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John Locke Essay

The topic that I chose for my philosophy paper is empiricism. Empiricism is the theory that all knowledge is derived from sense-experience. This idea was developed from a famous English philosopher, John Locke, states that knowledge can only come from our sensory experience, nowhere else. Empiricists believe that getting knowledge without the experience is unachievable. There are three subcategories of Empiricism; Classical, Moderate, and Radical. Classical Empiricism completely rejects the thought of “in-born” knowledge. It states that at birth, we are born as a blank slate.

Throughout the years, the more experience the more we learn. Radical empiricism is a dividend of the theory that concludes that knowledge comes from our senses. When we experience certain things, the sense that comes along with it is what gives us the knowledge that we take from it. Moderate empiricism is a more improved on and fits today’s philosophical and psychological findings. Moderate empiricism writes that not all knowledge should come from what you live through; some of it is simply learned. A valid example that they used to further prove their theory is the understanding of school subjects such as math or history.

A person doesn’t have to live through anything to understand that a triangle has three sides or that George Washington became president in 1789. I interpret this theory the way it was written. I understand where john Locke’s idea of empiricism evolved from and there are many pieces of evidence to support it. I think what this theory states is that our experiences define us as humans. What we live through is what gives us the knowledge on either how to improve on it, to learn from it, or to continue doing it. In many ways, I believe that this is true in sculpting our personality.

I think this theory goes in search of why people are so different, despite that they are taught the same material in school, and they answer that with the fact that every individual goes through incomparable experiences and that’s what makes us different and therefore gives us our knowledge. There are numerous examples of empiricism. Any experience in which a lesson is taken from is proof of empiricism. That may include a job experience in which the employee disappointed their manager and now knows to do everything he can to avoid doing what it is that he did. This goes along with Classical and Radical empiricism.

The individual has learned something based solely on experience, but also through the sense of embarrassment and disappointment. A student who puts in a large amount of effort in his work and then receives praise on it from his teacher will want to go through that experience again and feel accomplishment. I feel very diverse about this theory. In many ways I do agree with it because our experiences are what give us our beliefs and set us as different individuals.

However, the theory in ways contradicts itself because it underestimates the power of learning in class and knowing not to do certain things even. An example that I have lived through that goes along with my opinion on this is my health class in the seventh grade where we were taught all the vital effects of drugs. Therefore, I have learned, but not through experience, not to do drugs. I did not have to go through addiction or even experimentation of illegal substances in order to get the knowledge not to do them. The theory that more closely relates to my belief is rationalism.

Rationalism states that knowledge is based off of reason. Examples of that is mathematical problems, knowing an illusion isn’t real and that your mind is actually being deceived, and why things happen the way they do. We don’t touch a pot of boiling water because we’ve done it before and experienced pain, we don’t touch it because we see the steam coming out of it and with that, we imply our reasoning that it would burn if we do touch it.

There is also a flaw in empiricism. We all perceive things differently, and therefore our knowledge may be inaccurate. A student presenting might think he did awful and never volunteer again because his experience gave him the false knowledge that he wasn’t able to do good.

Meanwhile, his fellow classmates might have thought greatly of his presentation. Empiricism can give off false knowledge of our experience, making us self-conscious, and even changing our personality completely, all because of how we perceived it. That is why I apply rationalism to my life and personality. I don’t have to experience something in order to gain knowledge from it. I am able to make decisions based off of reasoning, knowing the effect of an action without having to experience it, and knowing what is right without having to do what is wrong first.


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