The quest for knowledge remains a perplexing problem in the field of philosophy. Even nowadays mankind continue to seek to understand himself and the world around him he is thirst to know were exactly our knowledge comes from. The question of knowledge appears to be a battle between the empirisists who believed that knowledge is acquired through sense experience and the rationalists who believed that knowledge can only be required through reasoning.
Although there are a lot of people who abides with these groups in my essay in my essay I will only deal with John locke who in this case argues that knowledge is acquired throughsense experience thereby representing the empirisists group and Rene Descartes who argues that knowledge comes fronm reasoning thereby representing the rationalists. Diffrent scholars have also shown their appreciation to the work which was done by the two groups. Rene Descartes who is the rationalist have claimed that the ultimate starting point for knowledge is is not the senses but reason.
According to Cottingham,Descartes argues that knowledge of a particular subject matter is underwritten by intuition or rational insight and deductive reasoning rather than experience of that subject matter(1984). Descartes in this case is of the opinion that the only way one can acquire knowledge is through deductive reasoning ,reasoning that aims at exactitude. In one way or other that exactitude is the one which we can now call knowledge Descartes maintain that without prior categories and principles supplied by reason wen could not organise and interrupt one’s sense experience in any way (Kenny:1986).
In this case one would be faced with just one huge ,undifferentiated,kaleidospic whirl of sensation ,signifying nothing(Kenny:1986). Rationalism in its purest form goes so far as to hold that al our rational beliefs and the entirety of human knowledge consists in human principles and innate concepts. According to Russel Descartes believes that men are born with innate ideas or ideas that we are born with (1946:548). He argues that those innate ideas are generated and certified by reason along with anything logically deducable these first principles.
Furthermore on innate ideas ,a number of mankind still how can reason supply ay mental category or first principle at all? The question is a bit easy for such people like Descartes who claimed that we are born with several fundamental concepts or categories in our minds ready for use(Stitch:1975). Descartes went own to argue that this gives us innate knowledge . This might be through certain categories of space ,time,cause and effect. In one way or other Descartes argues that people thinks in terms of cause and effect and this helps one’s experience of the world(Stitch:1975).
A ccording to Stitch Descartes argues that people think of themselves as seing some things causing other things to happen,but in terms of our raw sense experience ,one sees certain things happen before other thing happen and remember having seen such before and after the sequences at earlier times (1975). One can come up with an example like ,a rock hits the window and then the window breaks. We don’t see the third thing called causation but we believe it has happened. The rock hitting the window caused it to break but this is not experienced like the fight of the rock or the shattering of the glass.
Descartes argues that experience does not seem to force the concept of causation on us. On this case Descartes bis denying the fact that knowledge comes fron sense experience but reasoning. Descartes also claimed that the foundations of our knowledge are propositions that are self-evidently true. A self-evident proposition has the strange property of being such that ,on merely understanding what it says and without any further checking or special evidence of any kind. One can just intellectually see that it is true(Caruthers:1992).
If A is greater than B the B is greater than C and therefore A is greater than C. In this example the claim is that once these statements are understood ,it takes no further sense experience whatsoever to see that they are true . Descartes was athinker who used sceptical doubt as a prelude to constructing a retionalist philosophy. He was convinced that all our beliefs that are founded on the experience of the external senses could be called into doubt ,but that with certain beliefs like ‘I am thinking’,there is n o room for creating and sustaining a reasonable doubt(Pojman:1991:72).
Descartes then tried to find enough other first principles with immune to rational doubt that he could provide an indubitable ,rational basis for all other legitimate beliefs. According to Pojman Descartes thought that mathematics gave a paradigm or model of certain knowledge or of attaining such knowledge (1991:73). He argued that mathematical knowledge is based on self evident axioms ,or first principles. In this case those principles are clear and distinctly persued as self-evident and in other words they are indubitable that is to say it is hard to doubt them.
They are intrinsically valid on self-certifying . Dscartes argues that once we have such self-evident truths ,then with the rules of reasoning or logic ,theories can be validly deduced from them (Spinoza:1905). Descartes wanted to apply the method of philosophy as he argued that in mathematics ther is no appeal to sense experience . Human reasoning is the sole source of mathematical knowledge (Spinoza:1905). In this case Descartes claimed that by poor reasoning one can achieve knowledge.
It was this method of doubt that Descartes used to get at the indubitable starting point which will be unshakable foundation of the edifice of knowledge hence to doubt means to think and think means to be(Pojman:1991). On the other hand we have the empirialists who in this case are being represented by John Locke. Locke is of the view that knowledge is acquired through sense experience. Locke was actually influenced by Descartes writings in which Descartes was arguing that knowledge comes from reasoning and the issue of innate ideas.
According to Pojman Locke believes that the senses we maintain ,gives us all our raw data about the world and without this raw material their would be no knowledge at all(Pojman:1991:83). To Locke perception starts a process and from this process come all our beliefs . In its purest form ,Locke and his collegues believes that sense experience alone gave birth to all our knowledge. Locke was influenced by Descartes writings because what Descartes believes was the opposite of what Locke and his collegues believed mostly on the issue of innate ideas hence he decided to put on his suggestion on were exactly our knowledge comes from.
Locke argues that innate ideas are suppose to be inborn ideas and they are their in the human mind since birth (Locke:1894). He argues that these ideas are neither created by us nor derived from our experiences. Locke argues that the human mind is a ‘tabula rasa’ meaning to say it is blank and it looks like a white sheet of paper without any content or ideas. According to Pojman there are no inborn ideas in the human mind(Pojman:1991). Ideas denote the content of human mind and consciousness.
This then supports the idea that all ideas spring from experiences. According to Spinoza ,Locke argues that all knowledge is formed as and ultimately derived from sensational or inner reflection(1905) To add more the empirisists argue thatideas acquired through sensation and reflection are simple ideas. According Russel Locke argues that the mind has the power to reject ,compare and combine them to then form complex ideas(1946:551) . The simple ideas are the materials of the mind or consciousness.
The mind elaborates them in defferent ways and this knowledge is developed(Russel:1946:551)Simple ideaas in this case are thus produced in the mind by the outer things through external experiences and simple ideas posseses valididty. The two theories presents different ideas on were exactly we get knowledge but I think I am convinced with the theory of Descartes which says knowledge is acquired through reason. Although the theory was mainly meant for the mathmaticians I think it is good for me because a men ought to reason so as to find knowledge. To me reasoning shows that someone really is thinking deeper so as to find whatever he wants .
The method of doubt which he uses convince me also because I think through doubting you will be able to find knowledge. The Christians might want to say Thomas was wrong but in one way or other Thomas made Christians to know that realy the man they saw was Jesus and Christians were made to believe that really there is resurrection and this was through doubting Thomas. I cant just believe what I have not see without doubting because nowadays people tend to lie so as to get whatever they want in their lives . Therefore the theory of Descartes to me is good one on how we aquire knowledge . ? BIBLIOGRAPHY Carruthers. P.(1992)Human knowledge and human nature,Oxford:
Oxford University Press’ Cottingham. J. (1984)Rationalism,London:Palada books. Fieser. P. (1991) Introduction to Philosophy. Oxford:Oxiford University Press Kenny. A. (ed). (1986)Rationalism,Empiricism and Idealism ,Oxiford:Oxiford University Press Locke. J. (1690)An essay on human understanding. (ed)R. Woolhouse. (1997). London:Panguin Books Louis. P. (2007)The theory of knowledge ,classical and temporary readings. Belment CA:Wadsworth Stitch. S. (ed)(1975)Innate ideas ,Berkely CA:Carlifonia University Press Russell. B. (1912)History of Western Philosophy . Oxiford:Oxiford University Press.
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