Descartes' Second And Sixth And Meditations

1183 words - 5 pages

Throughout Descartes second and sixth meditations there seems to be a tension rising between the fact of whether or not the mind and body are distinct. By analyzing both meditations it appears that Descartes’ perspectives are contradictory of each other and need to be further evaluated in order to reveal his true meaning. By saying, in the second meditation, that we perceive things by means of our intellect alone, and in the sixth meditation, that we do not perceive pain by means of the intellect alone but rather by an intermingling of our intellect and our senses, Descartes brings forth the questionable tension. By examining each meditation, I was able to determine what I believe that Descartes truly meant and was able to critically evaluate his material in order to conclude that it is our senses that inform us of what is happening externally, but it is our mind and intellect which perceives and organizes the information that we have received.
Throughout his second meditation, Descartes references the Wax Argument in order to solidify his opinion that, as human beings, we know things through our intellect rather than through our senses and that it is our individual mind that we know better than anything else. By stating,
“even bodies are not strictly perceived by the senses or the faculty of imagination but by the intellect alone, and that this perception derives not from their being touched or seen by from their being understood…”

Descartes is able to validate his point of view regarding the fact that it is the person’s mind that defines the object rather than their senses. The argument begins by Descartes visualizing an exceptionally distinct piece of wax and describing it by means of his sensory perceptions; such as its shape, taste, size, smell, et cetera. Next he melts the wax, which in return, rids it of all of the qualities we originally perceived of it with our senses. Even though the shape, taste and feel of the wax is different from what our senses originally perceived it as, it seems as though we would say it was still the same piece of wax. Within his second meditation, Descartes asks, “But does the same wax remain? It must be admitted that it does; no one denies it, no one thinks otherwise.” This observation brings forth the question of what it is about the wax that makes it distinct from other objects, because it is obviously not our sensory perceptions that make us recognize its distinctiveness. With the intention of trying to determine how it is that we recognize the wax despite its change in appearance, we first must reflect that despite what the wax truly is, it is not solely perceived by senses, instead it is only by those sensory perceptions that the wax is presented to us. If we take away the qualities recognized first by our senses, we are now left with something that Descartes explains as being “extended, flexible, and changeable” . These tendencies seem to divulge the fact that it is not the ability of our...

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