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December 02, 2006



On November 14, 1640 Descartes writes to Andres Covius, a Dutch Minister who brought Augustine’s argument to his attention:

you have obliged me by bringing to my notice the passage of Saint Augustine which bears some relation to my “I think, therefore I am.” Today I have been to read it at the library of this city [Leiden], and I do indeed find that he makes use of it to prove the certainty of our being, and then to show that there is in us a kind of image of the Trinity, in that we exist, we know that we exist, and we love this being and the knowledge that is in us. On the other hand, I use it to make it known that this I who is thinking is an immaterial substance, and has noting in it that is incorporeal. These are two very different things….13a


The stylistic difference is in fact substantive.

Augie invites us to see ourselves - I think, I live, I am - as living human beings acting out the narrative of our lives, as embodied rational men and women. Descartes’s “I think, I am” leaves us rational animals no longer, without having much to do with a body as the last comment notes. Hence Locke divorces self and person from the living and sensing human being. Becoming the disembodied, anti-essentialist ego of later thinkers... etc.

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