Understanding Humanity’s Reform

My thoughts on the man that said “I think, therefore I am”

Kevin Zhu
4 min readNov 22, 2020

When Rene Descartes was born into the world we call Earth, humanity was in a crisis. The fundamental belief of self-security and confidence within the population was gone. Traditional methods of Scholastic-Aristotelian philosophy were being thrown out the window with the emergence of the Protestant reformation, with religious, political, intellectual, and cultural upheaval burning across the European continent. Nevertheless, today we credit Descartes as “the father of modern philosophy,” so something must have changed right?

Descartes approached humanity’s identity conflict with objective evidence. Instead of relying on personal views, Descartes sought to question everything. Simply put, he considered any belief with even the slightest doubt was false. This “hyperbolic doubt” contributed to his desire to remove skepticism from the world, and create logical fundamentals to understanding truth. And with this mindset, he came up with the famous cogito “I think, therefore I am.” Eventually, he led on to deduct several conclusions, including the relation between the mind and body, and the existence of god and its relevance to humanity.

That was a concise, but high-level overview of Rene Descartes. I will now delve deeper into his key concepts and provide my insights and beliefs.

As mentioned before, one of the most significant contributions of Descartes is his Cogito definition of truth. To break it down, there are three main components to his understanding:

  1. The relation between Intellect and Sensory (Mind vs Body)
  2. Understanding existence and doubt
  3. Existence of God

Mind vs Body

In order to understand the components mentioned, it is important to analyze Descartes’ ontology. Generally defined as a framework designed to interpret society, Descartes’ ontology focuses on mind, matter, and god.

Within the mind, Descartes clearly defines that the mind is separate from the body: sensory experiences being completely independent of pure intellect and imagination. He also mentions that senses can be fooled, providing him rationality as to why a new reason for believing scientific evidence and existence is needed.

Personally, I do not agree with this mindset. I believe that senses aren’t the ones being fooled, rather than the mind making rationalizations to accommodate personal belief and behavior. This disproves Descartes’ theory of separation between mind, but to find further evidence it is important to associate the mind with the brain. Once that connection has been made, it is clear the brain is connected to the body. Descartes could frequently be found just thinking. He frequently invalidated scientific evidence in favor of his brain’s supercomputer capabilities. However, he didn't correctly account for the relation between sensory, emotional, and intellectual thoughts.


Descartes’ cogito “I think, therefore I am” refers to the initial doubt of his own existence. He rationalizes his body by acknowledging that because he is doubting his own existence, those thoughts are defining qualities of existence.

This is invalid.

Existence is not based on thoughts: cognitive thinking is not a trait of all matter on earth. Simply put, thoughts are electrical signals produced in the brain of humans among other higher intelligence beings. Rocks, plants, and oceans don't doubt or think, but they clearly exist.


Throughout Descartes’ philosophies, he seems to use God as a way to fill in the faults of his beliefs. Descartes had a clear and distinct idea of God, and to understand the truth behind his ideas of God, it must be assumed that God exists. Furthermore, because the universe is believed to be infinite, it is inferred that there would be an infinite being behind the creation of this universe.

This is a paradox, literally.

Firstly, the existence of God here contradicts the fundamentals of the mind. If God itself was a higher infinite being, why would it produce lesser beings capable of immoral and incorrect decisions? Also, this thought process is an endless loop, which is later known to be called the Cartesian circle. The process never logically ends. To briefly display the paradox: truth is defined as clear and distinct thoughts in humans, which can be dedicated to God instilling this knowledge upon us. Well, how can we prove the existence of God? Through having clear and distinct thoughts of God? But then how can we prove this is true without assuming God’s existence?

This was just a brief showcase of some of Descartes’ contributions to modern philosophy, along with my personal thoughts and comments. While at the time of Descartes, his thoughts may have been validated, we know now with scientific evidence that this philosophy does not stand true.

Truth is not something to be categorized or absolute. It is the perception of the person to consider religion, society, and belief to create their own truth.

It is the idea of “Strong beliefs, loosely held” too. To effectively create truth in society, it is imperative to be open-minded and firm in yourself. One person’s truth may seem different from another, but regardless, it is the widespread acceptance and understanding of our existence that matters most.