How Convincing Is the View That Sense Experience Is the Source of All Knowledge?

Topics: Empiricism, Immanuel Kant, A priori and a posteriori Pages: 3 (999 words) Published: November 12, 2012
How convincing is the view that sense experience is the source of all knowledge? (30mark)

The view that sense experience is the source of all knowledge is an Empiricist one. Rationalism and Empiricism are the two ways in which one can approach questions regarding the obtaining of knowledge. Empiricism would argue that knowledge from reason is trivial, as it doesn’t tell us anything substantial about the world, and the only way we can do that is through experiencing it. Locke was an empiricist who believed all knowledge was gained through sense experience. He referred to the mind at birth as a ‘tabula rasa’, ‘clean slate’, thus demonstrating that we are born without any knowledge, and the only way to gain knowledge is through our collective experiences. Throughout our life our sense receive all sorts of information, then in time the mind comes to reflect on its own operations about ideas is got from sensation, thereby generating new ideas. These two steps are known as the ‘two fountains of knowledge’. Locke is stating that we gather information from our sense, and then when needed we can reflect on multiple knowledge we gained from sense experience, to from new sets of ideas. Thus, even knowledge we haven’t experience, according to Locke comes from reflection upon previous collective experiences.

However, Locke’s theory of the ‘tabula rasa’ fails to take into account the innate knowledge we seem to be born with, such as the necessity to breathe. It also doesn’t take into account the fact our senses can deceive us, demonstrated by Plato’s cave analogy. The cave analogy depict prisoners that from birth have been chained up in a cave looking towards a wall, with a permanently lit fire behind them, thus all they ever see are shadows. They would believe that they have seen these shadows, thus they must exist, when in fact all they are is the absence of light. The shadows would be their reality. Thus they are deceived by their senses. Dreams are another way to...
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