Descartes and Hume: Piece of Wax
In Descartes’ “Meditation II,” he begins his look into sensory perceptions with a very in-depth look into a plain piece of wax. He explains that there is a very distinct piece of wax, perhaps from a fresh honeycomb. All the physical attributes of this wax can be observed; feel, temperature, color, taste, smell, odor; these are the things we can tell through our senses. He then melts away the wax, and the things our senses had perceived are no longer there. They have either been changed dramatically into a liquid, and some have altogether disappeared. If we rely solely on what our sense perceptions told us were qualities of the wax, this could make us question whether this liquid substance is still wax. Our physical senses tell us that the wax in a later form is a completely different substance than in the earlier form. Descartes realizes that even though the wax is in a changed form, we somehow still recognize it at wax, therefore something beyond our sense perceptions is telling our minds that. If we take away the qualities that we now recognize not to what we thought to distinguish the wax, we are left with something that is “extended, flexible, and changeable.” How do I understand that it is extended, flexible and mutable? Perhaps it is by my imagination. I cannot imagine all of the infinite variety of forms the wax might take, so imagination is not responsible for my understanding of wax” (Descartes, section 31)
He discredits imagination for making his assumption, and decides the only possible explanation then, would be the mind. He doesn’t take all credibility away from the senses, but says we cannot perceive it is wax based on only taste and touch alone, because our senses can often be deceived. Descartes is saying the sense perception relies more on mind than sense experience, because through reason we can know that object continue to exist even when their properties change. Descartes’ predecessor held very...
Please join StudyMode to read the full document