Locke's Theory on Knowledge

Topics: Perception, Sense, Mind Pages: 2 (783 words) Published: January 31, 2009
Human understanding has been a matter of examination in the doctrine of philosophy. To Locke, Hume and Berkeley, all knowledge is base on experiences. Conversely, Plato, Descartes and Leibniz say the mind is born with an innate knowledge; hence, the mind is not a blank piece of paper at birth. Their concept on innate knowledge is not learning something new, but remembering what the human mind already knows. This is a battle for the truth between the empiricists and the rationalists’ viewpoint on the origin of knowledge. This makes a person wonder who is right and who is wrong. Locke’s theory implies that all ideas are developed from experiences that contribute as the foundation of knowledge.

Locke’s main argument is that every idea in the human mind comes from experience through either sensation or reflection. He states, “External objects furnish the mind with the ideas of sensible qualities, which are all those different perceptions they produce in us; and the mind furnishes the understanding with ideas of its own operations.” In other words, every idea in the mind is a perception caused by the senses and through the mind’s reflection on its own, which he considers the “internal sense.” He refers to external objects as the outside world perceived by using the sensible qualities like hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting and touching. These experiences will create ideas or new information that will build knowledge.

Locke categorizes ideas in two parts: simple and complex. He cites, “Though the qualities that affect our senses are, in the things themselves, so united and blended, that there is no separation, no distance between them; yet it is plain, the ideas they produce in the mind enter by the senses simple and unmixed.” This means that simple ideas are those that come from the same object but are distinct from one another, such as roundness and motion perceived in a basketball. Complex ideas are derived from simple ideas that allow the mind to...
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