John Locke and Immanuel Kant: Comparative Analysis of Epistemological Doctrines

Topics: Immanuel Kant, A priori and a posteriori, Epistemology Pages: 10 (3710 words) Published: June 23, 2013
John Locke and Immanuel Kant: Comparative analysis of epistemological doctrines

We are here concerned with the relationship between the human mind, somatic-sensory perceptions, objects of perception, and claims of knowledge arising from their interaction, through the philosophies of John Locke and Immanuel Kant. Confounding the ability to find solid epistemological ground, philosophers have, generally speaking, debated whether ‘what’ we know is prima facie determined by the objective, as-they-are, characteristics of the external world 1(epistemological realism) or if the mind determines, as-it-is, the nature of objects through its own experiential deductions (epistemological idealism). The purpose of this paper is to use the synthetical approach of Immanuel Kant, who utilizes a logical schematization of cognition along with experience (transcendental idealism), in the attaining of knowledge, to criticize Locke’s claims against innate ideas, and subsequently, origin and attainment of knowledge. In the first part of this paper, I will explain the major differences which distinguish epistemological realism and idealism. This disambiguation of philosophical jargon is to allow the reader to understand why the debate exists, how it impacts what human’s claims as ‘knowledge’, and whether or not the debate has any contemporary philosophical importance. This last feature is a relevant aspect of the debate since ‘knowledge’ applies to a great many areas of human life, including, but not limited to, the sciences, morality and ethics, and aesthetics. In the second part of this paper, I will outline Kant’s idealism, otherwise known as, transcendental idealism. This section will lay out the terminology in Kant’s epistemology which will act as a backdrop for comparing and contrasting the theory of Locke. This section will also describe the foundation of Kant’s epistemological claims. As mentioned in the introduction, the mind, the somatic-sensory perceptions, and objects of perception are to be accounted for in the debate between idealism and realism. Thus, the second part of the paper will conclude with an understanding of how knowledge arises under the rubric of Kant’s transcendental idealism. The third part of this paper is then dedicated to providing an account of Lockean innate knowledge and its place in our epistemological enquiry. It is presumed that several deficiencies, to be discussed, are apparent in Locke’s epistemological realism without the use of innate ‘ideas’. These deficiencies, however, are percolated only in light of the Kantian juxtaposition for which this section serves the purpose. In the final part of this paper, I will conclude that while Locke’s epistemological theories h ave had a great influence on the progress of epistemology, especially as a critique against rationalism, the idea of no innate ideas impressed upon the mind prior to experience ultimately leads Lockean realism to base claims that all knowledge arises solely from experience as inexhaustively question-begging without Kant’s transcendentalism. Dealing with the problems of realism and idealism can be seen in humans as young as three years old. Although it may not be so apparent to parents at the time, when a child asks, “How do you know that?,” they are challenging the method in which a person uses to ‘know’ what they know. However, children, like philosophers, might not be satisfied with the first answer and continue with a meta-inquiry: “How do you know that?” While this interrogative approach to understanding the world can be frustrating it does illuminate a particular problem in reasoning, generally. That is, at some point we are forced to answer, vacuously, “I know, because I know.” However, the persistent child philosopher can rebut with, “How do you know that you know?” The problems intrinsic to the line of questioning above demonstrate a broad epistemological problem. To solve the problem philosophers have sought out ways in order to...
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