Descartes and Locke on the origins of our ideas

Descartes and Locke on the origins of our ideas - 1....

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Descartes and Locke on the origins of our ideas. a. The dispute between rationalism and empiricism concerns the extent to which we are dependent upon sense experience in our effort to gain knowledge. i. Rationalists claim that there are significant ways in which our concepts and knowledge are gained independently of sense experience. ii. Empiricists claim that sense experience is the ultimate source of all our concepts and knowledge. b. Rationalism vs. Empiricism i. Theories of knowledge divide naturally, theoretically and historically into the two rival schools of rationalism and empiricism. Neither rationalism nor empiricism disregards the primary tool of the other school entirely. The issue revolves on beliefs about necessary knowledge and empirical knowledge. ii. Rationalism 1. Rationalism believes that some ideas or concepts are independent of experience and that some truth is known by reason alone. 2. a priori This is necessary knowledge not given in nor dependent upon experience; it is necessarily true by definition. For instance "black cats are black." This is an analytic statement, and broadly, it is a tautology; its denial would be self-contradictory. 3. Empiricism believes that some ideas or concepts are independent of experience and that truth must be established by reference to experience alone. 4. a posteriori This is knowledge that comes after or is dependent upon experience. for instance "Desks are brown" is a synthetic statement. Unlike the analytic statement "Black cats are black", the synthetic statement "Desks are brown" is not necessarily true unless all desks are by definition brown, and to deny it would not be self- contradictory. We would probably refer the matter to experience. 5. Since knowledge depends primarily on synthetic statements -- statements that may be true or may be false -- their nature and status are crucial to theories of knowledge. The controversial issue is the possibility of synthetic necessary knowledge -- that is, the possibility of having genuine knowledge of the world without the need to rely on experience. Consider these statements: 1) The sum of the angles of a triangle is 180 degrees. 2) Parallel lines never meet. 3) A whole is the sum of all its parts. statements, universally true, and genuine knowledge; i.e.,
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This note was uploaded on 05/14/2008 for the course PHIL 140 taught by Professor Nathancox during the Spring '08 term at Kansas.

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Descartes and Locke on the origins of our ideas - 1....

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