Philosophy and Number
Philosopher Rene Descartes’ reliance on the primacy of reason over faith made him to craft his four basic rules concerning the human person (Obrien, n.d., p. 21). First, he claimed that no statement should be accepted as true without evidence. Second, he demanded the breaking down of a problem into its constituent parts. Third, he required an individual to start from the simple until he progresses to complex ideas. Fourth, he instructed a person to thoroughly and carefully record and analyze data to make certain the acceptance of the truth. On the other hand, Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche argued for a careful examination of the self through “an account of the ‘myth of the eternal recurrence of the same’” (in O’Brien, n.d., p. 33). Both Descartes and Nietzsche seem to echo what the Greek philosopher Socrates implied in this regard: “Know thyself” (in O’Brien, n.d., p. 37).
Descartes arrived at an examination of the self when he used his radical doubting method. Because of the changes that happened during his time, such as questioning authorities, he started to doubt “everything” (e.g., basic mathematical equations) – except the self (Obrien, n.d., p. 22). For him, the self is the only thing that is immune from doubting. Although human senses sometimes fail him due to their inherent limitations, he claimed that the self is the only one that can keep on doubting until doubting ceases upon itself. Through doubting, Descartes “saw” someone who can exist on its own – the Self. Thus, Descartes’ familiar aphorism: “I think, therefore I am.”
On the other hand, Nietzsche’s “myth of the eternal recurrence of the same” has been arrived at what is culturally known to many people as the reincarnated self. He assumed that individuals would prefer living time and over again their lives, should it be possible. However, for an “overman” to attain such a lofty goal, he has to become besides himself – a nonconformist (in O’Brien, n.d., p. 34) – beyond the herd mentality. He has to test his own mettle and rise triumphant. Although Nietzsche did not presupposed the Overman to assert his own values and belief systems on other people, it should be its own magnum opus. With an Overman, who does not follow blindly, is its will to power or controlling power over its own dynamic force.
In recap, Descartes’ radical doubting is similar in some ways to Nietzsche’s creative way of viewing the self. Through doubting, the self is the only that will emerge undoubted. It is the self that has its own reason not to easily be swayed away by erroneous doctrines. Likewise, for Nietzsche, the creative understanding of the dynamic force in man is the emergence of the overman. The overman is not someone gullible, with the sheep mentality that conforms. On the other hand, Descartes and Nietzsche differs in some ways regarding the self. For Descartes, the self has its limits (e.g., limited range of vision) whereas Nietzsche’s ‘Overself’ may not be hard to reconcile with basic logic considering the scientific breakthroughs and technological advancements (e.g., genetic engineering). Thus, Nietzsche’s ideation of the self may possibly come to fruition should man unravel the unleashing of his supposedly superpowers.