John Locke: Human Understanding

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When considering knowledge, Locke is interested in the ability for us to know something, the capacity of gathering and using information and understanding the limits of what we know. He believes this also leads him to realise what we perhaps, cannot know. [1] He wants to find out about the origin of our ideas. His main stand-point is that we don’t have innate ideas and he aims to get rid of the sceptical doubt about what we know. The innate ideas which Locke sets out to argue against are those which “the soul receives in its very first being, and brings into the world with it”. [2] “Let us suppose the mind to be, as we say, white paper, void of all characters”. [3] This quote depicts the idea of the “Tabula Rasa”, that at birth are minds are completely empty like that of a blank slate and it is our experiences which draw on the blank slate, in order to form thoughts and ideas. He has two types of argument against innate ideas; direct and indirect. The indirect argument can be seen as the more positive of the two, and the idea of it is that we are able to explain all knowledge we have without innate ideas but from other sources. The direct argument is the more negative view, and focuses on the problem of universal assent which Locke believes to be an insufficient idea and also necessary and absent. He expands from this by saying that modified universal assent is too inclusive and depends on the order of discovery. So really he is saying that the argument for innate principles doesn’t work, especially with regard to universal assent. He believes that if universal assent existed, it could be explained in other ways and therefore is not innate. However, Locke doesn’t believe that universal assented principles can exist at all and thi... ... middle of paper ... ...t innate epistemic principles – revised December 1996 3. Reading: Ariew & Watkins 270-290 (Locke’s An Essay Concerning Human Understanding Book I Chapters I and II, Book II Chapters I - VIII) 4. https://www.sparknotes.com/philosophy/lockeessay/section3.rhtml 5. https://www.sparknotes.com/philosophy/lockeessay/section4.rhtml 6. https://www.sparknotes.com/philosophy/lockeessay/section4.rhtml 7. https://www.sparknotes.com/philosophy/lockeessay/section3.rhtml 8. https://www.sparknotes.com/philosophy/lockeessay/section6.rhtml 9. Reading: Ariew & Watkins 270-290 (Locke’s An Essay Concerning Human Understanding Book I Chapters I and II, Book II Chapters I - VIII) 10. http://www.sparknotes.com/philosophy/lockeessay/quotes.html 11. https://www.sparknotes.com/philosophy/lockeessay/section1.rhtml 12. http://www.sparknotes.com/philosophy/lockeessay/terms.html
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