Descartes’ Missing Adjective
Whilst flicking through a worn old second hand copy of Discourse on the Method of Rightly Conducting One’s Reason and Seeking Truth in the Sciences (or DotMoRCoRaST for short) I came across a curious annotation from its previous owner. The eager young scholar had scribbled a single word alongside Descartes’ iconic axiom, causing it to read as follows:
“I think therefore I am right”
Of course, my initial reaction was to discount it as the wanton vandalism of an inferior mind, committed to caricaturing René as a pompous, arrogant individual. But then I wondered if perhaps this scribe might have been building upon a tradition largely lost to modern scholars. Might the original manuscripts have actually been damaged and fragmented? Could it be that we only possess one half of the great philosopher’s sentence?
I set to work, flicking through countless pre-owned copies of DotMoRCoRaST and found a surprising number of similar occurrences. In each case the added word was different, from the absurd and whimsical (dead, bald, single, overweight, pungent, French etc.) to the downright obscene and unrepeatable!
I consider the evidence to be overwhelming. What we have considered to be Cartesian Orthodoxy for the best part of four centuries, is in fact an incomplete thought. Whilst we may not know precisely what Descartes’ missing adjective is, we can be fairly certain that there was one.
So in the absence of concrete textual proof, I propose a competition, and I invite you to enter your best suggestion. The most plausible, comical, or absurd will win a signed copy of Putting Descartes Before the Horse*
“I think therefore I am [insert adjective here]!”
* Should it ever reach publication…