Finally Descartes says that his own existence is now more certain still than

Finally descartes says that his own existence is now

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malleable’ (p109). Finally, Descartes says that his own existence is now more certain still than that of the wax. For whether or not the wax actually exists, the fact that I can judge that it does, means that I must exist. Comments Descartes has here introduced the terms ‘clear’ and ‘distinct’ without giving an explanation of what he means, and so we will need to try to work out what he means as we go. [cf. Principles I, 45] Since the conclusion that the sensible properties were not distinctly comprehended in the wax is supposed to follow from the observation that the sensible properties change without the wax ceasing to exist, it would seem that Descartes wants to argue that distinct comprehension has to do with grasping the unchanging or permanent properties of a thing. It may be, therefore, that he is making a distinction which parallels that between primary and secondary qualities - i.e. between geometrical and mathematical properties like extension and mobility which are perceived clearly and distinctly since they are amenable to mathematical description, and those such as colour and odour which are not. So the idea would be that I can conceive of an object without any colour, smell etc. but not one without any size and position, and this shows that the latter are essential to my idea of body. (This interpretation of his intentions here would fit well, as we shall see, with Descartes’ considered view of the essential nature of body. Clearly, however, at this stage - since he doesn’t know whether or not bodies exist at all - he cannot yet be distinguishing between properties which actually are in objects themselves, from those which are not.) However if this is his intention the obvious problem is that neither set of properties (primary or secondary) in the wax example is unchanging. Its shape changes just as much as does its colour. And while it always retains some shape, no less must it retain some colour. Although it remains extended and flexible, it also remains coloured. Despite this difficulty it is clear that the conclusion that the wax has been understood all along by the mind alone rather than by imagination or sense relies on the observation that I recognise the wax to be the same regardless of its various transformations. The wax appears to be more than the set of perceivable or imaginable properties. Here the idea seems to be that since nothing that has been observed by the senses has remained constant the observation that the wax is the same must be made by the mind. Since imagination is restricted to what it actually observes and cannot imagine innumerable variations the judgement that it is the same wax must be the work of the mind. Descartes is arguing that I do not see the wax as such but merely its sensible qualities, just as I do not see people in the street, but merely their clothing (p110). And yet I think of it as more than the finite set of qualities I have seen or can imagine. The only thing however that we cannot abstract away is its being flexible, movable and extended. In other words I do not know the wax simply in
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