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Epistemology Study Guide Essay

1. How can the senses deceive us?
a. Our senses are how we perceive the world. Our eyes, nose, tongue, fingers, and ears feed raw information to our brain, which then turns it into information we can use. If we lose one of our senses, we lose that entire set of raw data. As such, we place incredible amounts of reliance on our senses. The only way our senses can deceive us is if they give us the wrong data, which then becomes wrong information. If life is an illusion, then our senses could be getting the information it’s getting from anywhere.

2. How widespread is this deception?
b. If our senses are deceiving us, then our entire worlds are false. Every person, except for the individual, would not be real. Therefore, there could only be one person in existence and that person is living this illusion. In fact, I could not be typing this at all.

3. Are there any tests by which you can tell that you are not dreaming now? c. Yes. If your life is a dream, then there’s nothing in this world that would convince you otherwise. The world would be your creation. The only way to test if everything was a dream or not would be to die.

4. Why does Descartes conclude that there are no certain tests? d. How useful would a test be if you’re dreaming? If your entire life has been a dream, then you wouldn’t know what reality really was. Therefore, things like hurting yourself, falling, or any other method to wake yourself up wouldn’t work. It wouldn’t work because your dream has become your reality.

5. Is Descartes right that you cannot doubt your own existence? e. No, people can definitely doubt their existence. However, if they don’t believe that they exist, they would be driven insane.

6. What happens to the properties of the wax when you bring it close to the fire? f. When the wax is brought towards a flame, it changes. The odor of flowers vanishes, the color and shape changes, is no longer hard or cold, and if you try to knock on it, there is no sound.

7. If all these properties change, how do we know that it is still the same thing? g. It depends on our perception. Descartes said that perception isn’t based on yoru senses, but instead on “an intuition of the mind”. Since we know the liquid was wax and we know what the concept of “melting” is, we can perceive the liquid as the new form of a once solid beeswax.

8. What are Locke’s arguments against the innateness of these principles? h. John Locke’s arguments consist of him saying that if there were any innate principles, they would be universally recognized by every single person. Another argument of his is that if there were any innate principles or ideas, humans wouldn’t be able to find these through reason. Lastly, any innate ideas that humans have would be easily discernable from other ideas which aren’t innate.

9. Could Descartes rebut these claims?
i. Descartes would say that there are innate principles and that they’ve been placed in the minds of humans by an evil God.

10. Is it true that all our ideas can be traced back to some experience? j. No, not all ideas come from experience. Reading about something isn’t experiencing it, but ideas can come from something that’s been read, seen, or even heard. While many ideas do come from experience, many others do not.

11. Do we really not need some knowledge with which to interpret sensation? k. Knowledge is needed to be able to interpret sensations. At our very basic cores, we might be able to tell if a sensation is pleasurable or painful. Whether it is relaxing or hurtful. Beyond that, however, further knowledge would be required. Humans gain that knowledge by being nurtured throughout childhood.

12. Has Locke successfully disposed of the doctrine of innate ideas? l. No. Locke may have made a strong case in favor of everything coming from experience, but wouldn’t it be possible for everyone to have different innate principles or ideas?

13. What might Descartes say in reply to Locke?
m. Descartes would have told Locke that he wasn’t real and then melted some wax.

14. What are the creative powers of the mind?
n. Our imaginations are the creative powers of our mind. Though, the imagination itself is limited by what we’ve experienced and thus cannot “create” anything that we haven’t experienced through our senses.

15. Which of the following statements are relations of ideas and which matters of fact: o. Niagara Falls is an impressive sight
i. This is a statement of relation. What appears to be “an impressive sight” to one may not appear to be the same to another. p. A dog is a mammal
ii. This is a fact. A dog is a mammal.
q. Members of Congress are all politicians
iii. This can be both, depending on the person’s definition of a politician. If their definition is someone who has politics as their job, then yes, they would all be politicians and it would be a fact. If someone sees someone who lives through politics, then they might not all be politicians and this statement would be a relation of an idea. r. Black cats are unlucky.

iv. This is a statement of relation. There is no evidence of black cats being unlucky. s. Cigarettes cause cancer.
v. This is fact as evidence as shown. However, some people might believe this to be nothing more than a relation of an idea.

16. Hume believes that has demonstrated the fallacy of claiming we know causes. Does this undermine our knowledge of natural science? t. No, this fallacy certainly doesn’t undermine our knowledge of natural science. The entire point of a natural science is not knowing how something occurs and then figuring that out. The fallacy that Hume pointed out does nothing to deter that from occurring.

17. Is an analytic judgment a matter of fact or a relation of ideas? u. An analytic judgment is a matter of stating the facts. Without the facts, the analytical judgment falls flat and fails to reach the initial goal set out when one made the analytic statement.

18. Are Hume’s matters of fact analytic of synthetic?
v. They are analytic.

19. Kant has tried to save our knowledge from Hume’s skeptical attacks. Has he been successful in finding a middle way between Rationalism and Empiricism? w. Yes, I believe he has.


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