Descartes' Wax Argument Essay

1458 words - 6 pages

The purpose of the wax argument is designed to provide a clear and distinct knowledge of “I”, which is the mind, while corporeal things, “whose images are framed by thought, and which the senses themselves imagine are much more distinctly known than this mysterious ‘I’ which does not fall within the imagination” (66). Through the wax argument, Descartes’ demonstrates that corporeal things are perceived neither through our senses nor imagination, but through our intellect alone. In this argument, you will see that there is cause to doubt Descartes’ analysis of the wax and his method of philosophical reasoning.

Descartes makes a careful examination of what is involved in the recognition of a specific physical object, like a piece of wax. By first describing the wax in a manner such that “everything is present in the wax that appears needed to enable a body to be known as distinctly as possible” (67), he shows how easily our senses help to conceive our perception of the body. But even if such attributes are modified or removed, we still recognize the changed form, as the same piece of wax. This validates Descartes’ claim that “wax itself never really is the sweetness of the honey, nor the fragrance of the flowers, nor the whiteness, nor the shape, nor the sound” (67), and the only certain knowledge we gain of the wax is that “it is something extended, flexible, and mutable” (67). This conclusion forces us to realize that it is difficult to understand the true nature of the wax, and its identity is indistinguishable from other things that have the same qualities as the wax. After confirming the nature of a human mind is “a thinking thing” (65), Descartes continues that the nature of human mind is better known than the nature of the body.

I find the particular structure of the argument rather problematic because Descartes built this knowledge of the human mind with an apparent belief that the body of wax already exists. Since he has not established the existence of matter, there would not be any wax for the discussion. He has no right to determine the precise identity of the mind, provided that any concept defined in relation to the matter should be considered uncertain at this time. Descartes also indicates that the nature of the wax can be understood only by our imagination. When the wax is melted, evaporated or boiled, there are many more changes in its form. Therefore, it is impossible for our imagination to understand all the possible forms it might configure. Despite this problem, we believe it is the same piece of wax we see, touch, or imagine. But it is not our feelings or imagination that gives us the idea. If we had evaluated these abilities, and if the wax is distorted, we would not be able to agree that it is the same wax. This study enables us to recognize that the imagination, just like sensation, does not convey the true nature of wax; rather, this difficulty indicates that only understanding, exercising its powers of...

Find Another Essay On Descartes' Wax Argument

Descartes' Second and Sixth and Meditations

1183 words - 5 pages 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

Descartes & John Locke Essay

2345 words - 9 pages the mental capacity. He does not know for certain that he exists in the physical form. The only way, at this time, that Descartes can prove the existence of his body is through his senses. He has already established that his senses are dubitable and therefore cannot tell him with certainty that his body exists.In order to get a better understanding of his relationship between his body and mind, Descartes melts a piece of wax. He observes the wax

Rene Descartes

1259 words - 5 pages . The mind, for Descartes, can discern between what something feels like and looks like into what it actually is. He said humans should not always trust the sense because they are prone to be incorrect and that these senses are independent of the body. An example of this is Descartes? Wax argument. ?He considers a piece of wax: his senses inform him that it has certain characteristics, such as shape, texture, size, color, smell, and so forth

Descartes: I Think, Therefore I Am

1137 words - 5 pages single most certain fact and closest statement to an ultimate truth. We can doubt all previous knowledge and beliefs, but we cannot assume that we who are able to have thoughts such as doubts, do not exist. Using his new concept of self as a thinking thing, Descartes further demonstrates this concept with a melting piece of wax. All of the features of the wax such as its smell, taste, sight, and touch that he acquired through the senses are

Descartes' Meditations

2321 words - 9 pages his knowledge. The technique he uses to lay this base of integrity is doubt. He discards all of what he believes to be true or fact and instead chooses that if any belief can be doubted it is not certain, therefore making it unusable as a foundation. Descartes first jettisons any information, knowledge, or truths that are based on his senses. Here, he applies the "Dream Argument," (152) where he states that based on the senses alone, there is

Descartes: A Paradigm Shift in Philosophical Thinking

1529 words - 6 pages , Descartes elaborates, “all things associated with the nature of physical objects-may just be dreams” (Descartes 139). This odd form of solipsism branches out into Descartes interpretation of the world around him, especially through physical objects. “Sensing is just thinking” Descartes claims, and accepts the broad implications of such an argument by giving an example (Descartes 40). A piece of wax is used to express the incomprehensible number

Descartes' Views on the Topic of Philosophy of Mind

1134 words - 5 pages impressions of the senses are an unreliable guide to the nature of other bodies. However he does conclude that the identity of the piece of wax depends solely upon it's spatial location. During the course of his meditations Descartes convinces himself of firstly the existence of God (through the trademark argument), and that the essence of material substance is simply extension. This is an important point as it means if we go

Descartes - Mind and Body.

2270 words - 9 pages proofs with certainty. In Meditation two, Descartes embarks on his journey of truth. Attempting to affirm the idea that God must exist as a fabricator for his ideas, he stumbles on his first validity: the notion that he exists. He ascertains that if he can both persuade himself of something, and likewise be deceived of something, then surely he must exist. This self validating statement is known as the Cogito Argument. Simply put it implies whatever

Descartes "A Perceived Reality"

737 words - 3 pages wax is a key component for his argument. He describes how he perceives the piece of wax through his senses. "It has been taken quite recently from the honeycomb; it has not yet lost all the honey flavor. It retains some of the scent of flowers from which it was collected. Its color, shape and size are manifest….If you rap on it with your knuckle it will emit a sound." He then brings the wax toward the heat of an open flame. It beings to melt

Descartes’ Cogito

1690 words - 7 pages exist. For false notions to be put into his thoughts, he must have thoughts. Thus he finds his existence to be immune from the doubts that the omnipotent deceiver argument cast upon small and universal elements. Descartes’ second tact to verify his existence is drawn from his perception of a piece of melting wax. He watches the wax melt and notices that, though its physical properties change, he still clearly and distinctly perceives it as wax

Descartes and the Existence of God

1181 words - 5 pages believes he is faithful. He is not faithful. His faithfulness is not incorrigible. Descartes’ realization that he exists also leads to his proof of how he is able to be certain about his conclusions. Descartes reflects on the arguments of the second meditation, and asks: what is it about the argument which made me so certain about it? He says that it is the clarity and distinctness of his perception of it. After coming to the conclusion of

Similar Essays

Rene Descartes' Meditations On First Philosophy

1791 words - 7 pages , 22) He states there that he does not believe that there is just so much to perceive about the wax and it would be too impossible for anyone to be able to grasp it all with their imagination. He then tells us his final perspective on how he perceives the wax. “It remains then for me to concede that I do not grasp what this wax is through the imagination; rather, I perceive it through the mind alone.” (Descartes, 22) He ends his argument on how

René Descartes Essay

1058 words - 4 pages On First Philosophy", was written in six parts. Each representing the six days that God took to create the world. Not to upset the Church, Descartes would need to prove the existence of God, and the soul. Within Descartes' argument, we find some important areas. Two, which require focus, are his perception of "clear and distinct ideas" and the example he gives about the wax. Descartes began on his path towards the cogito, by using the sceptical

Cogito In Brief. Essay

942 words - 4 pages , you exist. Descartes again addresses the challenge of an evil genius that might be trying to trick him into thinking that the world exists. His argument against this theory is that if an evil genius is surely tricking him, he surely exists. "If I convinced myself of something, then I certainly existed. But there is a deceiver of supreme power...who is deliberately and constantly deceiving me. In that case I too undoubtedly exist..." (180).The

Descartes Essay

919 words - 4 pages adds"I will go forward until I know something certain-or, if nothing else, until I at least know for certain thatnothing is certain," (Descartes, 17). The things one would assume to be automatically correct, must becompletely rejected should there be even the slightest doubt about them. Descartes proclaims that the"one thing that cannot be excluded and remains last of all is the perception." (Descartes, 30) InDescartes' wax argument, we find that