Friday, February 02, 2007

I Think Therefore I Exist, Or Do I?

One of the famous quotes in history is the "I think therefore I am" statement by Descartes. But is this statement true?! I think not! At least not objectively. In subjective theories, that assumes cognition at some point, this statement might be justified within that context.

I think therefore I exist, is a complex statement that can be reduced to three simpler statements:
  1. If it thinks then it exists
  2. I think
  3. I exist

This statement is in the logical deductive reasoning form:
  1. p => q
  2. p
  3. q

Here we have two premises (1) and (2), and one conclusion (3). In order to verify the claims of Descartes we have to inquire the validity of its premises. In this post, I will not discuss the first premise, but the second one.

Do Humans have the ability to think?! Some might argue positively... Descartes apparently supports this view. I disagree. Humans cannot think.

To think is to be creative. To think is to be free. Humans are neither creative nor free! We might think we are creative and free - This is the illusion that eluded even the most reputable philosophers. This view is influenced by my pessimistic incompatibilism views.

So how do we explain those illusions?! What most humans fail to see is that our consciousness is merely an advanced form of Artificial Intelligence. Actually, its more like Naturally-Implied Intelligence, but my point is, we are no better than an intelligent machine. If we consider things more deeply, we find that an intelligent machine is not much different from a non-intelligent one. So we're no better than any machine if we consider things at the low level. I already discussed this perspective before. Our survival depends on being self-protective. This recognition of self is the source of our illusion to think and existence. We would not protect what does not exist. If we acknowledge our inexistence, then our survival will be endangered. Nature has its own ways of Natural Selection and survival of the fittest... Its ironical that an illusion is what gives us our strength, but well.. Thats how things work!

So far, I have considered "thinking" in a very strict notion. A notion that requires creativity and freewill. To ease things up, one can consider a less strict concept of thinking. Such model would be even more tolerant, that it might even include machines as being able to think. Personally, I got no problem with this view. If a machine was so sophisticated in a way that is comparable to humans, I guess we have to acknowledge it as a being of worthy existence. If we adopt this view, maybe few years later, we will see "Machine Rights" activists!! Seriously!

Back to the fist premise... Does ability to think imply existence?! I will leave this question open for the time being...


Qwaider قويدر said...

I think you got a side effect of the idea not the core of the idea.
I think, therefore I realize my existence. In other words. I discovered by thinking that I am here!
If I didn't think, I wouldn't have come to this conclusion. Does this mean the things don't exist if they don't think? No, they still exist, but they're not aware of this existence, in other words existing and not existing means nothing to them

Devil's Mind said...

Does this mean the things don't exist if they don't think? No - Sure not. I agree. I never said otherwise!!

p => q , the implication follows p.
~q => ~p is a valid statement.
but ~p => ~q is invalid. This is the simplest laws of logic :)

This means that, if we consider "If it thinks then it exists" to be true, then "if it does not exist then it does not think" is also true... Does this transformation makes things clearer?! I guess it does.

Qwaider قويدر said...

No no .. if it thinks and is intellegent enough it realizes that it exists!
LOL @ Humans cant think! :)

Devil's Mind said...

I am not sure if we exist or not. But thats not the question at hand.

We might to some extent give some reason to support the theory that we exist. What amazes me is how he reached the conclusion of existence from the alleged property of thinking.

Asserting existence is much simpler than asserting ability to think. Why would he use a complex property to justify a simple property.

Its like saying, 1+1=2 because humans have a liver. 1+1=2 is a much simpler statement, so it doesn't make sense to justify it using a complex statement like humans have a liver.

Anonymous said...

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-Troy Z

Q said...

"Why would he use a complex property to justify a simple property."... It's quite illogical to justify a simple property with a complex one. This makes you wonder if the simple property is as simple as we think, or if the complex is as complex as we think. Existence and thinking have many layers, some simpler than others. I think it comes down to how much you narrow or broaden the way you look at it....

Devil's Mind said...

Thank you Troy Z for the links... They are very interesting and relevant to the topic.

I recommend all readers check the links provided by Troy Z.

Q, if you happen not to know, Descartes' argument about existence was about the Zombie phenomena. He was trying to answer the question of whether he was a Zombie or not. His conclusion was that he cannot be sure if others are Zombies, because he cannot be sure that they think. On the other hand, he was (unjustifiably?) sure that he himself could think, and therefore he was not a Zombie.

Sure, it depends on how much you broaden or limit the view of existence, thinking, and Zombies..

When I talked about "Machine Rights" I meant to joke that I think humans are also Zombies.

You might take a more broad view of existence, such as materialistic existence. I still am not sure that we exist even in materialistic terms.

I wouldn't be surprised to learn that our whole universe is nothing but an illusion of existence rather than an actual existence.

Q said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Q said...

I was reading an article about Descartes' statement, and it sheds a different light on the matter you're discussing. I found the common mistake in the quote pointed out in the section "History of the Quotation" to be quite interesting....

Devil's Mind said...

Thank you Q. It is funny how much people repeat the saying "I think therefore I am" without doubting its validity.

I guess I was mistaken to put words in Descartes mouth that he has not said.

Nonetheless, this shows how stupid people can repeat a saying as being true without actually understanding its implications.

Okay, this pretty much resolves the problem of the first premise, which is the implication of thought and existence. But still, the second premise is still challenged, because he still (in my opinion) isn't justified to believe that he actually thinks.

The Observer said...

You make my mind stop. Like in a shocking realization (new idea)where I need to absorb in order to understand.

I have never took this quote literally, because its falsness is clear the minute you hear it. Unless you have a different definiation of existance rather than the one being in this universe.

I used to think of it as of Descartes definition of existance is being able to think. It is more like an encouragement for people to think rather than a logical statement.

I do find your argument that humans cannot think interesting. I still can't see its validity. Maybe you can elborate more about it here or in a future post.

Can anyone think without freedom? I think yes. You can think in a linear way. It won't be as creative as with freedom, but you can think in a specific direction.

Now, what about the illusional existance of us? This gone phylisophical. It is good to address this as well. I like that...

Devil's Mind said...

I do find your argument that humans cannot think interesting. I still can't see its validity. Maybe you can elborate more about it here or in a future post.

Here we have to agree on the meaning of words. Would u consider a computer playing chess to be "thinking"?!

In the use of the word "thinking" in this post, I use the convention that the computer is NOT thinking, but rather using a systematic process. It is not being creative, nor free. It is just following a defined set of instructions. This isn't really thinking!

If you agree to the above meaning for the verb "to think", then I am arguing that humans also cannot think because they too do follow a definite set of instructions, just like the computer. This might not seem obvious to many people, but it is so to me!!

On the other hand, if you would prefer to use the convention that the computer is actually thinking, then we can say that humans can think as well... All I am saying is, other intelligent processes are similar to the intelligent processes found in the computer at the low level.

Devil's Mind said...

Now, what about the illusional existance of us? This gone phylisophical. It is good to address this as well. I like that... - Sometimes u look at a photo and feel the depth in that photo. A photo although on a 2D plane, yet it can give the illusion of the 3rd dimension. This third dimension is non-existent in the photo, yet is represented by it.

This is the closest analogy I can provide to explain to you how something might be presented without actually existing.

The Observer said...

I understand the analogy, and can tell where is it related to the idea. But in this case the photo does give illusion for us. In our world, who do we give illusion to? God?

I mean the illusion of the photo exists in our heads (as chemicals). If our existance is illusional, then we exist as well.

Devil's Mind said...

who do we give illusion to? God? - Possibly Nothingness.

I really cannot argue more here. I said that "I am not sure that we exist"... The double emphasis is on "not sure"...

If I had a clear view I wouldn't be unsure. But I find that somethings might seem so obvious, yet are not existent... So this raises my doubt!

The Observer said...

I understand :)