Simone or Descartes

Descartes said “I think, therefore I am.”. Simone Weil is quoted as saying: “I can, therefore I am.” Who is closer to the truth?

I would side with Simone. The expression “I am” suggests more than thought but the ability to actualize oneself, “I”, which is what “am” implies.

Do we really have the right to say “I am” if we are limited to our thought? I don’t believe so. What’s your opinion?

neither is correct.

sum ergo sum

I (any verb) assumes the existence of I to be preforming the action prescribed by the verb.

to reduce existence to function of language may lead to the ultimate truth of existence, but I doubt it…


They are both equally true. Both of them deduce the existence of something from the fact that something has a property. In the one case, that of thinking; in the other case, the property of being able to do something. But, nothing can think without existing, and nothing can do something without existing. The general rule is that if X has a property, then X exists (for any property, and for any X) In logic, it is called the rule of existential generalization.


Suppose a person says I practice piano so therefore I am a pianist, is this sound logic? I would say no. But isn’t this the same when a person says I think therefore I am? In other words, I am, is a completion of oneself that is more than thought just like a pianist is more than just initial practice.

Simone would agree:


But could you deduce that a glass ring is a diamond ring because they both glitter? Is thinking the wholeness or "amness"of man’s being?

There is an old Russian/Polish expression I am fond of that refers to the nature of our usual associative speculations as “pouring from the empty into the void.” In the objective sense everything in the universe is connected but our associative thought often begins with imagination and results in imagination so technically it has no objective existence. It doesn’t begin from anything objective nor does it result in such so it is an apparent process that spans the empty and the void.

So this raises the question fo me if what we call thinking is really human thought or just a non-existent caricature of it.

Simone understood well the deceptive power of imagination which is why I believe she wrote what she did.

I don’t know about Weil, but I am sure that existence is a presupposition of having properties. Otherwise, the joke about the preacher who tells his congregation that God is so powerful he needn’t even exist to perform His miracles, would not be a joke.


Let me put it this way, I have fewer problems with what Simone Weil said. But I’d still say I can therefore I can, I am because it’s simpler to presume I exist than even get into that whole mess.

Descartes’ argument fails every test I can think of, unfortunately.

Well it comes down to the nature of existance.

Does santa clause exist?

Santa does think when decideing who is naughty and nice. (On a completely unrealated note I wounder what norm he uses.)

Santa can go down a chimney.

Yet, most would say he still doesn’t exist.

I think determining existance is something much more elsuive and actually relative.

Santa Claus does not think anything, nor does he go down any chimneys. That’s because (you guessed it) there is no Santa Claus. (I hope I am not making you cry, I thought you knew!)

What is true, of course, is that there is a story that parents tell their little children to keep them nice and prevent them from being naughty. And, in that story, a fictional (mythical) character called “Santa Claus” is supposed to do all those things. It is like the story of “The Three Bears”. There was (is) no Goldilocks either.

The question, does “Santa Claus exist?” is easy to “determine”. It is the same thing as asking the question, “Is there anything (anyone) who is a jolly old elf; who lives at the North Pole; who owns reindeer; and who brings presents to good children on Christmas morning?” And the answer to that question is (I am afraid) no.

But Santa Claus does exist in the minds of children. So to a certain extent he does “exist”, just not physically. :slight_smile:


And this is precisely what occurs during the continual process of “I think therefore I am.” We create this imaginary"I", this opinion of ourselves that has no objective existence but is rationalized and sustained through thought.

Verifying “I” requires the ability to manifest itself. This requires being able or “can”. Imagining yourself is like imagining Santa Claus.

The question if you exist is also easy to determine. It requires the courage to verify if you “can” manifest your thoughts or if you live in continual contradiction without any central life governing “I”. Perhaps both Santa and your “I” concept are both imaginary.

Santa Claus is supposed to be a jolly old elf. No jolly old elf exists in anyone’s mind. He would be too big. Now, if you were to say that the thought or that the idea of Santa exists in the mind of children, I would agree with you. In fact, the thought or idea of Santa Claus even exists in my mind.

Just don’t mix up Santa Claus (who doesn’t exist) with the thought of Santa, which most certainly does exist.