Philosophers like Rene Descartes have invented philosophical dilemmas in their minds that need an extra explanation. An example is often used by philosophers to explain a concept. To maximise maximum effect, an example is sometimes shown rather than a fictitious one. Because we are thinking things, we can know something even though it has been transformed or modified in some manner. Descartes uses the "Wax Example" in Meditations on First Philosophy to demonstrate this.
To get things started, let's go through Descartes' wax example. A piece of wax is examined by Descartes, who makes a few observations about its qualities. It has a waxy appearance, texture, and scent. Descartes then melts the solid wax by placing it near a flame. The wax is no longer what it was before it was melted, yet it is still evidently wax to him because of the differences in its smell, appearance, and tactile sensation. It's possible to say that an item is still an object even after its qualities have changed, despite the fact that the wax has changed. To decide what something is, we must rely on the information provided by our senses, which can tell us different things, but our minds are still able to make sense of that information. Because our senses might deceive us, there must be a defining property of the object in order for us to be able to identify it.
Our senses are restricted in that they only provide us with factual data about the world around us, but they do not provide any context for that data. As soon as we come into contact with any kind of tangible item, we must rely on our minds. We're always trying to figure out what it is that makes something that it is. We have no way of knowing what it is. Our world is made up of thinking and non-thinking stuff alike. There are no such things as "thinking substances" in the physical world. A material substance is an extended substance that has a physical presence. Extended substances are referred to be such because they take up space and have mass, therefore extending in space.
When attempting to pin down exactly what something is, the properties of its constituents play a significant role. Both main and secondary traits exist. The object's primary properties are not affected by how one perceives it. Your senses are not engaged in determining whether an object has mass or not. An object's secondary quality is influenced by how it is perceived. A person's perception of attributes is influenced by the data gathered by their five senses. The way something appears, smells, tastes, sounds, or feels to you might be considered a secondary quality.
If we mistake a thing's core traits, our understanding of secondary qualities might be skewed. A hallucinogen might still allow one to perceive that a tree is made up of matter and occupies space, but one may not be able to view the tree as brown with green leaves but rather as a swirl of colours that is not a true picture. Secondary qualities can fluctuate, while basic qualities remain the same regardless of how they're being experienced. Our minds are able to tell that if our senses tell us that the wax in question is no longer that piece of wax, it is still a piece of wax because our minds are able to focus on its essential attributes.
"I do not grasp what this wax is by the imagination; rather, I sense it through the thought alone," Descartes states in this meditation. Descartes is demonstrating that only human thoughts are capable of perceiving objects like the blob of wax. We associate specific characteristics and attributes with objects in order to categorise them. The characteristics themselves, however, are vague and ephemeral. No matter how much we rely on our senses, we can never fully capture the platonic essence of an item. Descartes' intellect recognises the platonic essence of the wax, identifying it even though it changes physically, rather than actively touching, smelling, and seeing the wax to decide that it is wax.
There's more to Descartes' second meditation than simply the wax example, but it's still worth noting because it adds further support to his theories. A "thinking thing" is what Descartes refers to himself as. Because I think, he concluded that I must exist because I am a thought. If you say "I talk, therefore I exist," your senses may deceive you, but if "I think, therefore I exist," thinking is itself a thought, therefore there is no mistake that I am a thinking object. Because we can know our own brains better than any other body, Descartes shows us there is a distinction between the two.
Descartes is able to demonstrate the distinction between fundamental and secondary traits, as well as the fact that we know more about minds than bodies, by using the wax example. When discussing change and how our thoughts and senses might tell us two distinct things, Descartes turns to the wax example in his second meditation. The platonic essence of a thing can only be seen and identified by our intellect in the end. Because our senses may fool us, our thoughts are the only ones we can trust. His concepts have been explained and shown, so that we may see for ourselves what the mind and senses can do.
Author: Russell Withers
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