I want to allude an experience that feels almost like Descartes' idea of "I think, therefore I am". Because the phrase is a proposition, I find it very difficult to fit in the statement in because I have no idea to use the phrase in a verb manner, adjective manner, etc to make the sentence sound fluent. This is the statement that I am trying to fit the phrase into:

The experience that we had undergone confused our consciousness in the real and virtual worlds and made us think with Descartes' "I think, therefore I am".

It sounds very very awkward at the end. My intention is to let the reader consider the experience to be something surreal, like Descartes' idea, which a person in a state of a dream-like situation tests or verifies his existence because of the feels-so-real-yet-could-be-false-or-real type of experience.

What are some of the ways that I can implement this "I think, therefore I am" into the statement while still sounding fluent and making sense?

  • As this stands now, this is a grammar question, which is off-topic here. However, the paragraphs after the quote are clearly questions about style. Do you want this to be a critique question or a style question? Or are you concerned with grammar? – Goodbye Stack Exchange Apr 8 '12 at 15:08
  • If you want the text to be critiqued, I suggest you include more in the excerpt from the work, and we can tag it as a critique question. I'm thinking that makes sense, since this does have specific goals, as a critique should. – Goodbye Stack Exchange Apr 8 '12 at 15:13
  • @NeilFein I believe this is more of a style question. The question is that I am not sure how this phrase/idea can be incorporated into a sentence. The quote that I had is an example of how I have used it but am not happy with my style of incorporating the phrase. Thus, I am making a question here to know about other ways(or styles) of incorporating this phrase into the sentence. So, I believe I'm making more of a style rather critique question? I edited my question a little to hopefully clear up the doubt. Thanks! – xenon Apr 8 '12 at 15:38
  • Thanks. I've opened a question in meta about the issues involved, to avoid extended discussion here. This question presents us with an interesting dilemma: Grammar questions are off-topic, but this one isn't only a grammar question. – Goodbye Stack Exchange Apr 8 '12 at 16:19
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    Wow @NeilFein, I just saw your edit of the original question. I always wondered why questions here seemed so well-phrased and articulate...suddenly the veil is lifted. – temporary_user_name Apr 8 '12 at 16:48

First of all, you have a tense disagreement: "we had undergone" is past, so you need "confused" and "made."

A few variants:

  • ...made us re-experience Descartes's proclamation: "I think, therefore I am."
  • ...made us re-experience Descartes's proclamation: Cogito, ergo sum. We thought, therefore we were.
  • ...made us cling to Descartes to assure ourselves that we were indeed real: "I think, therefore I am."
  • Thanks for the list of variants! +1! Just a question, will "re-experience" reads confusing since I already have another "experience" in the sentence? Also, I am little confuse by the meaning of "re-experience". – xenon Apr 8 '12 at 15:52
  • It will not read confusingly, but if you think it doesn't sound as good as it could, rephrase! – temporary_user_name Apr 8 '12 at 16:51
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    1) You can always change the first "experience" to something else. 2) "re-experience" in this context means "Descartes had an epiphany. The lightning struck him, he had this incredible thought, and wrote it in a few words. We went through the same epiphany in a similar way, almost like walking in his footsteps or walking beside him. We experienced it along with him, even though he's been dead for several hundred years." – Lauren-Clear-Monica-Ipsum Apr 8 '12 at 22:23

It sounds awkward, because you repeat "think":

... made us think with Descartes' "I think, therefore I am".

Besides that, your sentence is missing a logical step, which is another source for your "awkwardness". Descartes' confusion did not make him think "cogito, ergo sum". "Cogito, ergo sum" is the conclusion he arrived at after trying to dissolve this confusion.

So you should somehow show the way from confusion to conclusion. Something like:

The experience that we had undergone confused our consciousness in the real and virtual worlds and culminated in epiphany like Descartes' "I think, therefore I am".


How about paraphrasing the quote and showing the reader it is paraphrased. Example:

The experience that we had undergone confused our consciousness in the real and virtual worlds. It made us strive for re-assurance which could be summed up best in Descartes's "Cogitamus ergo sumus." Or simply, "For our thoughts exist, we must be."

Or: For our thoughts exist, we must as well. | Existence is in the mind of the beholder. | Existence is there for the thinker/tinkerer/etc...

So, what do you think?

  • Thanks! I thought this is a very interesting way to phrase it! +1! :) – xenon Apr 17 '12 at 17:00

Depending on your readership, you could abbreviate the entire last part, and make it something like:

The experience that we had undergone confused our consciousness in the real and virtual worlds and recalled a Cartesian cogito...

Which would work if readers understood that a Cartesian cogito was a reference to Descartes phrase. For the wrong readership, of course, it just sounds completely pretentious.

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