Cogito – thoughts on what we are

Cogito ergo sum – I think, therefore I am. The proposition by Descartes is especially of importance when running at -10 degrees temperature, without jacket, without hat, without gloves, just your body and your mind and the power of the sun and almost a meter of snow covering the marshes. The proposition is usually explained as a proof of existence by thinking: you can doubt nearly anything, the only thing you can’t doubt is that you exist.

However, while running, and the sun and the coldness ‘are’ (although nothing demonstrates its existence as relative as does the coldness), I discovered that this proposition is also a statement about what you could call ‘the soul’ or ‘the person I’, as you could also interpret Cogito ergo sum as ‘I am my thinking’, so as the thinking stops, I am not anymore.

For example, one could also say: the wind blows, so the wind is. Also this is true, because the blowing is what defines the wind. Surely the wind does not think, but that does not mean that the wind cannot be. Only, the wind isn´t me. If Descartes would have written: I think, therefore I am; the wind blows, therefore it is; the light shines, etc. – if he would have constructed his proposition thus in a wider context, it would be clear that he defines the ‘self’, or, if you like, the ‘soul’, as the ‘thinking’. My body is merely the material requisite to be meAs the body dies, the brains do not function, the ability to think is forever lost and thus the soul ceases to be.

The being, though, does not necessarily vanish when the body dies. For instance, the idea, or the concept of the person (his soul) can persist in the third person. Mozart, for instance, still exists in the third person, as do many famous people from the past, who left there footprints. Even people who have not existed in the reality can actually exist in the third person, as their (fictive) existence may have impact on our thinking, just as real persons of the past may do. Thus, although I am an atheïst, I must admit that God exists, at least in the third person, as the idea of Him exists and has major influence on peoples thinking and doing, but it does not imply that he also exists in the first person.

The concept can also be implied to the animal: the further emotions and higher thinking are developed in an animal, the more we regard it as an animal with (bit of) a soul. Dogs (especially those with long hair and sad eyes) are of course the philosophers among animals, they surely have to some extend a sort of soul, cats are bipolar beings, full of affection, they may have a soul too, and also elephants, horses, cows and reindeer, but not the snake or the fish (not even the goldfish, they are simply too simple), nor birds – not even the parrot, although it can learn to say ‘cogito ergo sum‘ if one bothers to teach him those words.

Cogito ergo sum not only tells me ‘what’ I am, but also ‘when’ I am: I am when I think. When we sleep, when we are severely drunk or in other conditions in which the consciousness is impaired, we are in a lower degree.

These are the things that kept my body warm while running, today. As often before, I can feel that during the running my consciousness expands, and thus, while running, I am in a more vigorous way, my existence intensifies.


(Descartes lived most of his life in Amsterdam, not in Posio).

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