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