Wednesday, September 28, 2011

I think therefore I am"? Descartes was wrong

Dhr. Seven, Wisdom Quarterly UPDATED (edited by Ashley Wells, May 19, 2016)
The many confusing thoughts of Descates (Leashcolon26/
Rene Descartes Opera Philosophica (
By the way, Rene Descartes was wrong. He is a famous philosopher in the Western tradition. He is most famous for deducing the maxim, "I think therefore I am."

He was wondering and reasoning and questioning, What is true? Do I exist? How can I know? What can I be sure of? As he thought and pondered, he realized that the only thing he could be sure of what that he was thinking.

If I am thinking then I am: I think therefore I am (exist). But it is not true. Based on the evidence, he should only have concluded: "I think therefore thinking is taking place."

In a sense, thoughts think themselves. It is actually more complicated than that: Thoughts are dependently-originated. What's that? Dependent Origination is a teaching so subtle that the Buddha declared that it was on account of not seeing it, not penetrating this teaching that both he and we had wandered on in this round of suffering for so long as anyone could remember.

Wisdom and insight are better than knowledge and thinking.

Descartes in cartoon form (
The "I" he posited was assumed. There was identification with the thinking. And viewing it as personal, he was trapped by his own flawed logic: A self exists (it must exist because someone has to be thinking). And it has all of these problems, thinking being one of them.

Had he meditated under a tree like Newton or Siddhartha, Descartes might have realized: This is a painful mess. Thinking is no escape. It (thinking while steeped in ignorance) leads to logical dead ends and assumptions that have no basis in the evidence. What if "I" were to let go of thinking and just be?

By not identifying with mental phenomena (perceptions, sensations, formations, consciousness), there might be freedom from the illusion because, as has been said by more than one sage, "The Truth shall set us free." It does. Thinking is not the way to enlightenment (bodhi) and liberation (nirvana). Stillness until samadhi is reached and insight after it is reached are.

"Meditation" is letting go, allowing stillness until concentration, then systematically investigating reality with the Four Foundations of Mindfulness (DN 22) for insight.

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