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An Analysis of the Wax Experiment, Essay Example

Pages: 5

Words: 1387

Essay

Rene Descartes was a “French philosopher” and mathematician, best recognized for being the first modern philosopher. Descartes’ meditations try to explain God’s existence, physical sciences, and the mind and body’s unification. The meditator hopes to achieve great things if only he can be sure of one. The only certainty in the meditator’s life is the fact that certainty is non-existent. The second meditation, “The Nature of the Human Mind and How it is Better known than the Body,” happens a day after the first meditation. Moreover, the meditator wonders about the difference between perception based on senses and the mind. In the second meditation, Descartes introduces the wax argument, a concept used to analyze how human beings process perceptions using senses and using the mind.

Wax is the object of consideration in Descartes’ argument. The meditator analyzes wax based on its change in shape and color. Solid wax is hard and white. However, once melted, the qualities of the wax significantly change. Instead of being hard, the wax becomes soft and colorless (Descartes et al.). The idea is that it is still the same wax, but the solid wax differs from the melted wax; the solid wax properties are unlike those of the melted wax. It is critical to examine Descartes’ reasoning in understanding the wax argument and its relevance to the senses and the mind. Descartes’ way of thinking emphasizes that one must consider the physical properties at that moment and consider the mind’s judgment.

Judgment based on emotion and senses prevents an individual from incorporating objective thinking. Emotions and feelings are significant aspects that make individuals human. Based on Descartes’ wax experiment, the wax in its solid form is identifiable as wax; however, the wax is a different substance after melting. When left to the senses alone, the senses would conclude that it is a foreign substance. However, the mind concludes that the substance is still wax, only in a different form. Senses alone are likely to form a biased conclusion with no logical reasoning. Descartes believes that the ideas that one could have of external objects to the body should not be perceived through one’s senses but through intellect.

Descartes’ wax experiment embraces rationalism designed to compare perception through the senses and the mind. When the wax melts, all left is the “essence,” which could occur in various forms. The meditator realizes that the wax can change to different shapes and sizes to infinity. The outcome is that perception can be disoriented if led by senses and not the intellect. According to the meditator, one can easily be deceived by saying they see the wax as perceived by the senses. The conclusion is that the mind is superior to the body and other things. At that moment that the meditator perceives the wax, he is aware that he is perceiving and aware of his existence (Descartes et al.). All thoughts about the outside world give certainty of one’s existence and affirm one’s mind. Through the analysis on the wax that Descartes shows, human beings know things through intellect and rarely through senses; and that an individual knows the mind better than any other thing.

Individuals need not rely on sensory abilities when formulating an opinion but instead, think objectively. The solid wax is now melted wax with different properties (Descartes et al.). Descartes’s primary idea is to use the deductive method in forming logical opinions. The melted wax loses its initial properties but remains wax in a different form. The wax argument represents rationalism; it is an argument that fosters the idea that the mind is better understood than the body. Individuals must get the primary concept of an issue despite the circumstances of a problem at that moment. Descartes’ reasoning is about a personal understanding of objects and their properties (Descartes et al.). One must see the wax piece still even after it is melted and aware of its previous and current qualities. The human brain works uniquely in that when one sees an object; they immediately consider the circumstances surrounding the object’s appearance.

Descartes’ wax experiment provides insight on knowledge of myself and the unification of the mind and body. In the second meditation, the meditator refers to “I” as the thing that thinks. He decides that his existence goes beyond being something with senses and understands but is also something with intellect. Even though the meditator believes that he may be dreaming and or a culprit of deception from a demon, he is confident that he can still hear and see things, which is still part of the mind (Descartes et al.). However, the meditator then concludes that one cannot trust their senses as well as their mind. The meditator still wonders why his body fails to realize what the “I” is thinking. For the meditator to understand his thoughts, he uses the wax’s analogy to make sense of it all.

Life is busy with individuals struggling to balance school, family, work, relationships, parenthood, and social media. Men and women rarely find time to meditate and understand themselves. Meditation creates the opportunity for one to be aware of the present moment and critically analyze their life. It is an opportunity to connect the mind, body, soul, and spirit and face unresolved personal issues with no distractions. Based on Descartes, and after a careful analysis of myself, I realize that a lot of the opinions I form on topics go against the primary idea promoted by Descartes. I tend to create views based on senses which rely on emotions and feelings and rarely on logical reasoning. Logical reasoning includes the use of the available facts to make an informed opinion or decision. On the other hand, an opinion formed based on feelings is likely to be biased. It is often difficult to ignore emotions; feelings and emotions are the components of being human.

Emotions such as love and anger can be powerful to ignore and dictate judgment in the heat of the moment. For example, in retrospect to love, one can fall in love with another individual who does not love them in the same intensity. The fact of the situation is that the other person does not reciprocate the love, and to avoid hurting oneself, one must cut communication with the other individual. It is only logical to discontinue loving the other since they do not reciprocate the love. However, in such situations, one may choose to beg or cry for the other individual to love them. Begging and crying are decisions fostered by emotion, while cutting communication is a rational decision based on the facts. Judging from Descartes’ wax experiment, I realize that it is critical to consider the wax properties before formulating a decision (Descartes et al.). In real life, change is constant, just like the wax that changed from solid to melted state. It is essential to consider the properties and circumstances at that time and make an unbiased opinion. Moreover, just like Descartes, I realize that thoughts about the outside world make me confirm my existence and rule out the possibility of non-existence.

Intellect is different from senses; Descartes’ second meditation’s wax argument shows that realization of objects or circumstances through senses forms biased opinion rather than intellect which embraces logical thinking. Descartes uses wax to explain the distinction between decisions developed through the senses and the mind. According to Descartes, an individual’s senses may fail to recognize wax in its melted state. The senses alone are not reliable to tell that the melted and solid wax and the same object in different forms of matter; intellect is necessary to make sense of the perception. The mind allows one to understand information and formulate logical opinions. Emotions are a significant part of being a human being. In regards to Descartes’ meditation, I gathered knowledge about myself and my reliance on sense and feeling in forming opinions rather than logical reasoning. The wax experiment offers a realization that intellect is necessary for developing rational decisions. The mind allows one to understand reality and continuously seek knowledge. Additionally, Descartes mentions that the ability to process thoughts of the outside world affirms an individual’s existence. If one can process thoughts and understand them, their body and mind are indeed existent.

Works Cited

Descartes, René, Elizabeth Sanderson Haldane, and George Robert Thomson Ross. Meditations on first philosophy in focus. Psychology Press, 1993.

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