Starting with a Cartesian-type 'cogito' argument, we might be sceptical that an 'I' exists, but rather suppose that we're embedded in a kind of perceptive process allowing us to experience thoughts, without supposing we are their author.

But if we consider that there are thoughts and products of thoughts out there ('symptoms of minds'?) that are more complicated than what we ourselves seem to be able to generate, e.g. the ideas of more intelligent beings, and which we might, with time and reading, be able to appreciate; could it be the case that we can define ourselves/our minds as existing due to their limitations in relation to these thoughts, ideas or products of thought?

So something like 'I cannot think of X, therefore I am', by means of defining me as a limited perceiving entity that is able to realise more complicated perceptions that exist out there? With the existence of other complex mental products 1. Suggesting the presence of other minds 2. Suggesting the presence of my own mind by means of suggesting a limit to it within a larger space?

I hope to clarify my thinking on this and would appreciate informative readings on the topic. This is not particularly well thought out nor worded, but perhaps you'll forgive my limitations...

  • Descartes already answered it: God. Oct 27, 2022 at 15:42
  • Thanks Mauro. God is a very complex entity though, and it seems using the most complex thing of all to define something less complex could work e.g. if 'ability to create' and/or proceed from might be the causal factor here. But what about things like advanced mathematical or physical ideas; or even (again to delimit) things just beyond my own understanding but which seem to exist and be within the understanding of others?
    – WG82
    Oct 27, 2022 at 16:03
  • The question might also even be rephrased or reframed. Rather than the existence of one's self per se, could it be one possible consideration to be accounted for when dealing with other solipsistic strong sceptical stances of the form 'nothing exists', e.g. if something beyond ones capacity can be perceived, how easy is it to dismiss it given limited cognitive capacity to do so? 'God' or similar concepts could again be answers to this but I'm looking at smaller and more specific conceptions of reality...
    – WG82
    Oct 27, 2022 at 16:13
  • I thought your argument would be 'I cannot think of X on my own, therefore others are'. For the purposes of 'I am' this is circular, you have the "I" already in the premise, and much besides. On what basis are we supposed to make inferences about what that I "seems to be", that it is "limited perceiving entity", etc.? If we already inferred all that 'I am' becomes redundant. The move from 'thinking is occurring' to 'there is a thinker' (I or whatever) is considered a fatal flaw of cogito, see Could 'cogito ergo sum' possibly be false?
    – Conifold
    Oct 27, 2022 at 20:05

3 Answers 3


You have the cogito argument mixed up with the "evil genius" idea.

The idea of the cogito argument as it is usually reported is so: I directly experience thinking. Something is thinking. That something therefore exists and is me.

The idea of the evil genius (or evil demon or various other names) is that some drastically capable being is providing us with our sensory information. That they are all illusions and that we are not as we sense ourselves to be but something else that we are not given any information about. It is also sometimes called the brain in a vat idea. It suggests that you are not a physical being as you sense, but rather that the sensations are being provided to your brain through complicated wiring.

Movie spoiler warning.

One popular imagining of the "brain in a vat" is the movie The Matrix. Neo wakes up in a pod with a lot of wires attached to sockets in his head and spine, and a lot of pink goo flowing off of him. He is ejected from his pod and pushed into the real world.

My philosophy prof, (mumble) years ago, disagreed with the usual rendition of the cogito argument. He emphasized that the last word of cogito ergo sum was sum. I think therefore everything. By which was meant, my prof explained, all of reality. Yes, maybe the evil genius was doing some whacky things to us. Maybe we were deluded about the nature of reality. But reality was still there. Yes maybe behind this veil of vat-goo. But still there. The je pense, donc je suis part was only the front of the argument. I, on the other hand, got a crummy mark in that class.

The way to respond to evil genius type arguments is to ask: Of what utility is such an idea? If there is an entity that is totally efficient at deluding us, what can we do with this information? If we are really in The Matrix, how can it affect our actions? Unless the Powers That Be allow us some means of detecting them, or they are not so powerful as to prevent it, then the delusion is perfect. We can't get past it.

So treating what we experience as though it is real is "the only game in town." Maybe it is a rigged game. But we have no way to see that it is, and no way to find any other game.

The best we can do is the best we can do.

And you know what? The scenery can be amazing. Even if it is Memorex.


(disclaimer: I may be wrong from square one). With cogito ego sum, Descartes is using only what is internal as the assumption of his argument. Any conclusions formed outside this method would be based on faith (I don't how he treated God). Others vehemently disagree, and say something like, that our internal exists at all and by its nature -> something external must exist. For some reason(s), skeptics default to the internal side, and the latter method is deemed 'transcendental arguments'.

If by your, "could I (or something like my mind) exist because more complicated (mental) products than me exist?" is mostly just the second use, it's a very old argument.

These two sides agree on the mental starting point -- e.g. "by its nature", -- even if we go to a minimal assumption point like Conifold's link, thoughts have characteristics/(an internal) nature to them.


I would argue for the opposite, but this can only make sense if we accept awareness and purpose are separate from our thoughts. Our awareness, would now become very very simply. Just information alone, and is enough for us to be aware and have purpose, with just one problem. Our laws of physics seem to define the lack of purpose.

Quantum fluctuations seem to come from outside of spacetime and forces cancelling out is the only thing sending information there.

Now we have 2 problems. It makes no sense to exist outside of space time, and the forces disappear so there isn't anything to exist.

If we consider non-mathematical existence, and quantum fluctuations being infinite, we can now solve both these problems. Non-mathematical existence, should be the exact opposite of mathematical existence, so now the laws of physics are in reverse and define consciousness and purpose. 0 multiplied by infinity, brings back the information that had disappeared. The information can't even exist outside of spacetime, yet the effect needs to be based on that information. Based on something that doesn't even exist, seems nonsensical, but try defining infinity and create rules to avoid the ambiguities. 0 has to be considered to be aware of everything that's happened to it. 2*0 cannot be simplified to 0, despite having the same absolute value.

Our universe has precisely 0 energy, so is really just a form of 0. Considering zero-point energy, created the universe, can it not be powerful enough to create consciousness? The laws of physics can never be broken and a non-mathematical existence following the opposite laws, may seem unlikely, nonsensical, far fetched, but no laws are broken, and paradoxes have been resolved!

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