Who am “I”? Essay
Descartes Rene was a French philosopher who lived between 1595 and 1650. He was among the initial modern time philosophers to put in serious effort in ending numerous doubts on the negative ideas raised against knowledge. Alongside his interests in ancient mathematics, Descartes had interests in body and mind interrelations. Over the years, his ideas on the interrelation between body and mind have been of great significance to philosophy. Initially, his journals were in French but scholars later used them and made translations for easy understanding for the current generation. The meditation concepts that he came up with were the starting point for modern day philosophy. In addition, he tore down the notion that knowledge drew attribution from mental senses but instead focused on logic and credibility. In so doing, he developed the justification as to why things existed through his six meditation concepts. The objective of this paper shall be to outline the second meditation and draw relevant meaning to Descartes definition of ‘I’ and ‘self’. Secondly, it will dwell on other definitions of the two nouns then also bring out my definition of the same to illustrate whether other things actually do exist. Lastly, it will explore the implications of my definition towards the existence of others and carefully examine Socrates view on my perception.
According to the second meditation of Descartes, the first step towards understanding ‘I’ and ‘self’ is through realization of the existence of an object or a being. Therefore, he starts by analyzing the two nouns that bring out his meaning. He gives the first as Cognoscere, which is a French word that means getting to know or discovering, or coming to a realization (Rene’ 9). The second word that he gives as part of the definition process is Cognitio that he refers to as the act of knowing because of the realization of the existence aspect. According to the second meditation of Descartes, the first step towards understanding ‘I’ and ‘self’ is through realization of the existence of an object or a being. Therefore, he starts by analyzing the two nouns that bring out his meaning. He gives the first as Cognoscere, which is a French word that means getting to know or discovering, or coming to a realization. The second word that he gives as part of the definition process is Cognitio that he refers to as the act of knowing because of the realization of the existence aspect. In essence, everything else exists beyond reasonable doubt mainly because he also exists at that particular time.
Other thinkers, scholars, and publishers refer to ‘I’ as the individual aspect of a writer or a speaker when claiming ownership or existence. In other words, it is the active state of an individual in the present form. The complexity has seen diverse understanding and critics from scholars. It is different to ‘me’ in the sense that the latter is a result of mingling with others to internalize the ‘self’ aspect. ‘I’ shows reference to ones ego while ‘self’ is the claim to ownership to something. Self can also be the distinctive features that one has over all others. For instance, it is the process of identifying with the traits of oneself.
However, my own understanding of ‘I’ would be that it is my own identity in terms of object possession. There are many other forms of identity, which includes personal names of an individual, but for me this word can also show reference to self. Predominantly, the ‘I’ factor is a symbol of individuality in that when I say, “I am alive” it means that for a fact I have acknowledged the fact of my existence. It is also a reference to self as people can only refer to an individual as ‘you’ and not ‘I’. More so, it is an introductory word used when one is trying to illustrate their names. In an example, a sentence starts with ‘I am’ then ‘so and so’. Therefore, the usage of any other word would be wrong in giving this description, as it would sound irrelevant and not understandable. In this regard, it is evident that other people are actually in existence because they refer to the individual because of their existence. Therefore, it will be inappropriate to say that I am the only person who exists because others can still see me. If one engages in a dialogue with other people then one cannot claim to be unseen because communication is two way. Living encompasses the ability to respond to nature and conversations in a sensible manner. This brings out the idea of when one lose their mind as they become disengaged to what is happening to the surrounding and therefore feel like no one else exists other than themselves. Hence, when you lose this balance and awareness we refer to it as insanity.
The idea of not being aware of our own existence would create disconnect between the living, as none will have regards for the other. It would mean that people are living in their own individual worlds, which will have no logic. As per my own interpretation of ‘I’, the ‘self’ helps us to understand our selves better before someone else can. If one does not acknowledge who they are first then, there would be no need to identify one to others. My definition depicts the ability for one to identify them in order to fit in to the surroundings. Ideally, human beings are social beings meaning that none can survive on their own. They need others for their ultimate experience about what life has to offer to them. In this regard, realizing one’s existence helps individuals to understand that other beings are also in existence. It helps create mutual respect and harmony between the livings as they both appreciate the presence of each other. In many cases, ‘self’ tends to be selfish, it helps bring out personal attributes that helps individuals to live harmoniously with their selves. For instance, attributes like self-awareness, self-control, self-reliant and a number of others help in shaping ones individual view of their lives. It helps them gain focus and they envision them as wanted by the society that they live in.
Moreover, in arguing that something is actually in existence a number of factors must be in mind in order for the argument to be factual (Almog3). For starters, one has to rule out that something ‘is not’ to show that it actually ‘is’. Essentially, if for example in a sentence like, “This cat is not dead” the clear meaning of this would be that it is alive. Therefore, the use of the ‘is not’ factor brings out the ideology that something actually ‘is’. Subsequently, by bringing out the opposite of the actual event then one expresses the true state of affairs. Hence, when one says, “She is not sitting down” then it clearly means that she is doing the opposite, which is standing. In accident setting, many tend to feel as though they are dead or paralyzed but this may not necessarily be the case as its cause may sometimes be the shock of the moment. In essence, tragic events tend to distort the appearance of things in that sense is regained afterwards hence regaining the true state of events. To others, being illogic or unreasonable is all a matter of choice and what they believe in. it is therefore hard to convince an individual to believe in what is sensible to you and might not be sensible to them.
On the contrary, arguing that something is unknown to an individual may mean that they are unaware of their existence thus they are not sure if it actually is or is not. Achieving is after a critical evaluation of the facts to arrive at the possible arguing of the statement. When one says that they do not know it means that unless they give substantial evidence to back a certain claim then they cannot change their stand. It helps them avoid a much non-deserved engagement in a conversation that would otherwise be pointless. Saying that they do not know does not necessarily mean that they are ignorant but it may mean that the statement may be untrue to them. In addition, by saying these words it is a conclusion that they have arrived at which the other individual might take to be the actual state of their affairs or not. They might choose to walk away ignoring what might the other party would want to say to change their perception on their knowledge. Alternatively, they may choose to stay and listen to the additional facts presented to them in order for them to change their minds concerning the same.
In this view, the proper analysis and critical reviewing of a situation before drawing a rigid conclusion helps in the exhaustion of the facts on the event. This will be beneficial because there will be little or no room for prejudicial arguments. As a result, what one may know may be unknown to another thus sharing brings down the gap between knowledge acquisition and ignorance. With this in mind, improvement on ‘self’ would be imminent knowledge wise making it better than it was initially. ‘I’ is a universal element that shows either inferiority or superiority depending on its context. The facts portrayed by ones’ statement are usually because of the awareness level that exists within one’s self. Others do not know them unless shared thus becoming they are very personal traits. Not knowing something may be detrimental to one’s personal development as it inhibits the knowledge level from expanding. On the contrary, it does not imply that one is foolish but it actually shows that they are eager to learn only if they show interest. However, if they do not show any interest then it is their own mistake, as they will not grow personally.
Socrates view of my definition would have little influence over what I choose to believe as my definition of self. In that to me, it is a symbol of identity other than name. To negate this statement, one may employ the use of ‘mine’ rather than ‘I’. This will be of little significance as it all depends with the statement’s context. Moreover, ‘mine’ cannot start a sentence but can be in the middle of a sentence. In comparison, it is correct to correct to say, “This car is mine” while when using “I” to bring out the same meaning I would say, “I am the owner of this car”. These two different statements have the same meaning. Hence, other people’s opinions may have no impact on my thinking, as it may be more or less the same. Evidently, what one decides to stick to should not easily sway to give in to what others tend to think is better suited. Hence, their judgments may be assumptions basing them on what they themselves may not know. Therefore, negating an individual’s reasoning with no concrete reason will not be fundamental.
In conclusion, Descartes’ second meditation gave modern day philosophy a great boost as it helped in the proper understanding of what the ‘I’ concept entails. Were it not for him, it would be hard to put the explanation in to words and in the end writing it down. His definition that we only need to be aware of ourselves before others can notice us has helped in psychological treatment of those who have lost their minds. The realization of one’s self also helps the mind in ascertaining what belongs to it and what does not. Ownership and identifying of what belongs to self became easier and less challenging. In summary, ‘self’ and ‘I’ have relatively the same meaning but a difference may emerge depending on their derogatory context. Finally, the validity of statements entirely depends on their ability to persuade others that they are actually true
Almog, Joseph. What Am I?: Descartes and the Mind-Body Problem. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2005. Print.
Cunning, David. Argument and Persuasion in Descartes’ Meditations. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010. Print.
Rene, Descartes’. Meditations on First Philosophy: with selections from the Objections and. Oxford: Oxford University Press.