Empiricism

  1. What is Empiricism?
    1. Emphasizes experience as the source of knowledge.
    2. “Experience”
      1. Perceptions from the five senses
      2. All knowledge is derived from such sense experience
      3. The mind as tabula rasa
      4. Denies any intellectual structure already in the mind at birth.
      5. Types of Empiricism to be examined:
        1. Classical
        2. Modern
        3. Radical
  2. Classical Empiricism?
    1. Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas
    2. Aristotle
      1. Forms are “in” things
      2. What makes something (e.g. a chair) knowable must be in that something.
      3. Knowledge necessitates very general ideas to cover classes of things:
        “Universals”
        1. man, ocean, table, rectangularity
        2. “I saw a man fall off a rectangular table into the ocean.”
  3. Universals, Experience, and Induction
    1. Plato: we know them via realm of forms
    2. Aristotle
      1. Agreed with Plato that we only experience fluctuating particulars
      2. New angle: universals built up through induction
        1. Exp. of Bill, exp. of Todd, exp. of Jim Y man
        2. Universal concept, “man”, now becomes a tool and building block available for reasoning.
        3. Tim is man.” is a statement of knowledge using a universal derived from other “non-Tim” experiences.
    3. Aquinas: “Nothing is in the intellect which was not first in the senses.”
  4. Thomas Aquinas
    1. Multiple Essences are in particular things
      – e.g. Chalk, mud, Xerox paper, snow, grass
    2. Intellect notes the essences of what it encounters via senses.
      – e.g. Chalk e white, gritty, hard
      – e.g. Snow e soft, cold, white
    3. Universal concepts arise from the common essences experienced among several particular objects.
      – Chalk, Snow, Xerox Paper Y “white”
    4. Abstraction: The intellectual faculty by which the essential or formal or universal element of particular things is unlocked and “seen” by the mind.
  5. Locke
    1. The genesis of Locke's Essay Concerning Human Understanding
      1. An answer to an argument he had with some friends [Qt.]
      2. The argument was about God and morality
      3. The work addresses fundamental issues in knowledge and in general philosophy
      4. Formed the foundation of English philosophy for almost three hundred years.
      5. Influenced John Wesley
      6. Many scholars date the start of The Enlightenment from its publication (1690)
    2. Locke stands against a pre-packaged structure within the mind
      1. Had doubts about the unlimited powers of reason
      2. Platonic theory: the mind comes into the world already in possession of certain innate truths.
      3. Locke's view
        1. There are no such things as innate moral, mathematical, or logical principles fortified in the intellect.
        2. At birth the mind is a tabula rasa
        3. Every one of our ideas, without exception, are derived from the writing of experience upon its surface.
    3. What is agreed upon and what is innate are separate issues
      1. No consensus gentium "common agreement" can be shown to exist
      2. If it could be shown, it would not prove innateness of ideas
      3. And there is no good way for separating (supposedly) innate truths from learned truths.
    4. Process of learning speaks against innate ideas
      1. Reverses what we would have expected if there were such things as innate principles
      2. Why? We recognize the truth of specific propositions before we accept general maxims.
      3. Similar to Aristotle: knowledge comes from individual cases of induction.
      4. Even seemingly "necessary" truths as logical principles cannot be excluded as something learned from ordinary experience.
    5. How the mind learns from experience: sensation and reflection
      1. Sensation
        1. Defined: External experience by which objects in the world enter our minds
        2. Examples: taste, softness, color, temperature, etc.
      2. Reflection
        1. Defined: Internal experience of the operations of our minds
        2. Examples: choosing, believing, affirming, denying, comparing, etc.
    6. Persistence of impressions allow for a process of abstraction
      1. First, we perceive, then we think about what we perceive.
      2. Perception
        1. presents simple qualities, from either a single or multiple source
        2. Example:
          1. Sound is from a single source (ear).
          2. Solidity is a combination of the sensations of touch and resistance.
      3. Perceptions do not disappear immediately or all at once.
      4. They leave their mark on the intellect (memory)
      5. This persistence enables the mind to contemplate and to discern similarities and differences of individual sense information.
      6. The results of this process
        1. We able to abstract so-called general ideas
        2. General idea: An image of a class in question, taken as representative of all the other particulars belonging to that class. (E.g Mammal)
        3. Abstraction not possessed by lower animals, but by humankind alone.
    7. Complex ideas come from simple idea combinations
      1. By the power of imagination, the mind is able to add an infinity of new ideas.
      2. Analogy: Leggo Blocks
        1. Various colors :: simple ideas
        2. Various inventions :: complex ideas
    8. Some difficulties with Locke's views
      1. The Tripartite picture of knowing
        1. Mind as knower
        2. Ideas as known
        3. The object in the world
      2. Egocentric Predicament: We know what our ideas are like, but do we thus know what the world is like?
  6. Hume
    1. Two kinds of perceptions: Impressions & Ideas
      1. Impressions -- "Vivid or lively sensations, the immediate data of experience"
      2. Impressions include not merely sense-perceptions but feelings like love, hate, desire, will, etc.
      3. Ideas -- "Pale copies of impressions, the material for thinking"
      4. Ideas are the work of memory and imagination.
      5. Impressions are more vivid and forceful to the mind than ideas.
      6. Ideas are derived from Impressions by Association
    2. Principles of Association
      1. Function: Govern all of our manipulation of ideas
      2. List: Resemblance, contiguity, and cause and effect. (E.g. Billiard table at T1 vs T2)
    3. Causal Connections
      1. What leads us to connect two successive events in a causal manner is a habit or custom
        1. This habit has developed in us through experience.
        2. This habit is the origin of the sense of necessity we feel.
        3. Example: Zambo the jungle Pygmy meets the evil Dr. Cosser
      2. A similar tendency to go beyond experience leads us to believe in the existence of substances
      3. Our belief in induction goes beyond experience in exactly the same way.
    4. The Problem of Personal Identity
      1. Experience reveals us to be a succession of impressions, ideas, and emotions, memories and anticipations
      2. We do not experience a unifying framework for this succession, no "Self"
      3. Memory which leads us to believe in identity through time
        1. But memory lapses under various conditions.
        2. Hence, even the sense of our identity is not continuous
    5. Summary: Hume is a Phenomenalist

      "All we can actually know is the phenomena or appearances presented in our perception"

    6. The Reduction: All knowledge is either...
      1. Matters of Fact -- "Knowledge of reality but holding no certainty"
      2. Relations of Ideas -- "Knowledge of the form "A is A," certain, but has no bearing on reality."