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How do we know what we know This is a question asked by Rene Descartes as well as a host of other philosophers A particular passage written in Meditations on First Philosophy by Descartes dubbed the Wax Passage examined the nature of material things and what we really know about them Descartes thought process shall be followed and his conclusion that if all attributes are stripped away what is left is the essence of the wax will be explained The wax passage in and of itself is a simple train of thought to follow The essence of the passage is Descartes belief which he attempts to convince the reader of that clear and distinct ideas one has about material objects external to their own body are not perceived by the senses but rather through the mind Playing with a piece of wax one has certain ideas ideas originally thought to have stemmed from the 5 senses sight smell sound taste and touch but information obtained through our senses can be shown to be false Take for example this piece of waxIts colour figure and size are apparent to the sight it is hard cold easily handled and sounds when struck upon with the fingerLet it be placed near the fire the colour changes its figure is destroyed its size increases it becomes a liquid it grows hot it can hardly be handledDoes the same wax remain after this changeDescartes138 It is obvious to most people that the same wax remains and the clear and distinct ideas of the wax remain as well yet all ones sensory perceptions of the wax have been distorted Descartes asks What then was it I knew with so much distinctness in the piece of waxit could be nothing of all that I observed by means of the senses since all the things that fell under taste smell sight touch and hearing are changed and yet the same wax remains Descartes138
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