Doubting Descartes: How Berkeley’s Immaterialism Outshines the Cartesian System

Rocco A. Astore

New School for Social Research. Email:

 Volume 10, Number 2, 2018 I Full Text PDF

DOI: 10.21659/rupkatha.v10n2.11

Received February 23, 2018; Revised March 14, 2018; Accepted March 25, 2018; Published May 07,  2018.


The 17th-century Rationalist philosopher, Descartes, famously uttered “cogito ergo sum,” or “I think; therefore, I am.” (1980, 61). Although this declaration caused an irreversible shift in philosophical thought, does it genuinely capture the bond between the nature of existence and consciousness? This essay will commence with an overview of Descartes’s method of doubt, and why it led him to conclude that correct reasoning necessarily leads to certain knowledge of self and an awareness of one’s uniqueness as a substance (1980, 62-64). Next, by entering the skeptical approach of Immaterialist philosopher George Berkeley, this piece will attempt to cast uncertainty on this foundational Cartesian claim. Lastly, this paper will assert why it is that Berkeley’s “esse est percipi,” or “to be is to be perceived,” portrays the link between existence and thought more precisely than what may be Descartes’s most profound articulation.

Keywords: Descartes, cogito ergo sum, consciousness, Berkeley, esse est percipi, existence.

Full Text PDF>>