Wednesday, 20 October 2010

John Locke - Seminar Notes


 "Idea is the object of thinking" - Locke doesn't believe that when we are born there is something already present in our brain. Locke is against the idea of innate knowledge, whereas Descartes believes the opposite. Locke does, however, believe in God. He states that God has given mankind the ability to discover knowledge.

"All ideas come from reflection" - Locke refers to the mind as 'white paper' and argues that knowledge comes from experience. "Observation (of external objects and internal operations) supplies understanding". It is from observation that knowledge originates.

"The object of sensation one source of ideas" - Locke is essentially saying that our senses act as the source from which ideas stem. It's all about our senses and what we conclude from what is it they show us. Locke calls the source of most of our ideas which are affected by our senses 'sensation'. If we use our senses, we will discover.

 "The operations of our minds the other source of them" - Knowledge comes from how we perceive and how we translate our own thoughts. Essentially, how we interpret our internal operations is linked directly to knowledge and understanding.

 "Not on the mind naturally, imprinted, because not know to children, idiots" - Children and idiots have no understanding. Locke basically argue that you can't imprint something onto somebodies mind if it isn't fully understood or perceived correctly. Something cannot be imprinted without you being conscious of it to some extent.

Locke - Knowledge comes from experience [Against innate]
Descartes - Innate ideas are placed by God at your creation [For innate]

Descartes said there are 3 substances - God, mind and matter. Spinoza disagreed, saying that thought and extension were both attributes of God.

We have the tools to learn from birth, but we learn from scratch.

"All our ideas are of the one of the other of these" - External objects 'furnish' the mind and how we perceive them shapes our understanding. New born = lack of understanding. As we get older, we develop our own ideas and sense of understanding.

Locke also mentions the 'soul' on occasions.

- The soul thinks even during sleep, but the memory does not retrain what is thought
- The soul is always thinking
- The soul has ideas that aren't derived from reflection

The soul holds the senses together. Locke seems to lean towards the idea that the soul and the mind are the same thing.

Locke thinks it's better to find something our for yourself rather than read it from a book and automatically take it to be true. He also states that our ideas are derived from

- Sensation
- Perception

Since we think by means of ideas, and ideas come from experience, it's clear that knowledge can't come before experience. "Perception is the first step towards knowledge"

- Knowledge of our own existence  is instinctive
- Knowledge of God's existence is demonstrative
- We have no knowledge except by intuition, reason and sensation

Social contract:

Linked to the idea that peoples dominate passions are aggressive (see links to Hobbe's points against a 'state of nature') The social contract explores the idea that higher powers such as the Government and the public have particular roles. Based on the concept that society favours having order and structure to being free and ungoverned.

State of nature / natural law:

By nature every man has a right to punish attacks on himself or his property, even by death. Laws of nature - A ready made knowledge of right and wrong. Suggests that the human race should aim for peace. Locke says that if a man has succeeded in killing your brother, you have a right to kill him. But where the law exists, you lose this right.

Life in state of nature is described as 'nasty, brutish and short'. If there were no government or law, we would experience 'the natural condition of mankind'. Hobbe's saw 3 reasons why a state of nature would result in constant war and conflict

- Without government, resources would be scarce, resulting in conflict.
- Individuals would try to pre-empt these attacks
- People would realise the advantage of having a reputation for strength.

Hobbes recommends / backs the idea of a dictatorship. Locke disagrees. The idea of having our rights stripped away is wrong.


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