now the seal now the wax

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longxianchen

Senior Member
chinese
Hi
Here is a sentence:
"in all those operation,this congnitive power is at one time passive, at another active, and resembles now the seal and now the wax"

What's the mean of the red part? Thank you in advance
 
  • Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    Hello longzianchen.

    Where did you see this? What kind of a book is it?
    What are they talking about? What are 'all these operations"? And so on.

    You need to help us, if you want us to help you.
     

    longxianchen

    Senior Member
    chinese
    From a book: DESCARTES KEY PHILOSOPHICAL WRITINGS.
    In all these operations this cognitive power is at one time passive, at another active, and resembles now the seal and now the wax. But the resemblance on this occasion is only one of analogy, for among corporeal things there is nothing wholly similar to this faculty ..
     
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    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    Descartes is a careful thinker and the quotation is a miniscule part of a much longer discussion. So this this only be a rough suggestion of what he is writing about.

    Wax is malleable material that takes impressions. The seal is the stone or metal device which is used to make an impression on the wax. Descartes is saying that the cognitive process plays both roles -- at one point it operates to make an impression (you figure things out and store the information in your mind) at another point it is the wax (it functions as memory, it absorbs the impression and retains it).
     
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    Truffula

    Senior Member
    English - USA
    Thank you Cagey, that was a great explanation. It's a complex metaphor that you unpacked very clearly. Makes much more sense now! :)
     
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