LBH - PHIL 100 Sections 0203,0204,0207 Notes for March 17...

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1 PHIL 100 Sections 0203,0204,0207 TA: Kallfelz, W. Notes for March 17 John Locke 1632-1704 Physician by training, he had a lively correspondence with Robert Boyle, one of the founders of modern chemistry. Locke wrote his major philosophical work An Essay Concerning Human Understanding at the eve of Newton’s work Principia Mathematica , which only gained philosophical significance late in Locke’s life. For more details: The burgeoning scientific work in Cambridge had a profound influence on Locke, who wrote in the Preface to the Essay that philosophy should act as the “handmaiden” to science, “clearing away the [conceptual] underbrush” to make way for what he considered were the important metaphysical claims that scientists made. (Compare this with the Medieval philosophers who felt the same way towards theology – i.e., that it gave the truly metaphysically important insights.) Though Locke agreed with Descartes that knowledge can be fundamentally reduced to simple “units” of intuition , he disagreed with Descartes that such units need necessarily be ‘clear, distinct, and self-evident,’ but instead must be based on and derived entirely from experience . No doubt, Locke’s training as a physician, his preference for the experimentalist approach in science led him to this empiricist position, much like Descartes’ training as a mathematician led him to his rationalist position. (That is to say, the rationalist and the empiricist disagree on the basis of knowledge: the empiricist wants to claim it’s founded on experience alone whereas the rationalist argues it’s based on reason . 1 ) A few important definitions: Defn1: Knowledge : Justified and true belief. (I.e., I know X if and only if I can: a.) Justify my belief in X , b.) Prove that that my belief in X is true . Defn2: Causal Theory of Perception : To perceive object X means only that X is causally related to one’s perceiving system . That is to say, object X causes certain sensations and impressions, which may or may not accurate representations of X . So, for example, in the case of Defn 1., you could see the rationalist skeptic Descartes as questioning how we can justify our beliefs in (for example) an outside world, other minds, etc. Whereas empirical skeptics like Hume worry mostly about whether our beliefs in an outside world are true. (For Hume, you 1 Immanuel Kant transcended what may be a false disjunct (see posted handout A Compendium of Argument Fallacies ), by pointing out (the perhaps somewhat obvious claims) that knowledge requires both . As he wrote in his Critique of Pure Reason: “Concepts without percepts [i.e., perceptual content] are empty, whereas percepts without concepts are meaningless.”
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2 can have a justified, un true belief in, for example, causation. The belief is justified insofar as our minds “can’t help but associate” contiguous events that are similar, but (according to Hume) this doesn’t guarantee that such events are
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LBH - PHIL 100 Sections 0203,0204,0207 Notes for March 17...

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