Sartre vs. Descartes?

Please help!

Descartes theorised, 'I think, therefore I am'. Sartre said that as human beings, we can choose to be whatever we want.

Aren't they similar then? Say, if a human being is an animal because he/she thinks that he/she is an animal, doesn't this fall under both Descartes (he/she thinks, therefore he/she is an animal) and Sartre?

Please correct me!


Thanks for the answers thus far!

Basically, I'm confused about how Descartes and Sartre differ in terms of their theories. If we put forth the proposition that one is an animal because he/she thinks he/she is an animal, then doesn't that make sense under both Descartes (I think, therefore I am) and Sartre (we can choose to be whatever we want)?

7 Answers

  • 7 years ago
    Favorite Answer

    In Descartes' view, it is impossible for a human being to be "an animal" as you say, because in Descartes view animals can't think.

    Since I think, I am the type of creature who can, a creature composed of body and mind, whereas animals are complicated machines.

    I think you've got Sartre right, though.

  • 7 years ago

    You are misinterpreting Cognito ergo sum for Descartes' actual belief system. Cognito ergo sum is the starting point of his logic, but not his theory on life.

    Sartre believed in subjective meaning and Descartes (if you read Meditations on First Philosophy) believed in a soul subordinate to God.

    Source(s): Meditations on First Philosophy by Descartes Nauseau, Being and Nothingness by Sartre
  • 7 years ago

    Descartes is describing the objective universe as provable by the process of thought.

    I think therefore I am, means thought is proof of the external universe and even God existing.

    Sartre is describing our experience as unique and unfathomable to anyone but ourselves. Almost like default solipsism except to be solipsistic you have to prove what anybody else's experience is and that is unfathomable. Only we alone determine what we are, is almost directly the opposite of my existence proves the universe.

    One is idealism (existence as a shared idea) and the other is existentialism (existence as unique event unknowable by anyone else.)

  • 7 years ago

    I think Descartes meant the fact that he thinks proves to himself that he exists, and that's the only thing that he can be sure of in the world. That would contradict 'he/she thinks, therefore he/she is an animal' because the only thing Descartes is sure of is his existence, not the nature of that existence.

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  • 7 years ago

    I don't like Descartes. His religion made him think that animals were hardly alive, just puppets as scenery for humans. He really bought the Christian myth of Platonic soul aspiring to godhood. He lived in an unreal world of his own mind.

  • 7 years ago

    "Cogito Ergo Sum!"

    "I think, therefore I am!" - Descartes

    This saying is exactly true, as it refers to the egoic construct of autonomous existence of a 'self', an 'I', as opposed to a 'you'/'other'.

    'Ego' is the same, one and the same, as 'thought'!

    Hence 'thought' being where this (egoic) 'self' exists. That is the 'I' to which the quote refers!

    No 'thought/ego' = no egoic 'I'!

    There can be no 'I' without 'thought'.

    Thought, though, does not 'create' the egoic "I", they are one and the same, as perceived!

    We don't 'think outside the box', 'thought' IS the box!

    The above referenced 'I', or small 's' 'self' cannot exist in a thoughtless state, such as a Zen state where no such distinctions can be perceived.

    There only exists 'one', (capital 'S') 'Self!', which is 'Universally all inclusive'. Which does not disappear when 'thought' is no longer perceived!

    Ask any successful meditator, or check it out yourself.


    It is 'thought' that says, "I am not that!"

    "Thou Art That!"

    tat tvam asi (

    The notion of 'free-will/choice' is no more than the vain imagination!

    Ego = thought/imagination!

    Beyond it's existence as a vain/sinful 'belief' in the imagination, it has no other existence.

    Both philosophy and science have proven that it is no more than a 'feeling' ('feeling' is thought!)

    It has nothing to do with 'animals'!

  • 7 years ago

    Sartre said that we are capable of "loathing", therefore we are. (compared to Descartes' "cogito ergo sum".) Your question isn't really clear - what is it that you want to know about Descartes and Sartre? Would like to try and help you.

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