Descartes: Wax Argument Descartes Philosophy Heavily Deals Essay

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Descartes: Wax Argument

Descartes philosophy heavily deals with the "thinking thing," of perception and knowledge, and the correlation of the two. Like Plato's views on knowledge and opinion, Descartes concludes that human perception -- or opinion, according to Plato -- is faulty. However, unlike Plato -- who takes sense-perception in stride and allows the use of it to gain knowledge -- Descartes discards sense-perception, determining that it is an unreliable path to true and ineffable knowledge. In Meditations II, Descartes further discusses this argument using the changing of wax.

Prior to his examples with the wax, Descartes has logically deduced that he is a "a thing which thinks," and through that realization a thing that thinks has the inherent ability to "doubt, understand, conceive, deny, will, refuse, which also imagine and feel." In order to affirm his being a thinking thing, he examines the example of a wax, where he brings forth his argument about a thinking being's intellect. A wax is put forth over a fire, where it gradually changes shape over a period of time, gaining with it a different set of properties. It is still a wax, though Descartes argues that this realization does not necessarily come from one's perception of the wax melting into a different shape. How does one know what shape the wax forms at the end? Descartes heavily argues that said wax can take on an infinite number of shapes, far more infinite than one's imagination over possible forms.

What then did I know so distinctly in this piece of wax? It could certainly be nothing of all that the senses brought to my notice, since all these things which fall under taste, smell, sight, touch, and hearing, are found to be changed, and yet the same wax remains. (Meditations II)

Descartes argues that sense-perception cannot be reliable as a means of determining the existence of…

Sources Used in Document:


Descartes, Rene. Meditations on First Philosophy. Retrieved March 24, 2011. .

Plato. The Republic. Retrieved March 24, 2011. .

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