "I think" as a premise, as opposed to "There is thinking". The Wikipedia entry on the Cogito has a short discussion of this (in the Criticisms section, paragraph beginning "Perhaps a more relevant contention...")

– Schiphol – 2012-06-20T16:52:06.637

Possible duplicate, http://philosophy.stackexchange.com/questions/70/could-cogito-ergo-sum-possibly-be-false

– smartcaveman – 2012-06-22T12:35:52.200



1) I think.
2) (hidden premise) "I think" explicitly states there is an "I" doing the thinking; indeed, the very concept of thinking itself seems to require an existing thinker
3) I am/exist.

So either way, it's a trivial, forgone conclusion because it was implied in the very first premise. The real debate lies with whether thinking requires existence, or rather, what are the minimal conditions of existence that need be satisfied for thinking.


Posted 2012-06-16T03:23:05.640

Reputation: 11 008

Maybe we could think "Something is thinking, therefore something exists", and, later, call this something "I". – The Student – 2013-05-31T20:24:38.987

Yes, it invokes the same idea: we naturally find it quite difficult to conceive of things capable of thinking which themselves don't exist. :) – stoicfury – 2013-06-01T00:21:06.517


The thought in question is articulated into language for our convenience, and language is sequential, with one thought appearing after with each other. Without language the entire thought is in itself a whole without parts, even if the translation into language shows a sequence which relies on logic that must be then in sequence. This prompts a question: is logic an artifact of language?

Mozibur Ullah

Posted 2012-06-16T03:23:05.640

Reputation: 1


I think therefore I am

is not a theorem in a deductive logic system. Rather it is an inescapable conclusion for a thinking being. Either you acknowledge that you think and that you are, or you deny it. But if your denial is correct, then there is no you to deny it and/or your denial is done without thought.

This is the way I thought of this Cartesian meditation when we studied it in school.


Posted 2012-06-16T03:23:05.640

Reputation: 201