The Validity of Knowledge

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Lia Thompson
Mr. Faria
HZT 4U1
Wednesday January 18, 2012

The Validity of Knowledge

This paper will explain the validity of John Locke’s Theory of Knowledge. Epistemology has been the topic of discussion for many philosophers over the centuries. The study of knowledge is important because as humans, it is necessary to understand where the basis for our knowledge originates. Locke, like many philosophers believed that all knowledge about the world is derived from sensory perceptions. Empiricists such as Locke believe this “posteriori” view of knowledge. He explains in his theory that we are born with “blank slates” or Tabula Rasa, the term used in Locke’s theory in his writing, “An Essay Concerning Human Understanding” (Locke 163). Philosophical arguments are as varied as the philosophers who construct them. For each theory, there is an opposing view. Rationalists, such as Rene Descartes would argue against Locke and his empiricist view of knowledge, believing knowledge to be innate. Descartes believed that all humans are innately born with these truths without the aid of our senses as argued in his first, second and third Meditations (Descartes 3). Locke’s theory goes against not only Descartes views but Plato’s as well. But Despite the arguments against Locke’s empiricist view, he is most reasonable. I agree with John Locke’s theory of sensory perception because we would not be able to survive without our senses.

John Locke was born on August 29, 1632 in a village in Somerset, England (John Locke-Biography). He wrote several major works that have made a big impact on today’s view of the world, but his major theory on knowledge was in his book, “An Essay Concerning Human Understanding”, where he outlined his views as well as argued against rationalist’s view on innate knowledge. He wrote his book based on his belief that true knowledge is gained through experience, “a posteriori” (Velasquez 330). “Locke holds that the mind is a tabula rasa or blank sheet until experience in the form of sensation and reflection provide the basic materials — simple ideas — out of which most of our more complex knowledge is constructed” (Uzgalis). Reflection and sensory experiences go hand in hand because in order for our senses to be used, we must experience the world around us. Once we have experienced, for example the sweet taste of an apple, from eating it, we are able to reflect on what our senses were able to establish about it and gain truths about what we experienced. “Reason is our intellect, our power to think and make judgments based on our sensory experience” (Locke 59). Locke does agree that we as humans have reason but our senses are paired up with reason, as we are to reason what our senses are experiencing. Locke created the theory of “Primary and Secondary Qualities” to explain his ideas about the differences between our perception of the world and what the world really is. Based on scientific research, humans are aware that not everything we perceive is the same as how other living creatures perceive it. Animals in comparison to humans may experience the same things as humans do, but the way they are perceived can be totally different. For example, it is scientifically proven that dogs cannot see in colour, so to them everything is in black and white. Dogs still use their sight, but are unable to see the same colour humans can. Primary Qualities are measurable qualities by size, weight, shape etc. and will stay the same regardless of our perception. Secondary Qualities are the hidden powers an object has that can produce in us a sensory experience such as the colour we see in the sky. (Velasquez 333) We can understand his theory on Primary and Secondary Qualities because scientists are able through research to study other living things and their perceptions of senses. Locke’s theories are a clear explanation to the many things we experience as human beings.

Descartes was born on March 31st, 1596...
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