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Per Grunnet Discusses Winnie-the-Pooh,
Rene Descartes and Saint Augustine

Pooh, Descartes and Saint Augustine

Winnie-the-Pooh and the philosopher Descartes may have more in common than most think. Indeed Descartes's most famous sentence "I think therefore I am" (Cogito ergo sum) was the result of a type of reasoning, which seems very similar to the thoughts, which Pooh thought to himself, when he visited his friend Rabbit:

"Aha!" said Pooh. (Rum-tum-tiddle-um-tum.) "If I know anything about anything, that hole means Rabbit," he said, "and Rabbit means Company," he said, "and Company means Food and Listening-to-Me-Humming and such like. Rum-tum-tum-tiddle-um. So he bend down, put his head into the hole, and called out: "Is anybody at home?" There was a sudden scuffling noise from inside the hole, and then silence. "What I said was, 'Is anybody at home?'" called out Pooh very loudly. "No!" said a voice; and then added, "You needn't shout so loud. I heard you quite well the first time." "Bother!" said Pooh. "Isn't there anybody here at all?" "Nobody." Winnie-the-Pooh took his head out of the hole, and thought for a little, and he thought to himself, "There must be somebody there, because somebody must have said 'Nobody'".

-Excerpt from Chapter Two - Pooh goes Visiting from the book "Winnie-the-Pooh" by A. A. Milne

When Descartes wrote "A Discourse on Method" he was not on his way to visit a friend and neither was he wondering if that friend was home. One could say, that Descartes was instead wondering if there were homes and friends at all. Perhaps homes and friends and even one's own existence were all illusions. Yet, when he had seriously come to doubt about everything, even his own existence, he got exactly the same idea as Pooh did: "There must be somebody there, because somebody must have said 'Nobody'" or in other words, if something is said or done or doubted, then there must be someone, who is saying, doing or doubting:

Accordingly, seeing that our senses sometimes deceive us, I was willing to suppose that there existed nothing really such as they presented to us; and because some men err in reasoning, and fall into paralogisms, even on the simplest matters of geometry, I, convinced that I was as open to error as any other, rejected as false all the reasonings I had hitherto taken for demonstrations; and finally, when I considered that the very same thoughts (presentations) which we experience when awake may also be experienced when we are asleep, while there is at that time not one of them true, I supposed that all the objects (presentations) that had ever entered into my mind when awake, had in them no more truth than the illusions of my dreams. But immediately upon this I observed that, whilst I thus wished to think that all was false, it was absolutely necessary that I, who thus thought, should be somewhat; and as I observed that this truth, I think, therefore I am (Cogito ergo sum), was so certain and of such evidence that no ground of doubt, however extravagant, could be alleged by the sceptics capable of shaking it, I concluded that I might, without scruple, accept it as the first principle of the philosophy of which I was in search.

-Excerpt from Part IV of "A Discourse on Method" by Rene Descartes.

Perhaps the common ground between Descartes and Pooh goes even further, for it might well be, that Pooh believed, that he was the first to think the way he did. Only he was wrong, since Descartes had thought along the very same line more than 200 years before Pooh. But then again, Descartes might well have believed, that he was the first to think the way he did. But alike Pooh, Descartes was not the first think the way he did. More than 1000 years before Descartes, Saint Augustine of Hippo had thought along the very same line:

sed sine ulla phantasiarum vel phantasmatum imaginatione ludificatoria mihi esse me idque nosse et amare certissimum est. Nulla in his veris Academicorum argumenta formido dicentium: Quid si falleris? Si enim fallor, sum. Nam qui non est, utique nec falli potest; ac per hoc sum, si fallor. Quia ergo sum si fallor, quomodo esse me fallor, quando certum est me esse, si fallor? Quia igitur essem qui fallerer, etiamsi fallerer, procul dubio in eo, quod me novi esse, non fallor.

Translation: But, without any delusive representation of images or phantasms, I am most certain that I am, and that I know and delight in this. In respect of these truths, I am not at all afraid of the arguments of the Academicians, who say, What if you are deceived? For if I am deceived, I am. For he who is not, cannot be deceived; and if I am deceived, by this same token I am. And since I am if I am deceived, how am I deceived in believing that I am? for it is certain that I am if I am deceived. Since, therefore, I, the person deceived, should be, even if I were deceived, certainly I am not deceived in this knowledge that I am.

-Excerpt from "De Civitate Dei" Book XI, 26 by Saint Augustine.

To find, that there is a common ground between Winnie-the-Pooh, Descartes and Saint Augustine, might call us to contemplate and wonder about that which is grand in that which is small and that which is wise in that which is of little brain.

- Per Grunnet

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