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I Think, Therefore I…

picture of Le Penseur by Rodin

Next week in Survey of French Lit class we will be looking at some of the writings of Descartes. His famous je pense, donc je suis (I think, therefore I am) has radically changed the way many people view life, especially the French. They tend to be very skeptical and pride themselves on their reasoning abilities. However in French, just as in English, words can have two different meanings — for instance take the phrase "I rent my garments." Similarly in French je suis can mean either "I am" or "I follow", depending on the context. Sometimes I wonder how things would be in France today if Descartes had really meant, "I think, therefore I follow."

In today's iv, if you can put aside the illogic of all these philosophers, inventors, and scientific/mathematical people being together in the same café at the same time, there are some high-class puns that will definitely add a measure of "gravitas" to ivman's blague.

The Philosophers' Café

René Descartes was sitting in a café. The café owner asked if he would like another espresso. He replied, "I think not." And he vanished!

Pierre and Marie Curie sat there beaming radiantly after Descartes vanished in a puff of smoke.

The café owner then noticed Einstein was there, and he asked him what he thought of what had happened. Einstein replied, "It's all relative."

At another table, Ivan Pavlov drooled, as if Descartes' logical disappearance rang a bell.

Sir Isaac Newton pondered the gravity of the situation.

When the café owner asked Georg Ohm what had happened, but instead of answering, Ohm resisted.

Eli Whitney thought the whole thing was ginned up.

William Harvey said Descartes was now simply out of circulation.

Leonardo da Vinci just smiled mysteriously.

When the café owner asked Heisenberg, "Did you see that?" he replied, "I can't be certain."

Hans Geiger claimed that Descartes never could be counted on.

Enrico Fermi couldn't believe that Descartes had split.

Thomas Edison stated that he found the whole thing illuminating.

Wilbur Wright said he always thought Descartes was a little flighty.

Pythagoras said that something about Descartes' disappearance just didn't square.

Gustav Hertz said he thought Descartes would return to the café in the future with much greater frequency.

Robert Boyle commented that he thought everyone was under too much pressure to come up with an answer to what was happening.

Alexander Graham Bell didn't believe the disappearance for one second. He could telephoney from any distance.

Erwin Schrödinger tried to explain that in the absence of an observer, Descartes left but at the same time did not leave.

But Alessander Volta disagreed, stating there was a potential difference between his staying or going.

James Watt said Descartes had probably had a bad day and just let off a little steam.

Charles Darwin refused to take a stand on the day's events because he was waiting to see what would evolve.

Wilhelm Röntgen thought he could see through the whole thing, but vowed to look more deeply into the matter.

André Ampère helped the café owner ascertain that all the statements about the events were current.

Then the café owner noticed that Carl Sagan was there. He walked over to him and asked, "Can you believe that all these famous people are here in this café when this happened?" Sagan replied, "No. Why, there must be billions and billions of cafés out there...."


I've seen all kinds of spin-offs of Descartes' "I think, therefore I am" — I fish, therefore I am; I dream, therefore I am; I knit, therefore I am; and on and on it could go. Do you have your own "I ---, therefore I am" motto? Have you thought of someone else who could have been in the philosophers' café above, what that person would have said, and what happened? I look forward to your comments.

I'll end this post with a funny picture I received this morning. It's not totally on topic, though some would argue that there are philosophical and scientific aspects to the current subject of media hype that picture satirizes.

Swine Flu paranoia

Any thoughts on Swine flu (or for the politically correct, H1N1)? Maybe it's nothing to pooh-pooh....


"What do you know that God wants that you're currently not doing?" - Drew Conley

=^..^= =^..^=

I once tried to microwave instant coffee and went back in time.

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12 Comments on “I Think, Therefore I…”

  1. #1 Corene
    on Oct 15th, 2009 at 3:23 pm

    Poor Piglet. *sniff* My heart goes out to you. *sob* And just when you need friends too *sniff* *sob*

  2. #2 Laura
    on Oct 15th, 2009 at 7:57 pm

    I think you want Robert “Boyle” … Boyle wrote gas laws that described the relationship between temperature, pressure, and volume.

    Chances are, if there was anyone at the café from Congress, they’d recommend some new liberty-restricting regulations in hopes of preventing more such disappearances in the future. Imagine the reaction when LOTS of people disappear at the Rapture!

    I LOVED the piglet picture! Thanks for sharing!

  3. #3 Rob
    on Oct 15th, 2009 at 8:08 pm

    @Corene – Piglet does look pretty dejected, doesn’t he?

    @Laura – Thanks! Correction made. As far as the Congress is concerned, that’s a tough one. They want us not to think about what all they’re doing, but then that’s the very thing that would make us disappear as Descartes did. If only we could get everyone to think, maybe we could make a lot of the current members of Congress disappear in 2010.

    Glad you enjoyed Piglet.

  4. #4 Terry E.
    on Oct 16th, 2009 at 6:57 am

    Not my quote, but a good one:

    “Trusting in Him I am free of doubts, therefore I am.” (Me*)

    *Emil Silvestru, PhD

    (Dr. Silvestru is one of the world’s foremost authorities on karst geology. He is a speaker for Creation Ministries International (creation.com) and lives in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.)

  5. #5 Nancy
    on Oct 16th, 2009 at 8:57 am

    Alternate ending to The Philosopher’s Café:

    M. Loach stood in the doorway of the billion cafés to take his leave. “Cyanide,” said he, which is, as we all know, farewell in any language.

  6. #6 Michael
    on Oct 16th, 2009 at 9:04 am

    My statement would be “Christ speaks; therefore, I am.”

    And wouldn’t Plato have been in the cafe? He would have said that Descartes wasn’t real to begin with and that only his shadow had disappeared.

  7. #7 Jonathan
    on Oct 16th, 2009 at 9:26 am

    I paint, therefore I art.

  8. #8 Rob
    on Oct 19th, 2009 at 2:43 pm

    Sorry it’s taken me a while to comment back….

    @Terry – Very interesting quotation. Thanks for sharing it.

    @Nancy – I-L-B-C-N-U, O-K?

    @Michael – That’s for sure on your first one! Thanks for the thoughts on Plato.

    @Jonathan – I’m very happy to hear that you still paint. 😀

  9. #9 Js
    on Dec 24th, 2009 at 6:59 am

    I think Descartes wrote it in Latin “Cogito, ergo sum”, to avoid misunderstanding …
    But perhaps he was just doing some additions, at the counter.

  10. #10 Rob
    on Dec 24th, 2009 at 7:10 am

    @Js – Thanks for the comment. Actually Descartes’s original statement was “Je pense donc je suis,” from his Discours de la Méthode (1637). He wrote it in French, not in Latin, thus reaching a wider audience in his country than that of scholars. He used the Latin “Cogito ergo sum” in the later Méditations métaphysiques (1644), Part 1, article 7: “Ac proinde hæc cognitio, ego cogito, ergo sum, est omnium prima & certissima, quæ cuilibet ordine philosophanti occurrat.”

  11. #11 Js
    on Dec 24th, 2009 at 7:18 am

    @Rob, merci pour cette précision, I won’t end 2009 without going on learning !

  12. #12 Rob
    on Dec 24th, 2009 at 7:40 am

    @Js – Pas de problème. I must admit that I’m a teacher of French language and literature. My 17th century French Literature course will be offered this next semester. Joyeux Noël et Bonne Année 2010! I hope you will continue to visit my blog for some much-needed humor throughout the new year.