Thursday, January 29, 2009

Cogito Ergo Sum


This article is written with a purpose to examine the difference between Cartesian philosophy which is dominant prevailing western thought vis a vis eastern system of non dualistc existence wherein self is seen as delusion.

Rene Descartes said Cogito Ergo Sum. I think therefore I am.He said that thought is always there and the fact that I doubt my existence itself proves I exist.Descartes concludes that he can be certain that he exists because he thinks. Friedrich Nietzsche criticized the phrase in that it presupposes that there is an "I", that there is such an activity as "thinking", and that "I" know what "thinking" is. He suggested a more appropriate phrase would be "it thinks." In other words the "I" in "I think" could be similar to the "It" in "It is raining."The Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard provided a critical response to the cogito. Kierkegaard argues that the cogito already pre-supposes the existence of "I", and therefore concluding with existence is logically trivial. Kierkegaard's argument can be made clearer if one extracts the premise "I think" into two further premises:

"x" thinks
I am that "x"
Therefore I think
Therefore I am

Where "x" is used as a placeholder in order to disambiguate the "I" from the thinking thing.[6]

Here, the cogito has already assumed the "I"'s existence as that which thinks. For Kierkegaard, Descartes is merely "developing the content of a concept", namely that the "I", which already exists, thinks.[7]

Kierkegaard argues that the value of the cogito is not its logical argument, but its psychological appeal: a thought must have something that exists to think the thought. It is psychologically difficult to think "I do not exist". But as Kierkegaard argues, the proper logical flow of argument is that existence is already assumed or pre-supposed in order for thinking to occur, not that existence is concluded from that thinking.[8]

In due course of time despite criticisms,the credo gained currency. Thus thinker is seperated from the thought giving rise to dualism.A little later perhaps materialism took it further by saying that all that matters is matter.Everything in life can be explained by matter and the material world is an independent existence .Independent of human perception.There is a tremendous implication of such a belief system which we shall see in a short while.

In contrast the eastern philosophy propounded that I am and therefore I think.Exactly opposite of Cogito Ergo Sum.The seer is seen, the observer is observed and the thinker is the thought.There is only witnessing and no witness.Advaita,buddhism,J.Krishnamurti`s thoughts all say the same.The terminology may differ such as soul,stream of consciousness or just being.Ground of existence is without any attributes and traits of independent attributes are imprinted on the existence by virtue of delusion.The way human brain works essentially is such that it identifies,classifies and recalls.hence in the process pseudo I ,or ego self or shadow self emerges which is mistaken as a real solid identity that descartes mistook as seperate I.Yes I is a self generation mechanism of brain.When there is uninvolved,unbiased,nonjudgemental witnessing the whole process is crystal clear and therein the self delusion is evident. Choiceless awareness shows the way of selfless self almost like abra cadabra and gone.Perceived Reality is not independent of perception.As the famous Zen Kaon goes, There is a noise in the forest where there is no living being.Does the sound exist or not.

There is a deep difference between Cartesian Dictim of Cogito... and nondualistic perception of existence.If cartesian I exists as a seperate entity then it has license to do everything in its self interest.To ensure its survival and continuity it can function anarchically.It is only to facilitate social living that law and order is established to enforce social contract.Morality is a function of mutual convenience and not an ethical necessity.It was Russel or was it Shaw who said imagine if everyone started throwing pototoes at each other on streets of London.Therfore Gentleman`s contract of not misbehaving.Otherwise there is a license to plunder nature or pollute environment to promote self interest.

On the contrary the eastern philosophy believed in ethical behaviour and code of conduct to avoid Karmic repercussions.Non dualism recognises that there is no independent solid self and what is perceived as independent self is a delusion.Hence there is no need to promote self interest at the expense of others .Every action,every reaction and every thought can further replicate reactions and hence need to be clipped as much as possible.Ethics is to avoid repercussions of Law of Karma and not a function of social contract.Perhaps the nearest western phlosophy came near to non dualism is when Sartre wrote about Being and nothingness.Here again he got it wrong.He needed to take it one step further as his nothingness meant nihilism where existence loses its meaning.Perhaps it is no- thingness.

Anger,envy,violence,conflict of interest,plundering of nature,discontent ,debauchery and pleasure pursuits are all a reflection of dualism helped amply by the the functioning of human brain.Step aside and there is simply I am and therefore I exists.

WESTERN Philosophy vs ORIENTAL CARTESIAN vs Hinduism/Zen/Jainism I Think : I am vs I am. I Think Objective Reality vs Holistic Approach Objects & events vs Energy Flow Logical Intellectual vs Mystical Experiential (Verbal) vs (Non Verbal) Consciousness with ego vs Consciousness beyond ego. Egolessness. Process is different from vs Processor doesn’t exist processor Process is all. Droplets are different from Ocean vs Droplets is ocean (Objective Reality) vs (holistic approach) Illusory from oriental point of view vs Escapism from Western view Redemption Day vs Reincarnation Source : Partly Fritzof Capra Uncommon Wisdom

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