Cognition of the human essence is one of the most complex philosophical issues that has been regularly raised and is being raised by various scholars. To understand what a person is, philosophers have resorted to a variety of techniques, using comparisons. René Descartes (1996), in his work Meditations on first philosophy, resorts to the use of wax as a subject of analysis, considering its qualities and using the findings for further investigation of a person. The purpose of this essay is to investigate the essential qualities of wax put forward by the scholar.
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Initially, Descartes refers to those properties that can be easily identified by visual and tactile examination. These properties constitute the tangible basis of an object, allowing a person to distinguish it from other objects. However, these qualities can easily be changed, as the philosopher proves by melting wax with fire (Descartes, 1996). When heated, the wax loses most of the elements inherent in its structure – the smell and color change, the wax no longer emits a characteristic sound upon impact. Therefore, Descartes concludes, these qualities are not decisive for this substance (Descartes, 1996). In this case, if the outer shell is removed, it can be concluded that the essence of the wax is mobility and flexibility. These qualities are determining for wax since they allow it to change shape under the influence of external factors. At the same time, even with a complete change in appearance and structure, for example, when melting, the wax retains its true essence, remaining wax.
In other words, it can be concluded that the defining qualities of wax are not external factors that are distinguishable through perception but internal ones that determine the essence. In the case of wax, flexibility and resilience are similar characteristics. It is thanks to these properties that wax can take on various forms while retaining its essence. This conclusion can be extended to other substances while maintaining the meaning of this concept – the determining factors of the body are not external but internal, tangible with the help of the mental process.
Descartes, R. (1996). Meditations on first philosophy. (E. S. Haldane, Trans.). Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Original work published 1641).