Empiricist vs. Rationalist

Topics: Perception, Empiricism, Rationalism Pages: 3 (894 words) Published: March 3, 2006
Empiricist philosophers such as John Locke believe that knowledge must come from experience. Others philosophers such as Descartes believe that knowledge is innate; this way of thinking is used by rationalist. In this paper I will discuss the difference between Descartes rationalism in his essays "The Meditations" and Locke's empiricism in his essays "An Essay Concerning Human Understanding". I will then lend my understanding as to what I believe as the ultimate source of knowledge.

Locke discards the suggestion of innate ideas. Locke believes that if we always had innate ideas, it would be impossible for us not to perceive or be aware of them. He believes that if there were innate ideas then they would be universal ideas present in everyone (universal ideas are the principals that all humans agree on). He uses the case of children to prove that not all ideas are universal and innate by stating that if they were then everybody would have them when they were born, and it is obvious that children do not have universal ideas "children cannot be ignorant of them: infants, and all that have souls, must necessarily have them in their understandings" (Locke 92). Like all empiricists, Locke believes that knowledge comes from experience. He believes the mind to be a blank canvas and that ideas get into our minds through sensations, perceptions and reflections. "Let us then suppose the mind to be, as we say, white paper, void of all characters, without any ideas" (Locke 96). Locke believes that reflection (when we perceive our own mind) and sensation (sense perception) are the only two ways that ideas can come into our minds. This is where experience comes into the picture; Locke believes that everybody gains ideas through sensation experiences. Sounds, colours, and touchable qualities come into the mind through our senses. In order to have an idea of something (such as the colour red); you must first have an experience of it. Locke's explanation for the...
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