Free Essay On Descartes Extended Discussion

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Descartes, Communication, Humans, Reasoning, Animals, Sum, Life, Language

Pages: 3

Words: 825

Published: 2020/10/27


“Cogito ergo sum” is one of Descartes famous philosophical ideas, utilized for arguing the humans’ sense of reasoning. Implicitly, the theory also claims that only humans are capable of reasoning, because reasoning describes their existence, and not that of other beings. In other words, only humans are gifted with the quality of thinking rationally, while the animals, birds, insects or any other form of living organism is not capable of reasoning. The main objection to this argument is that reasoning is a characteristic that defines not only humans, but also other living organisms, which possess the ability to think, according to their actions, attitudes or behaviors.


The translation of the philosophical principle “Cogito ergo sum” is “I think therefore I am”, defining an interdependent relationship between the holder of the ability to think – “I” and the existence “I am”. The philosopher argues that thinking, reasoning, represents an attribute that solely describes the humans, because only they can understand and perceive what they observe and can use such information for taking specific actions.
Descartes philosophical idea holds deeper meanings than simply stating that humans have the capacity of thinking while other living beings do not possess such gift. When the “Cogito ergo sum” idea was presented, in the middle eve, the occidental world was fully entrenched in Catholicism and anything that challenged or contradicted even implicitly the teachings of the Bible was considered heresy and punished with death sentence (Harris 8). Through his claim, “I think, therefore I am”, Descartes implied that through reasoning people can demonstrate the existence of God, the truth about the superior being. Although he did not challenged the existence of God, he considered that he could demonstrate it reasonably, through the use of abstract thinking, disregarding the word of the Bible, considered at that time the sole source of truth regarding God and His existence (Harris 12).
Besides this religious implication of Descartes’ theory on “cogito ergo sum”, the philosopher also claims that human mind is capable of things that no other animal or machine can perform and although machines can simulate humans, they cannot reproduce human thinking (Shannon 14). Descartes’ argument is a rather simplistic one for explaining why animals and machines cannot accomplish reasoning. He states that only humans are capable of indexing minds and have the linguistic capacity to express, to declare their thoughts to one another (Shannon 14).
On this argument alone there can be built a solid counter argument for sustaining that animals too are capable of reasoning. Descartes sustains that one condition for verifying the reasoning is the capacity of declaring thoughts and ideas. At this point the philosopher speaks about communication, stating that it is only a human attribute, one that animals lack. However, there are currently numerous existent studies that assert that animals do possess communication systems (codes), not only among themselves, but also with humans (Wharton 115). In addition, the communication forms are not only declarative – through an understandable and clear language, as Descartes mentions in his philosophy, but the communication science also validates non-verbal communication. As such, gestures, signs, attitudes, actions, lack of any words in specific moments or mimics can constitute forms of non-verbal communication, or body-language communication (Hagen 76). Animals do use signs, gestures, attitudes, actions and even an emotional state of mind for communicating with people, and they use language, to communicate among themselves, with the condition that they belong to the same species.
“Cogito ergo sum” is a human inference declared by a human being, hence, uttered inference is a capacity of human mind. But is the inference, hence the reasoning specific solely to humans? Recent research indicates that animals too, are capable of building inferences, without using verbal language, which means that the inference, hence reasoning is not solely formulated verbally. Since animals do not have capacity to use human-like language for expressing their ideas, they are not lacked by the ability of thinking and of making “some forms of reasoning” (Vigo & Allen 21).
Descartes formulation of “I think therefore I am” is extended to the entire human species and limited to humans. However, this philosophical idea does not take into consideration the fact that humans among themselves have different reasoning capacities or that some human individuals might lack this ability because of specific disabilities. The central idea of “cogito ergo sum” positions humans as superior to animals or machines because Descartes considers that the latest do not possess reasoning abilities manifested through their language. While Descartes principle explains the existence through thinking, its limitation to people makes “cogito ergo sum” an obsolete philosophical idea.


One of the most popular philosophical theories known to date, Descartes’ “cogito ergo sum” claims that the reason is the specificity of humanity, an attributes that separates humans from animals or machines. The philosopher uses the theory to assert that humans can explain everything through reasoning, including the existence of God, which at the time when the philosophy was emitted was a controversial affirmation. Moreover, “cogito ergo sum” states that only humans are capable of reasoning because only they can use clear language for declaring their thoughts. However, recent studies have found that there exists inter-species communication, based on non-verbal and body-language communication, which allows humans to understand animals and vice versa. Animals are using the non-verbal communication for making inferences, which demonstrates that they are able to reason, making Descartes’ central idea of the principle “cogito ergo sum” obsolete and incomplete.

Works Cited

Hagen, Shelly. The Everything Body Language Book: Decipher signals, see the signs and read. Mason: Adams Media. 2008. Print.
Harris, James, F. The Serpentine Wall: The Winding Boundary between Church and State United States. New Jersey: Transaction Publishers. 2013. Print.
Shannon, Laurie. The Accommodated Animal Cosmopolity in Shakespearean Locales. London: The University of Chicago Press. 2013. Print.
Vigo, Ronaldo and Allen, Colin. How to Reason without Words: Inference as Categorization. Bloomington: Indiana University. 2008. Print.
Wharton, Tim. Pragmatics and Non-Verbal Communication. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2009. Print.

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