I Think; Therefore I Am: Analysing Famous Statement By Descartes
Do humans have the ability to figure out whether the thoughts and experiences that they have lived through are voluntary and they wanted them to happen or are they involuntary because your brain has been removed from your body and placed in a vat of nutrients which is what is keeping your brain alive causing you to have the illusion that everything is perfectly normal. For Rene Descartes he believed that knowledge of eternal truths (mathematics and the epistemological and metaphysical foundations of the sciences) could be attained by reason alone, without the need for any sensory experience. Descartes held that some ideas (innate ideas) come from God where others ideas come from sensory experience as well as are created by the imagination. Whereas John Locke believed that all knowledge comes exclusively through experience. He argues that at birth our mind are a blank slate, that humans fill with ideas as they experience the world around then with the five senses. Locke defines knowledge as the connection and agreement, or disagreement and repugnancy, of the ideas humans form. With all the different views that there could be on the question that’s was presented is there a possibility for it be answered, with this being said let us take a moment to consider a place where Descartes and Locke get together to argue their thoughts on whether you are able to know if your brain-in-a-vat or not.
Descartes: As you may know one of the only things I believe is that I have the ability to doubt this leading to a phrase I come up with which is ‘Cogito ergo sum,’ (I think, therefore I am). With this phrase I was able to derive the rest of my philosophy and with that including in me believing in the existence of God. But I don’t really know what you believe in Locke ?
Locke: Well Descartes, I believe that from the day we are born our mind is a tabula rasa or a blank slate and that our knowledge does not extend beyond the scope of human ideas. Our ideas are limited by experience, and we are unable to experience everything that exists in the world there is just no way.
Descartes: Wait what ? How are we born with a blank slake we are born with eternal truths meaning we are able to know about mathematics and the epistemological and metaphysical foundations of the sciences without the prior need of any sensory experience.
Locke: You think we have prior knowledge to things that we haven’t even experienced. How is that even possible wouldn’t we have to go through it first so we can remember those factors.
Descartes: Well Locke we have innate ideas which means our minds are born with ideas/knowledge therefore our minds are not a blank slate that are giving to us by God, as well as others ideas that come from sensory experience and can be created by our imagination. So to answer your question yes it would be possible prior knowledge to things that we haven’t even experienced yet.
Locke: Where I too believe in God, I don’t believe he gave us innate ideas but that God gave us the capacity to reason and aid us in the search for truth. In that being said I don’t agree with you on that he put ideas and knowledge in our minds before hand. But that God created us in a natural aversion to misery and a desire for happiness. So with that being said how does one know they are not a brain in a vat and we are not just giving us the illusion that everything is perfectly normal and it’s not just electronic impulses traveling from the computer to the nerve endings.
Descartes: Well I believe that if we don’t consider yourself to be in a vat then we are not, let me explain what I mean by that. If I focus on the phases I think therefore I am, it helps get the point I want across with what I believe because if I think i’m not in control of my ideas and thoughts then i’m not and we they are just electronic impulses traveling from the computer to the nerve endings but if I do consider myself to control over my life and thoughts then I wouldnt allow myself to be put in a vat. Although I am curious to know what you think on this question.
Locke: I don’t think it would be possible for us to know if we are in a vat or not and if it is only electronic impulses traveling from the computer to the nerve endings because since we are born with a blank slake it would be hard for us to be able to defer what is an illusion that was made for us and what is something we chose to do because we don’t have any prior knowledge to any other experiences that we have had in our life.
Descartes: Since I believe that we are born with innate ideas we would be able to know if there was a difference between experiences we pick and experiences people pick for us because we are born with knowledge that God has given us. We also have ideas the are created by our imagination so how don’t we know that we didn’t chose to come up with experiences that could seem out of the ordinary or different.
Locke: Although it think it would be to hard for s to know we are in a vat God gave us the capacity to reason and aid us in the search for truth so if we happened to be put in that situation I believe he would provide us with clues to help us know what is truth and what is not. He created us in a natural aversion to misery and a desire for happiness so how don’t we know that for us being in the vat is our happiness.
Descartes: There are many ways I could talk to you about how I believe it would be possible for us to figure out if we were in a vat or not but there are many times in life where things won’t always be as they appear to be. Although we are born with ideas and thoughts when we get older and start mature we gain different experiences as we go through life, we also have the privilege to be have imagination and with that many of the thing we start to think about we will expect something but get another because imagination is not true it’s something we created in our minds and with that making it not always be as it appears to be.
Locke: We are born with no prior knowledge but as we get older we start to go through experiences that make out blank slake not blank anymore but starts to fill will information. The things that we may go through are going to be different for every person. Although people may go through similar experiences what we get from them is going and what we remember in our minds is going to differ from person to person. God wants us to be happy and created us for that but it may not always be as it appears to be because we were given the capacity of reason as well as he will be able to aid us in the search for truth we may think that something is one way when in reality it is another.
Descartes: Even though I don’t completely agree with all that you are saying Locke I did find it interesting how you explained your views and beliefs in the questions that we talks about today.
Locke: Same with you Descartes it was interesting to see how you explain your views and beliefs and the questions we had a discussion about.
Descartes: It was interesting to see how we could both believe in God but at the same time have completely different ideas on what he gave us, you believed that he gave us the capacity to reason and aid us in the search for truth where I believed he gave us innate ideas meaning our minds are born with ideas/knowledge.
Locke: Yes I completely agree with you it is interesting to see how we could both believe in God but have different views on him, even though that is the only thing we almost agreed on the others were polar opposites.
Descartes: Well it was nice talking to you and getting to hear a different view on the same topic. Thank you for not holding back on your beliefs Locke and actually telling me how you feel.
Locke: Thank you as well Descartes it also nice talking to you and hearing a different view and as well getting to see you not hold back on the way you belief and feel on the topic we talked about today.
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