Descartes and the mind
The topic of the mind and how do we know has been around since the beginning of time.
It is one of those questions that will most likely never be answered. I mean, the mind itself is so perplexing that we are still learning stuff about it daily. One question that Descartes proposed was “how do we know?” we still are pondering this one today. We ask it almost every day, maybe not in that way but in some form or another. So honestly, how do we know?
Whenever Descartes started studying about the mind he denounced all of his previous opinions and started fresh. He first stated that “knowledge is seen as a building in which all the superstructure is resting on a foundation, and the building is only as strong as its foundation” (Palmer 55). He wasn’t trying to prove that all of his previous opinions were false but rather try to stay away from the things that he did not know whether or not they were true. This technique was known as the methodological doubt. It has a motto which states: Everything is to be doubted.
This required Descartes to doubt anything and everything that he was not for sure of. He was looking for something that could not be doubted at all, the foundation of knowledge. He first went at this a very rushed manner but then he realized that maybe he was going at it a little to fast. After slowing down he went back and looked at what he had already looked at and thought this: “But it may be that although the senses sometimes deceive us concerning other thing which are hardly perceptible, or very far away, there are yet many others to be met with as to which we cannot reasonably have any doubt, although we recognize them by their means. For example, there is the fact that I am here. How should I deny that these hands and body are mine?” (Meditations IV 166).
This is the point in which Descartes really started the question of “how do I know” he wasn’t even sure if he existed or if anything that he had ever been told was true or not. So he began to ponder on how to prove that he truly did exist. He finally came up with this: "Thought exists; it alone cannot be separated from me. I am; I exist – this is certain. But for how long? For as long as I am thinking; for perhaps it could also come to pass that if I were to cease all thinking I would then utterly cease to exist. At this time I admit nothing that is not necessarily true. I am therefore precisely nothing but a thinking thing; that is a mind, or intellect, or understanding, or reason – words of whose meanings I was previously ignorant. Yet I am a true thing and am truly existing; but what kind of thing? I have said it already: a thinking thing" (Meditation II 31).
So in proving that he existed he also proved who he was or who we are. We are “thinking things” things that can function as long as we think, but the moment that we stop thinking is the moment that we no longer exist....