Sentio, ergo sum

Years ago I met a woman in a novelty gift shop. It was a strange day. At the time I was very philosophical and I was preoccupied with the number 8. We got into a discussion as I was purchasing some merchandise and she was sitting in a chair near the till chatting with the owner of the business. Somehow during the conversation I managed to tell her “I’m an 8,” which was my “great insight” of the day, and I mean that quite sarcastically. She understood my meaning and replied that she was an 8 too because she was 80 (or perhaps she was 88 – I honestly can’t recall). We continued talking happily about this and that for a few minutes, enjoying each other’s company and discussing the nature of existence. At some point she passed on to me René Descartes‘ famous axiom, “cogito, ergo sum,” explained that it is in Latin, and that the English translation is “I think, therefore I am.” She further explained that the reverse is also true, “sum, ergo cogito,” and told me the English translation is, “I am, therefore I think.”

Frans Hals - Portret van René Descartes

Credit: Frans Hals – Portret van René Descartes

I have found others who have had this insight as well; but I do not know if she had it first or who to attribute it to. I tend to think that others have stumbled onto this related axiom as well, but in my heart she will always get the credit. Since then it has become a mantra of mine when thoroughly engaged in and confused by philosophical thought experiments with friends to say cogito, ergo sum and then sum, ergo cogito. It always makes me smile because if I can prove nothing else with philosophy I can prove that I exist.

Since then I have read a bit of Descartes and noticed in his justification of this statement that he says he feels he thinks. I have been thinking about how to use my right brain more actively and intuitively for many years. I have attempted to do so in various and varied ways. I will not bother you with recounting any of the methods I have tried or pondered as they are not the primary focus of this composition. Instead I will leave you with the insight that I reckon I have stumbled onto or perhaps into (though someone may have beaten me to it). I have attempted to translate this thought concisely into Latin to honor Descartes. I would welcome anyone who has a greater understanding of Latin to correct me on my translation if it is not accurate.

Sentio, ergo sum – I feel, therefore I am.

Of course, I posit that the reverse is true as well.

Sum, ergo cogito – I am, therefore I feel.

It is typical of Western thought and our modern world to disregard feeling and assert the primacy of thought. I am asserting that feeling precedes thought; and it appears to me that Descartes alludes to this in his work without even realizing it. I have decided to use this as my mantra from now on. I think and feel that it is more correct, or at least as correct as the original thought. It may be just a right-brained reflection of the original though. Perhaps it will allow me to get into the right hemisphere of my brain a bit more efficiently. Even if it doesn’t, I like it better.

Better yet, maybe I should be saying “I feel and think, therefore I am.” I think it feels more whole this way. Thoughts and feelings are certainly at least as important as each other; and to be clear I am speaking of emotional feelings, not tactile feelings etc. Do you feel me? Do you think me? Do you see what I mean?

I welcome your thoughts and feelings on the subject.