“I Think, Therefore I Am.” What does this famous quote from René Descartes mean?
Does it mean thinking is a precursor to being, or does it mean that the thought process itself is what proves to us our existence? I have heard some people interpret this as meaning that you only exist if you think. To me, Descartes seemed to be saying that we can not be absolutely certain that anything exists, except for the observer (ourselves) that perceives it.
What is a thought?
Let’s look at some dictionary definitions:
- an individual act or product of thinking
- something (such as an opinion or belief) in the mind
- the action or process of thinking
Ok, what then, is thinking?
- the action of using one’s mind to produce thoughts
- to form or have in the mind
- to form a mental picture of
Can there be “being” without thought?
I would say yes – that when deep in meditation there are times when one can be pure consciousness without experiencing any thoughts. It might be only for an instant before the thought process starts in again, but this is actually the whole point of some forms of meditation.
I often experience thinking as the inner monologue (and sometimes dialog when I’m arguing with myself) that is constantly going on in my mind, but does thought require language?
It appears to me that not all thought requires language, but a lot does:
For example, one doesn’t need language to picture an object in mind, have an “impression”, or perform some well-known actions (throw a ball).
For more complex thoughts, yes, I would say that language is required, and that it’s necessary for understanding the thoughts of others.
What do you think?