Descartes’ Wax Example: Empiricism Vs. Rationalism Vs. Skepticism

Exclusively available on PapersOwl
Updated: Apr 30, 2024
Read Summary
Cite this
Descartes’ Wax Example: Empiricism Vs. Rationalism Vs. Skepticism

Descartes’ wax example is a fundamental philosophical argument contrasting empiricism, rationalism, and skepticism. This essay delves into Descartes’ meditation, where he examines a piece of wax to understand perception and knowledge acquisition. The overview explores how this thought experiment challenges empiricist views, which rely on sensory experience, by demonstrating how the wax’s properties change with heat. It then evaluates rationalist perspectives, emphasizing innate ideas and reason as true sources of knowledge, as suggested by Descartes. Finally, the skepticism aspect is analyzed, showing how Descartes uses doubt as a tool for philosophical inquiry. The piece provides a comprehensive understanding of how the wax analogy exemplifies core debates in philosophy concerning the nature of knowledge and the capabilities of human understanding. At PapersOwl, you’ll also come across free essay samples that pertain to Social Science.

Date added
Pages:  6
Words:  1700
Order Original Essay

How it works

Empiricism: Distinguishing Direct Observations from Layered Beliefs

One misunderstanding is the confusion of empiricism with empirical studies. Empiricism doesn’t have a monopoly on empirical studies however represents specific views on how studies ought to be done. Empiricism is the philosophical stance that observations and sensory experiences ought to be regarded as the foremost vital or sole methodology to realize information. All controversies ought to ideally be reduced to claims which will be verified by observations. It’s obvious that not all data stems directly from expertise.

Need a custom essay on the same topic?
Give us your paper requirements, choose a writer and we’ll deliver the highest-quality essay!
Order now

Thence empiricism continuously assumes a stratified type, within which all-time low-level problems come directly from expertise, and better levels are supported by lower levels. It’s most typically been thought by empiricists that beliefs at an all-time low level merely browse off what’s bestowed in expertise. If a tree is visually bestowed to Maine as inexperienced, I merely register this look in forming the assumption that the tree is inexperienced. Most of our beliefs – general beliefs, for example – don’t have this standing; however, in step with empiricism, they are supported by different beliefs in ways that eventually trace back to expertise. The belief that maple trees are clean in winter is supported by explicit sensory activity beliefs to the result that this maple tree is clean and its winter.

Neutrality in Perception: The Interplay of Observation, Cognition, and Empirical Beliefs

The fundamental assumption that different epistemologies are in robust opposition is that sensations and experiences are thought to be given, that what we tend to see is freelance of our theories, conceptualizations, culture, and political interests: and that controversies regarding information claims will be resolved simply by viewing realities. In empiricism and positivism, the method ideals of analysis are involved with the getting of facts, i.e., observations that each observer will agree on. It’s best to test for the researchers’ influence on the results. One may say that the reduction of the researchers’ individual subjectifies is ideal. This idea relies on the assumption that observations are neutral and that they’re not influenced by the researchers’ information, views, sex, and culture. It’s additionally supported by a psychological feature theory consistent with the fact that perception is seen as a neutral reading, and ide-as are labels related to sensory activity pictures. Empiricists believe that sense perception is the main supply of information. Philosophers explained this by dividing ideas into two parts: Straightforward and complicated. Straightforward ideas are primarily based solely on perception, like color, size, and shape. Complicated ideas are shaped once straightforward ideas are combined.

Descartes’ Wax Argument: Challenging Innate Ideas and the Limits of Sense Perception

Another belief of empiricists is that ideas are solely nonheritable through expertise and not through innate ideas. Empiricists reject the thought of innate data because, for instance, if kids had this information, why do they not show it? Like why will a baby have to learn to run or speak? Why will he or she not have this information at birth? Lock believed that solely experiences might be one kind of straightforward idea that may then be combined into complicated ideas. It’s the assumption that only a few things, if any, are evidenced once and for all. For instance, we all know of things by victimization our sense perception. We all know that the color of the flat solid is inexperienced, and the color of the dry-erase board is white; however, we tend to cannot, while not a doubt, conclude that those perceptions consider the objects themselves. There are no thanks to once and for all prove that the chalkboard stays inexperienced once we tend to leave the area and stop perceiving it. There are no thanks to once and for all prove that the flat solid even exists once we tend to stop perceiving it. St. George Berkely would make a case for this by first proving that God exists, so by oral communication, God perceives all objects which they exist even once individuals stop perceiving them. (Lawhead, p171)

Rationalism Explored: Innate Concepts, Trusting Reason, and Descartes’ Wax Argument

Rationalism, a basic cognitive process in innate concepts, means to own concepts before we tend to be born, for example, through reincarnation. Plato best explains this through his theory of the forms, that is that the place wherever everybody goes and attains information before they’re taken back to the visible world. Innate concepts will justify why some individuals are simply naturally higher at some things than people are, whether or not they had identical experiences. The basic cognitive process that reason is the main supply of information is another clear distinction of rationalism. Rationalists believe that the five senses solely provide you with opinions, not reasons. As an example, in Descartes’s wax argument, he explains that a candle has one form to start with. However, once the candle is lit, it begins to soften, lose its fragrance, and tackle a very totally different form than it had started with. This argument proves that our senses may be deceiving, which they ought not to be sure. The deduction is the third characteristic of rationalism, which is to prove one thing with certainty instead of reason.

Descartes, Rationalism, and the Dance with Skepticism: Trusting Perceptions and Seeking Truth

As an example, Descartes tried to prove the existence of God through abstract thought in his third mediation. It went one thing like this: “I have thought of an ideal substance. However, I’m not an ideal substance. Therefore there’s no means I couldn’t be the reason for this concept. Therefore there should be some formal reality that could be a good substance, like God.” Because solely perfection will produce perfection, and though it produces imperfection, nothing that’s imperfect can produce one thing that’s good. Through his meditations and wax theory, Descartes clearly illustrates that he’s a rationalist. In his wax theory, Descartes explains, however, one cannot depend upon one’s sense of perceptions of victimization in the instance of a candle. Once the candle is in its original state, it’s a singular form. Once the candle is burned down and liquified, it clearly incorporates a full form still as several alternative different characteristics.

Skepticism is the ability to face things that seem additionally as those thoughts in any manner, some, during which capability, thanks to equal strength that’s in objects and opposing arguments, we tend to arrive 1st at the suspension of assent, and subsequently the peace. The main consequence is that the item isn’t seen as itself. What we tend to see may be a reasonable screen that contains a mask. However, one thing about the topic. The perception is relative. Once philosopher concludes that we tend to be cautious of the vision and recognize the concepts. Skeptics don’t deny the existence of solely the looks of being, of truth.

Skepticism’s Paradox: Questioning Truth and the Limits of Knowledge

I will say not that honey is good. However, it looks like it’s good. Skeptics always argue that the degree of inadequate life of the truth may produce several issues because it claims to resolve them. They believed that truth wasn’t essentially unavailable but rather a plan that failed to nonetheless exist in an exceedingly pure kind. So, instead of denying the likelihood of truth, the Greek Skep-tics just claimed that logicians had not nonetheless discovered the truth and, by design, remained tentative and continued their inquiry. They conjointly questioned accepted information and viewed intolerance as an unwellness of the mind. Socrates claimed that he knew one and just one thing: that he knew nothing. (Mastin, 2009) Thus, instead of creating assertions or opinions, he set concerning questioning people that claimed to possess data, apparently for the aim of learning from them.

Though he never claimed that data is not possible, he never claimed to possess or discover any piece of data, even at his death. Some critics have recommended that simply because one thing can’t be well-tried doesn’t essentially mean that it’s not famous or that there’s no justification in the basic cognitive process. Mathematicians wished for sure data. However, that’s not the sole risk, and a few would argue that well-justified data is decent. Others have argued that Skepticism turns its own claims on their heads because an intellect can’t be sure that Skepticism is true. Thomas Reid, a founder of the Scottish School of Common Sense, argued that if perception and the other cognitive processes are not reliable, then the faculty of reasoning that the skeptic uses is also bound to be unreliable too (Mastin, 2009). So, either the intellect is true, during which case we tend to cannot trust our ability to reason and thus cannot trust the intellect’s conclusion or the skeptic is wrong, during which case once more we tend to cannot trust the skeptic’s conclusion.

Empiricism: The Role of Experience in Shaping Knowledge

As children, Empiricists say, we learn by observing adults, and that’s how we gain abstract knowledge about things like math and logic. Empiricism is the faculty of thought that tells North American country everything we all know comes from “Sense knowledge.” essentially, everything you recognize and believe comes from what you physically experience. If you recognize that concrete is difficult, it’s solely because you fell on a concrete floor once and realized this. If you recognize that your father is kind, it’s because he has done kind things in the past, and your sensation tells you that this can be true. Basically, they applied this principle to life. You merely recognize what you’ve intimated; something you have got not in person intimate is mere conjecture and not sure. “Although all our knowledge begins with experience, it doesn’t follow that it arises from experience.” (Lawhead, p232)


  1. Lawhead, W. (2018). “The Dynamics of Knowledge.” In Philosophical Foundations. New York: Philosophy Press. pp. 213-235.
  2. Plato. (380 BCE). Republic. Translated by G.R. Grube. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company.
  3. Descartes, R. (1641). Meditations on First Philosophy. Translated by J. Bennett. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  4. Berkeley, G. (1710). A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  5. Mastin, L. (2009). “The Skeptic’s Journey: A Historical Overview.” In Philosophical Thought from the Ancients to the Moderns.
  6. Reid, T. (1785). Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Man. Edinburgh: Balfour & Clarke.
The deadline is too short to read someone else's essay
Hire a verified expert to write you a 100% Plagiarism-Free paper

Cite this page

Descartes' Wax Example: Empiricism vs. Rationalism vs. Skepticism. (2023, Aug 09). Retrieved from