Rebellion of Thought
“Cogito, ergo sum.” The Latin phrase is arguably one of the most often repeated and translated in the world. First said by Rene Descartes, he said it to illustrate how he thought one should question everything except their own existence. Sadly, many in the world fail to understand or believe which is why fanatical sects and cults are able to have a stronghold in our world.
Descartes believed in the process of “methodical doubt”, a manner of arriving at discoveries or truths by challenging everything. Using methodical doubt one must first categorize statements depending on their type of knowledge. After all, there is knowledge which comes to us from tradition, empirical or observed knowledge, and mathematical knowledge. The methodology assures a complete systematic approach and if the truth in a statement is doubtful, then all other similar statements are also deemed doubtful. Methodical doubt assumes that by discarding those statements and types of knowledge with doubt, then truths will remain and be found.
At the beginning of the seventeenth century, experts were often in disagreement over what was true and what was not. Experimental or empirical knowledge was subject to interpretation and sometimes became based upon illusions or dreams. Mathematical knowledge is always subject to faulty calculations by man. Descartes personified the concept of universal doubt as an all-powerful and very deceiving demon. This demon, he maintained, might be able to deceive man into hallucinations or illusions, none of which would be true or really exist in the world, or make man think there was an external world when none existed, but, Descartes believed, the deception demon could not make a man believe he existed when man did not.
The Frenchman, who would become renowned as a mathematician, philosopher, and writer felt thinking was proof that man existed. To illustrate, he proposed what would become known as the “Wax Argument”. Observing a piece of wax would give one a sense of its size, shape, texture, color, and other properties, Descartes offered. However, if you took that piece of wax near a flame, most if not all of those properties would change drastically. The solid piece of wax would melt into liquid, the texture now different, the volume altered, and even the color might differ. If we only used our senses, the wax would appear as something completely different. It would be our thinking that would tell us it was still wax, he argued. “And so something that I thought I was seeing with my eyes is in fact grasped solely by the faculty of judgment which is in my mind.”
Another who espoused thinking was the man known as the “Sceptical Chymist,” Irishman Robert Boyle. Like Descartes, Boyle lived during the seventeenth century and was both scientist and theologian. An actual chemist, he maintained that chemistry should be considered an important field of science with its theories based upon careful and deliberate experimentation which was well documented. Just as Descartes proved that atmospheric pressure could be measured and used as a means of predicting the weather, Boyle felt science should be based upon measured experiments and not mere supposition or superstition. Boyle also believed Aristotle’s theory of elements was narrow in its scope, that fire, water, and air were not the only elements in the world. He never actually stated his own theory of what comprised an element but he ideas led to further research and the eventual development of the periodic table of elements in existence today.
None of the world’s discoveries and advancements were ever made by crawling in a hole and going to sleep. They were made by someone rebelling against the commonly accepted theory of the moment. Through careful rebellion, questioning, and deliberation, insights are gained, tested, and proven. Rebellion does not necessarily mean war. It can mean believing in something better.
The deception demons of the world try to obliterate education for the masses. Their greatest threat is an intelligent person. If one thinks, then one knows he or she exists and is due all the benefits of being alive, all the dignities of human rights that one should rightfully have. Those that espouse a person is not entitled to them because of gender or race are the real demons of the world. When one has the ability to think, then that person can be assured they are alive and entitled to a full and effective life. Descartes writings came long before the current religious cults of today and yet, he well predicted their attempts to “hijack the mind” by distorting beliefs and placing an “illusory external world before one’s senses.”
Thinking is, after all, the process of using one’s mind to think or reason about something. While there have been many since Descartes and even Aristotle who spoke of something similar to Descartes who argue against the famous “Cogito, ergo sum” statement, no one disputes the power of thought or the need for it. After all, one must think to consider both sides. The problem is when power-hungry deceptive men try to stop the world from thinking, from advancing forward.
In 2014 the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the Nobel Prize’s youngest recipient and an older man. Of more striking importance, though, was the shared prize between a Pakistani Muslim teenager and an Indian Hindu man. Both received this internationally highest award for their efforts in fighting extremism and child labor abuses. In its award, the Nobel Prize Committee stated: “”It has been calculated that there are 168 million child labourers around the world today. In 2000 the figure was 78 million higher. The world has come closer to the goal of eliminating child labour.” With over sixty percent of the world’s population under the age of twenty-five years living in the poorest countries in the world, the need to fight for the rights of all children to be educated and have a chance to thrive is paramount. All people exist and deserve the basic rights of life, liberty, and happiness.
We need to continue the rebellion of thinking and recognize that education is not only a means to an end, it is our salvation as well. Descartes encouraged the questioning because he said it led to truth. Let us doubt what we hold dear and prove its truth as we walk together for a better world and an epiphany of international peace and prosperity.