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How Does The Mind Get To Know According To John Locke?

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Autor:   •  June 20, 2011  •  3,143 Words (13 Pages)  •  773 Views

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Lynill Haze Muchamiel

How does the mind get to know according to John Locke?

From the beginning, this question has been asked already of many philosophers for many times. Even during the time of Aristotle this question was already existed, and it was indeed very controversial for them of how does the mind get know.

Historically this question has two answers. Some says that the mind is already endowed with something like innate ideas while others says that the mind starts out as a blank and somehow acquires knowledge through experience. These two answers somehow designate a division; the claim that we have innate ideas falls to the rationalist, and the claim that we can have knowledge through experience falls to the empiricist.

In this work mine, it will focus only to the empiricist view most especially to a philosopher whose name is John Locke. For Locke, mind gets to know through experience. The first thing for an empiricist to do is to get rid of the rationalist clear and distinct innate ideas. That is why; John Locke provides a counterpart answer from the rationalist and somehow criticizes their claim of giving some situations. The most important thing to do in the way of a purely negative attack on innate ideas is to cast doubt on their universality: Does everyone actually possess any such ideas?

Locke's counterargument consists on pointing to the absence of such ideas in "children, idiots, etc." He even goes to the extent of claiming that the propositions that most deserved consent - namely, the principle identity and contradiction - are so far from having a universal assent, that there is a great part that the mankind to whom they are not so much known. John Locke claims that a child cannot be made to assent to the principle of contradiction because he cannot grasp the large, comprehensive, and abstract names it involves, so much more to the idiots. In other words there are no universal innate ideas in the sense of explicitly held principles, but there is a sort of universal readiness to assent to such principles when experience gives rise to them.

Knowing these given situations, rationalist still claims that there are significant ways in which our concepts and knowledge are gained independently of sense experience. They still held that knowledge originated in the intellect itself, without the partnership of senses. They even assert a doctrine that knowledge somehow imprinted already in the minds of all men. In the rationalist view, the intuition/deduction thesis, the innate knowledge thesis, and the innate concept thesis are essential. In fact to be a rationalist it needs to adopt at least one of them.

First let us talk about the intuition/deduction thesis. Intuition and deduction plays a very important role. In fact for Descartes, only intuition and deduction can provide the certainty needed for knowledge. But what is in intuition and deduction that even Descartes somehow gives a significant to it? Rationalist defines intuition as a form of rational insight. Intellectually grasping a proposition, we just see it to be true in such a way as to form a true, warranted belief in it. And deduction is a process in which we derive conclusions from intuited premises through valid arguments, ones in which the conclusion must be true if the premises are true. We intuit, for example, that the number five is a prime number greater than four. We then deduce from this knowledge that there is a prime number greater than four. Intuition and deduction thus provide us with knowledge a priori, which is to say knowledge gained independently of sense experience.

Second let us talk about to the innate knowledge thesis. In this thesis it states that we have knowledge of some truths in a particular subject area, as part of our rational nature. Like the intuition/deduction thesis, the innate knowledge thesis asserts the existence of knowledge gained a priori, independently of experience. But there is a difference that rest between them in the accompanying understanding of how this a priori knowledge is gained. The intuition/deduction thesis cites intuition and subsequent deductive reasoning. Before we arrive to that knowledge we have to undergo first a series of deducing process of a certain thing. Just like a banana we have to tear first its covers in order to know its reality. On the other hand, the innate knowledge thesis offers our rational nature. Our innate knowledge is not learned through either sense experience or intuition and deduction. It is just part of our nature, that the moment we were born, we have already some ideas. Rationalist says that experiences may trigger a process by which we bring this knowledge to consciousness, but experiences do not provide us with the knowledge itself. It has in some way been with us all along. According to some rationalist, we gained the knowledge in an earlier existence. According to others, God provided us with it at creation. Still others say it is part of our nature through natural selection.

The third important thesis of rationalism is the innate concept thesis. In this thesis it states that we have some of the concepts we employ in a particular subject area as part of our rational nature. This thesis is somehow the same with innate knowledge thesis, for they both assert that knowledge and concepts are not gained from experience, they are part of our rational nature in such a way that sense experience may trigger a process by which it gives to consciousness, and also experience for them does not provide the concepts or determine the information they contain. It just only gives a consciousness to a certain thing but it does not provide knowledge at all.

After knowing a little background to the rationalist view, we go now to the main course of this work, to the empiricist most especially to a British Philosopher whose name is John Locke. It will be now easy for us to know the philosophy of empiricist for we have already a picture of how rationalist assert their claim of how does the mind get to know. In the empiricist view, about a particular subject they reject the corresponding version of the Intuition/Deduction thesis and Innate Knowledge thesis. For them, Insofar as we have knowledge in the subject, our knowledge is a posteriori, dependent upon sense experience. They also deny the implication of the corresponding innate concepts thesis that we have innate ideas in the subject area. Sense experience is our only source of ideas. We can actually know them through our senses. Empiricist also rejects the corresponding version of the superiority reason thesis. Since reason alone does

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