Descartes vs Locke

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Philosophy Essay (Descartes vs. Locke)

Socrates once said, “As for me, all I know is that I know nothing.” Several philosophers contradicted Socrates’ outlook and believed that true knowledge was in fact attainable. This epistemological view however had several stances to it, as philosophers held different beliefs in regards to the derivation of true knowledge. Rationalists believed that the mind was the source of true knowledge, while in Empiricism, true knowledge derived from the senses. Rene Descartes, a rationalist, and John Locke, an empiricist, were prime examples of epistemologists who were seen to differentiate greatly within each of their philosophies. However, although Descartes and Locke’s ideas did contrast in that sense, they both shared common concepts that helped mould the basis of their ideas.

Descartes and Locke both agreed that there were things in life that exist that we can be certain of. For Descartes, human experiences did not provide sufficient proof of existence. He indicated that through his Dream Conjecture and his Evil-Demon Theory (Paquette 205). Descartes stated that we cannot be certain if reality is a dream or not, thus questioning our existence (Paquette 205). In his Evil-Demon Theory, Descartes claimed that for all he knew, an evil demon could be putting thoughts into his head, making him think that reality was true when it was in fact false (Paquette 205). Ultimately, all this thinking resulted in Descartes coming to the conclusion that the one thing we could be sure of existing is the mind (Newman 2010). This can be seen through his most famous quote, “I think therefore I am (Kaplan 2008).” Descartes claimed that since he was able to doubt and think using his mind, his mind must exist (Paquette 205).

Similarly, Locke was also sure of existence. He believed that every object was made up of primary qualities as well as secondary qualities (Paquette 212). Secondary qualities rely on how a person senses the object...
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