I think because I am not

Descartes’ “I think, therefore I am” (“je pense, donc je suis”; “cogito, ergo sum”) is probably the most famous sentence ever written by a philosopher. Of course he meant it as a proof of his existence, but it’s very easy to adapt it to become a statement about the goal or rationale of human existence: it was also famously adapted in a song to become “I think, therefore I am a rhubarb tart” (I would be indebted to anyone who could provide a Latin translation of that). The poem that follows started as a kind of arabesque around the subject.

 

I THINK BECAUSE I AM NOT

 

“I think because I am not,” the wise man said,

“If I were fully in the material world,

The tease of rain, the anger of a rock,

The taste of apples and of fertile woman

Would leave no room for a philosophy

And doubt would be a slipping on the scree.”

 

“I think, therefore I am,” the lecturer said.

“This itch of questioning and of making patterns

Says who I am, and if I plant it here

And simply give it water and tough skin

To give the grazing deer a nasty bruise,

There is no way the human spirit can lose.”

 

I think because I cross a borderland

Where shadows may be real and real things vanish

As thought and dream and shivering in my scalp

Circle and blend like warriors or mating cats

And somehow show a way I should not tread

According to the mighty and the dead.

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3 Comments

  1. Of course Descartes was wrong. His epistemology was built on doubt, not on certainty. “I doubt, therefore I am.”

    I like the poem though 🙂

    Reply
  2. I doubt if I am, therefore I am? Convincing. But then I wouldn’t be doubting…

    Thanks, Tony.

    Reply
  3. Fine one!

    Reply

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