Do we truly exist?

Why I disagree with “I think, therefore I am”

Nyla Pirani
4 min readNov 20, 2020

Over 3 centuries ago, there was a french man who wanted to prove existence. He wanted to remove the possibility of skepticism towards science and create all the foundations for it.

At first thought, it sounds insane. But back in the 16th century, it seemed pretty realistic to them.

In the end, he claimed to have proved existence. He essentially said that the world is so constructed that man is capable of knowing about it, that man and the world are made for each other by god but that man isn’t part of nature which is a different area of life. So in his eyes, there were 3 main components: God → The creator of everything, the world/universe and man → Created by god for each other then there was nature → Created by God.

That’s a general overview of the concepts Rene Descartes proved. But that is an incredibly high-level overview.

Rene Descartes was an incredibly interesting man with a few big beliefs and concepts. I want to dig into one of his biggest concepts called The Cogito. It meant “I think, therefore I am”.

Descartes said that all forms of contextual thoughts everywhere proved the existence of humans. Because you and I are consciously aware of the thoughts, we know that we exist.

One of his biggest arguments on this was even if an all-powerful demon attempted to force him into thinking that he exists when he doesn’t, he would have to exist in order for the demon to deceive him. Which meant whenever he thinks, he exists.

A lot of people in history agreed with his statement of “I think therefore I am”. The queen was so impressed with his work that she brought him in (against his will) to be her personal philosophy teacher.

This made sense to me as well. But being the person I am, I thought about it a lot. And I realized there was one part that Descartes was missing.

To my knowledge, he never questioned whether thoughts had to belong to a thinker. I don’t see a reason why thoughts just can’t exist.

Here are parts of my breakdown:

(I didn’t include all of it, this is a shorter and neater version so you can understand the main ways I think about it)

Again, this isn’t everything. But you can see that I write down the statement and I spend time thinking. I write parts of the proof in blue, put questions in red, link stuff with arrows and add other thoughts/possibilities in orange.

My biggest questions that could disprove his theory:

  1. Do your thoughts exist in another world similar to how souls could exist? (ie. a separate “dimension” for souls, thoughts etc that is linked to the existence of humans / our world or “dimensions”
  2. Can thoughts exist without a thinker or are they linked? It makes sense that they would be linked, but wanted to be mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive (MECE). We also can’t disprove that.

Now I don’t have the answer to this question but I do have a few thoughts:

It’s hard to conceive of thoughts not belonging to a thinker. But there is (most likely) so much more to our world than we can even conceive of. I do think it’s a genuine possibility, along with an entire other “dimension” existing that was created by God to serve the existence of us (containing souls, thoughts and more).

I’m not able to prove or disprove this theory and human beings as a whole don’t have enough information on the brain/universe to prove or disprove this. But, maybe in another few centuries, there will be clear explanations for all of this.

Until then,