5 EMPIRICISM - 5 EMPIRICISM SENSATIONALISM AND POSTIVISM...

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5 EMPIRICISM, SENSATIONALISM, AND POSTIVISM BRITISH EMPIRICISM An empiricist is anyone who believes that knowledge is derived from experience. Empiricism : The belief that all knowledge is derived from experience, especially sensory experience. a. The term experience, in the definition of empiricism, complicates matters because there are many types of experience. b. There are “inner” experiences such as dreams, imaginings, fantasies, and a variety of emotions. c. When one thinks logically, such as during mathematical deduction, one is having mental experiences Robinson had many different definitions when it came to experience; first, this definition asserts that sensory experience constitutes the primary data of all knowledge; it does not say that such experience alone constitutes knowledge. a. Second, it asserts that knowledge cannot exist until sensory evidence has first been gathered; so for the empiricist, attaining knowledge begins with sensory experience. b. Third, all subsequent intellectual processes must focus only on sensory experience in formulating propositions about the world. Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679): Sometimes referred to as the founder of British empiricism. a. Believed that the primary motive in human behavior is the seeking of pleasure and the avoidance of pain. For Hobbes, the function of government is to satisfy as many human needs as possible and to prevent humans from fighting with each other. Hobbes believed that all human activity, including mental activity, could be reduced to atoms in motion; therefore, he was a materialist. b. At 84 he wrote his autobiography. c. At 86 he published a translation of The Iliad and The Odyssey just for something to do. Humans as Machines: Hobbes believed that humans were machines.
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1. He became serious about philosophy at the age of 40. He had come across the book Euclid’s Elements. 2. Hobbes became convinced that the universe consisted only of matter and motion and that both could be understood in terms of mechanistic principles. Why, asked Hobbes, could not humans too be viewed as machines consisting of nothing but matter and motion? 3. Galileo was able to explain the motion of physical objects in terms of the external forces acting on them—that is, without appealing to inner states or essences. Are not humans part of nature, wondered Hobbes, and if so, cannot their behavior also be explained as matter in motion? This became the self-evident truth that Hobbes needed to apply the deductive method of geometry: Humans were machines. 4. Hobbes's Empiricism: Although Hobbes rejected Bacon's inductive method in favor of the deductive method, he did agree with Bacon on the importance of sensory experience: The [origin of all thoughts] is that which we can sense, for there is no conception in a man's mind, which hath not at first, totally, or by parts, been begotten upon the organs of sense. The rest are derived from that original.
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