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Descartes and Locke

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Descartes and Locke



One of the most important branches in philosophy, is Epistemology, which means, theory of knowledge. So far, philosophers have made many attempts to discover the source of knowledge, the standards or criteria by which we can judge the reliability of knowledge. We tend to be satisfied with think what we know about almost everything, even though sometimes we are shocked to discover that something that we thought it was sure and certain, is instead proved dubious and not sure. For example, suppose that one person that you know and trust tells you that the moon landing in 1969 is only a lie, and the pictures and film were made in a laboratory. We might distrust our friend maybe or think that in fact there were no prove of this, or even distrust yourself. Off course you will start to search information regarding that specific fact, and start looking for an evidence that will lead you to the truth. That's why I think that the most fertile source of knowledge is the history of human opinions. Knowledge, in fact, is the relationship between a person and the world. While most philosopher agree with this basic definition, most all of them disagree about the fundamental nature of that relationship. There are many cases that prove that people have attempted to impose their believes on others, being in the end punished because thought to be crazy. One of those is Galileo Galilei, he was sure in fact that the sun was not revolving around earth, but instead the earth revolves around the sun. Also the early Greek philosopher Anaxagoras was exiled from Athens because he was saying the moon was a rock. There have been many martyrs that have been punished only because they challenged the infallible wisdom of the rulers in their society. Philosopher are concerned in determine the basis of all knowledge, and agree upon standards in judging these claims. Two famous philosophers argued about this theory, John Locke and Rene` Descartes. Locke is considered to be the founder of British empiricism, while Descartes is considered to be the father of modern philosophy. They both have two distinct epistemic system that all address the idea of knowledge and what it is.

Descartes attempts to doubt everything in order to establish a firm foundation for knowledge. Descartes theory state that a man's knowledge, comes from his sense experience. 'I am born with the idea of God, who implanted that idea in me at my creation, then my understanding of what God is should conform to that idea. He finds it plausible that we are all living in a dream and we have never experienced reality. He can no longer give any credence to his senses and finds himself in a place of complete uncertainty. Descartes comes to the conclusion that nothing can be perceived more easily and more evidently than his own mind. He has discovered that even bodies are not accurately perceived by the senses or the faculty of imagination, and are only accurately being perceived by the intellect. He also realizes that they are not distinguished through being touched, smelled, or tasted, but by being understood alone. (An apple is an apple because our mind tells us that it is an apple.) It is the faculty of reason that gives the knowledge and lets the mind know the truths and essences of objects. Descartes assumes that all of us can be decided by our senses, someone can see something far away, and then discover that is not what we thought it was. Or even a oar when is immerse half in water attempt to be bent, but instead is straight. Descartes think that we cannot always be sure of what we sense, and gives the example of himself seated by the fire.

Locke instead is an empiricist, and therefore he directly critiques Descartes epistemic system and tries to establish his own foundation of knowledge. Locke believes that our knowledge of the world comes from what our senses tell us. Locke's theory state that we are all born with a blank slate, tabula rasa, before we perceive anything. With this in his mind Locke reject the concept of innate ideas and claims that all we know of the world is what we experience through our senses. Locke defines his terms: idea and quality, and makes it clear that ideas are in the mind and qualities are in bodies. He defines idea as what the mind perceives in itself, or the immediate object ...

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