Innate Knowledge Locke

Topics: Tabula rasa, Epistemology, Innatism Pages: 2 (847 words) Published: April 22, 2008
The thought that humans are born with some sort of innate ideas has been a much debated topic for many years. It is impossible to say if it is true or not, but it is believed true by many people, including some religions. John Locke has several arguments against innate knowledge; among these, the argument that states that if we did in fact possess innate ideas, then everybody would agree on at least one idea. There are no principles that everybody aggress on. Therefore, innate ideas cannot possibly exist. Locke uses the logic of this argument for several different situations such as the argument for moral innate knowledge.

Locke starts off this argument by saying “No moral principles so clear and so generally received as the fore-mentioned speculative maxims. If those speculative maxims whereof we discoursed in the foregoing chapter, have not an actually universal assent from all mankind, as we there proved it is much more visible concerning practical principles, that they come short of a universal reception; and I think it will be hard to instance any one moral rule which can pretend to so general and ready an assent as, ‘What is, is’, or to be so manifest a truth as this, ‘That it is impossible for the same thing to be and not to be.’” (pg 26 An Essay Concerning Human Understanding) Some people believe that every person has a set of morals bestowed in them at birth, but Locke argues this by saying that not every person in the world agrees on a set of morals so there is no possible way this could be true. He says that there is not a single moral idea that we can say that everybody in the world agrees to, which eliminates any question of innate knowledge.

Descartes would disagree with Locke on the subject of innate ideas. He felt that we did possess these types of ideas and would probably reply to Locke’s argument by saying that although all people may not agree on one moral idea, that doesn’t mean that they do not possess any innate idea, they may...
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