Attempting to Poke Holes in Descartes’ Argument

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Descartes’ ideas and seeing him struggle to try and rap his mind around these tough questions. I honestly agreed with a lot of what he argued but in this blog post I would like to try to play Devils advocate a tiny bit, even if I don’t actually believe what I am writing. I wanted to start with Descartes’ major idea in these Meditations, “I think, therefore I am.” It seems logical enough especially after he goes into detail about this particular belief. However, one question popped into my head after mulling over Descartes’ argument for a while. When exactly do humans first acquire the ability to think? Or even more so when do humans first become conscious of who they are or what they are?

Like any good member of the millennial generation I took to the Internet to answer this question. A quick Google search displayed a wide variety of results, one of which I have shared with you all below. As I had originally suspected there is a period of human life where we are incapable of thought and that is when we are in our mother’s uterus. The question I would ask Descartes is that if thought was the only evidence he could find for his existence, does that mean a baby who is not yet capable of thought does not truly exist? It is an interesting thing to think about, and I would argue that that unborn baby does exist all though its brain is not fully formed yet, and it is not even close to being able to think of these philosophical questions. I understand that Descartes is using thought as pure evidence that we are in fact something, but it does still beg the question are we something before we can think?

Building off that, I would also like to talk about Descartes’ hypothetical idea that instead of a loving all-powerful God there is a sinister controlling being that could be deceiving us at every point in our lives. I agree that this could possibly be the case or at least there is no proof that this is not the case, however I think Descartes overlooks something that also relates to his hypothesis “I think therefore I am.” If this evil being really was all-powerful and able to control what we see and believe couldn’t he control our very thoughts too? What is so powerful about Descartes’ idea of thinking if our whole consciousness could be entirely controlled by a malevolent force?

Even the very process of thinking about these big questions could be controlled by this evil and could be leading us in a completely false direction. And even more so, if our very thoughts were completely controlled by something else does that really count as thinking? It seems like the very idea of thinking revolves around being independent and free to explore your own mind. If some other being in fact controlled our thoughts I am not sure we could consider them thoughts. And if that is the case, that we can’t actually say for sure that we are thinking, Descartes whole proof of existence falls apart.