Alright folks, strap on your thinking caps (not to be confused with the hilariously outdated thought experiment “brain in a vat”) because we’re diving headfirst into the meta-mind-muddle that is Cartesian Ontology.

For those who didn’t binge philosophy coursework in college, a quick refresher: Cartesian Ontology stems from René Descartes’ famous conclusion “I think, therefore I am” (or “cogito ergo sum” for all you curiously pretentious Latin speakers). Essentially, the French philosopher argued that the fact that one can contemplate one’s own existence is proof positive that the self exists as a thinking mind, spirit or consciousness distinct from the physical body and external world.

That’s right, Descartes is the granddaddy of that cheeky cerebral motto “mind over matter.” Before him, people just kind of accepted that mind, body and environment were all an inseparable unified existence – like some sort of miracle one-substance parfait from the universe. But René had to be that kid who not only looked at the delicious trifle but deconstructed it into parfait phases.

So now, thanks to Monsieur “I Think Too Much,” we have centuries of Dualism theories essentially boiling down to the old “ghost in the machine” idea. That our brains serve as some kind of mystical command center, imperiously steering the uncomfortable meat vessels we call bodies. Yet never able to fully verify if the external world beyond our senses even exists!

You can already sense why many modern philosophers love mocking Cartesian Ontology as just super cheesy New Age woo taken to its excessive extreme. Hasn’t Descartes ever heard of things like subconscious mental processes and cognitive biases that directly tie conscious experience to biology and environment? Why yes, but “I think, therefore I think I’m overthinking things” just doesn’t have the same ring as his iconic zinger.

Yet the legacy of radical mind-body separation lingers on, propped up by very real phenomena like lucid dreams, psychoactive drugs and spiritual experiences. Things that could imply some transcendental sense of self beyond pure material existence.

Of course, it’s not like Descartes claimed all mental activity is divorced from physical processes. His schtick was more “even if you doubt literally everything in existence, the mere fact you can have that thought means a thinking self exists!” Which sounds kind of cute until your tray table buddy on a transatlantic flight thinks he’s being clever by saying “but how do I know I truly exist outside this fleeting present thought?”

At which point I give you full permission to whack them with a rolled-upокинаваское magazine and say “You think therefore you think way too much, ya pretentious navel-gazer!” Because hey, Descartes may have invented solipsism – but at least he didn’t spend his life paralyzed by its implications.