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In a Youtube Video by author AnotherRoof, the author described Descartes as an "arrogant" person who is right, quoting the sentence "I think, therefore I am". However when I am trying to find reference, it seems that the sentence comes from one of his thought experiments where he denies the existence of his body and therefore proves his mind is of true undeniable existence. I also read through the Wikipedia article about Descartes but there is no reference that he was an arrogant person.

To clarify a bit more, I understand that the sentence "I think, therefore I am" refers to a thought experiment and is not an evidence of his personality. I also understand that in the video the Author pointed out some other quotation of Descartes's, most of which indicates a rivalry between him and Pierre de Fermat. However none of the quotation shown in the video appears to me that Descartes was arrogant, rather than being logical. The author in the video talks in a way that seems to imply that Descartes is well-known for being arrogant at the time, and the author is a pretty good mathematician so I would think there are some references about this "fact". I tried to find reference about his personality but couldn't find any.

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  • $\begingroup$ Why the downvote? $\endgroup$
    – cr001
    Aug 20, 2023 at 16:25
  • $\begingroup$ I do not think "Cogito" is evidence but u might want to read about Descartes' stance towards non-human animals which was incredibly "speciesist" and may have been in part responsible for countless cruel experiments and simply bad treatment of animals which Descartes asserted did not feel and when they apparently responded to painful stimulus by crying out, etc. it was because they are machines that are built this way but lacking a soul they could not actually experience suffering. $\endgroup$
    – releseabe
    Aug 20, 2023 at 22:04
  • $\begingroup$ Well, he was French ;-) $\endgroup$ Aug 21, 2023 at 7:11
  • $\begingroup$ Can you link the video? And add some of the transcript/quotes here? $\endgroup$
    – Mauricio
    Aug 22, 2023 at 13:26
  • $\begingroup$ The video link: youtube.com/watch?v=xKfEmbWBgvM $\endgroup$
    – cr001
    Aug 22, 2023 at 18:42

2 Answers 2

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You may have gotten downvoted because you took the "arrogant" claim from the video and misdirected it to the quote "cogito, ergo sum (I think, therefore I am)," which has nothing to do with arrogance and more of an initial assumption for an epistemological question: In the search for truth, where do we begin? What forms the basis of our reality? Descartes's answer is essentially "Since I'm capable of thought and doubt, then I know that I exist as a fundamental truth."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cogito,_ergo_sum

If you rewatch the video you mentioned, AnotherRoof doesn't rely on "I think, therefore I am" as proof of Descartes's arrogance, rather, he points to Descartes's high self-confidence in his geometry: "I do not enjoy speaking in praise of myself, but since few people can understand my geometry, and since you wish me to give you an opinion of it, I think it would be well to say that it is all I could hope for. [...] I have only tried to persuade people that my method is better than the ordinary one."

However, some historians have labeled Descartes as being arrogant. For instance, in "Descartes: A Biography" written by Desmond Clarke writes, "He had become [by 1638] a reclusive, cantankerous, and oversensitive loner, who worried incessantly about his place in history and the priority he claimed for various discoveries". Clark writes of Descartes' "sensitivity to criticism and the certainty that he claimed, prematurely, for his own view", and that he "fought with almost everyone he encountered while constantly announcing that all he wanted was 'the security and tranquility' required to complete his intellectual projects".

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  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for the answer. I don't find that part (my method is better) a proof of his arrogance though, as his geometry was indeed better than the old method, and any mathematician that comes up with new good things would sincerely think the same way. The author in the video talks in a sense, that Descartes is well-known for being arrogant, but I just couldn't find any reference about his personality. $\endgroup$
    – cr001
    Aug 20, 2023 at 17:15
  • $\begingroup$ I agree that it's weak evidence and that the speaker appears to have an impression of Descartes that isn't fully explained. However, a cursory search shows that some historians have labeled Descartes as being arrogant. $\endgroup$
    – Andrew R.
    Aug 20, 2023 at 17:49
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    $\begingroup$ For instance, in "Descartes: A Biography" written by Desmond Clarke writes, "He had become [by 1638] a reclusive, cantankerous, and oversensitive loner, who worried incessantly about his place in history and the priority he claimed for various discoveries". Clark writes of Descartes' "sensitivity to criticism and the certainty that he claimed, prematurely, for his own view", and that he "fought with almost everyone he encountered while constantly announcing that all he wanted was 'the security and tranquility' required to complete his intellectual projects". $\endgroup$
    – Andrew R.
    Aug 20, 2023 at 17:50
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for the reference. Seems a pretty trustworthy source. If you would include that in the answer I will accept it. $\endgroup$
    – cr001
    Aug 20, 2023 at 17:56
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Descartes, who while he was alive was politically more powerful in France than Fermat, had a priority dispute with Fermat in several areas, including finding tangents to curves. As noted by historians, Fermat's method was better because it works also in an affine setting, whereas Descartes' method relied on finding normals which is, in hindsight, somewhat irrelevant. Descartes did not fully understand Fermat's method of adequality, and attacked it as being applicable only in special cases. Even though the criticism is not valid, it is sometimes reproduced by modern historians until this day. For details, see articles on Fermat listed here. I don't know if this makes him arrogant; certainly stubborn.

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