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1. Explain what Descartes is trying to establish with his wax argument in

the Second Meditation. Be sure to discuss how this argument addresses the

paradox with which the passage starts. Is this argument really about wax?


Descartes is trying to establish his mind more clearly through the wax. He does

not yet know what he is. He is still trying to find what "I" am he doesn't know. He

discusses the characteristics of the wax, its color, shape, smell, taste, feel, and how it

sounds. He also discusses how when he places it over fire all of these characteristics

change, yet the same wax exists. He understands the wax with his mind, and he uses his

senses to learn of its characteristics even though with the wax these characteristics

change. He understands this substance as wax; even as its characteristics change, he uses

his senses to get his information, but he uses his mind to process and understand this


The paradox of the whole passage is the fact that even though he can know about

the physical world, we can understand it he can not be sure of its existence, yet he can

proof the existence of the mental world and yet he does not know much about it.

The argument is not really about wax at all, the wax is used as a tool to look back at

himself, he is introspecting, or looking in on his own self. Even though the argument

talks about the characteristics of the wax, he is only using that as a mirror into his own

mind. He was able to prove that his mind exists because he could understand the wax,

what it really was, not its characteristics. Wax takes many forms, if he wanted he could

bend and mold it into an infinite amount of shapes more than he could even imagine.

The wax is not its smell, it's not its feel, or its taste, or the sound it makes, the wax is

wax, a substance that he can not even be sure exists but can understand it and in so doing

can define his own mental existence. He believes that there are three possible things, his

own mind, the outside world, and God, he uses the outside world (the wax) to look in on

his mind. His mind is able to understand the outside world and so he can understand

what his mind is more through his interpretation of the wax. The wax is not what this

argument is about it is about his own mind and realizing that it exists.

3. Consider the following:

(a) 2+2=4.

(b) My body exists.

(c) My mind exists.

(d) God exists.




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