Sentire ergo sum

I tend to differ from Descartes’ now famous exposition: Cogito ergo sum. Cogito??? Does thinking define mankind? I would rather paraphrase the famous statement as “Sentire ergo sum”: I feel therefore I am. Let me explain.

Though important for mankind thinking does not really differentiate and make man unique. I am not  saying this only because of the rapid advances in “thinking machines” or artificial intelligence or heuristic programming or computers that learn. The speed with which all these technologies are moving ahead leave no doubt in any observer that man’s preeminence will have to be defined by some other characteristic than logical thinking. We stare at a time when the machine behind the man ( and not the earlier model of man behind the machine) will determine the future course of progress as well as our end  goal posts. So thinking is not the sole prerogative of and chief differentiation for mankind.

My candidate for the top differentiator is Feeling. Because of his ability to feel man is unique. Emotions and the feelings that course through him are the “unique sauce” that maketh a man. Hence Sentire ergo sum.

At a very personal level each and everyone of us have experienced times when the “head” told us something and our “heart” suggested the opposite. Though it was not logical and not based on data on hand and not prompted by the “facts of the case” we have done what we intuitively felt was right: and felt very good about following that path. Did feelings not overtake thinking at such points? Recollect the soldier at the frontier who logically knows the odds of being outnumbered and surrounded by the enemy and still for the emotions that rise when he sees his country’s flag is ready to lay down his most precious possession i.e. his very life for his Motherland. All of us have personally experienced the love of our own mothers who have loved us divest of any logic and for whom our entire heart head and being is perpetually in a state of gratitude. Our own love for children and the extent to which we are ready to go out on a limb for them should convince all that there is much more beyond mere thinking and logical analysis.

Can all these aspects of our lives be explained by logic and by thinking? Feeling overtakes and drives all that we do. Feeling helps us make more sense of our lives and circumstances. And I believe it is our ability to feel that differentiates us and makes us unique from all others. Correspondingly if I can understand and channelize my feelings better I will be be able to do more. Experience more happiness. Be more in control of my life. And generally be a much better human being than I am today.

Logical? Or more importantly: do you feel what I am saying makes sense? In the next blog I would like to explore more about feelings and look more holistically at feelings and the multiple levels at which this subject can be understood. However before that I look forward to your views and feedback on this topic.

in anticipation: vikas