Essay on The Origin of Ideas

Essay on The Origin of Ideas

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The Origin of Ideas


Webster's dictionary defines the word idea as 1) something, such as a thought or conception, that potentially or actually exists in the mind as a product of mental activity, 2) an opinion, a conviction, or a principle, 3) a plan, scheme, or method 4) the gist of a specific situation, and 5) a notion. We have a better understanding of these definitions today because of the thoughts and writings of Descartes and John Locke. These two have very different views on the origin of ideas. Descartes is a rationalist, one who uses a method of inquiry that regards reason as the chief source and test of knowledge, while Locke is an empiricist, one having the attitude that beliefs are to be accepted and acted upon only if they first have been confirmed by actual experience. Their views are opposites, but they both left their mark on the concept and origin of "the idea".
Locke believes that all our ideas come from experience. The mind has no innate ideas, it has only innate abilities. Our mind is like a clean white sheet of paper. It is experiences that fill our sheets of paper with characters and symbols (33). Locke also compares our acquisition of ideas to that of a child coming into the world. If the child grew up in a world of black and white he would know nothing (have no ideas) of a world of green or scarlet (35). Our mind can perceive, remember, desire, deliberate, and will. It is these mental activities that are themselves, which along with experience, are the source of most of the ideas we have.
Locke also claims that our senses play a major role in creating ideas. The ideas we have due to our senses are called sensation. Without sensation the mind would have nothing to operate on and ther...


... middle of paper ...


.... This requires intellectual thought and reasoning, the basis for the rationalist view.
Experience? Reasoning? How do we develop ideas and become the people we are. Perhaps it is a combination of the two methods. The origin of ideas is a very complex issue. Two great philosophers have opposing views on how an individual from the time of birth develops ideas and transforms them into knowledge. How are we to know which one is correct? Without experience how do we develop ideas about things and without reasoning how do we put the ideas together and make sense of them so we can gain knowledge. We need both of these methods of creating ideas in order gain the most we can. Neither one is totally correct; neither one is totally wrong. It is when you combine the two, using as little or as much rationalism/empiricism as one likes to get the true origin of ideas.

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