• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Critically discuss the view that all knowledge comes from, and is justified by, sense experience

Extracts from this document...


?Critically discuss the view that all knowledge comes from, and is justified by, sense experience? The view that all knowledge comes from, and is justified by, sense experience is the view taken in empiricism about knowledge. However, this view isn?t always necessarily correct as we do actually have some knowledge that is known a priori. For example all mathematical truths, for example, 2+2=4, is known without having to experience it. Just by having the concept of these numbers, and knowing what they represent, we are able to work it out, because it is a necessary truth. Another example is ?all bachelors are unmarried?. This is an example of an analytic, a priori knowledge because just by knowing the definition of a bachelor, you know that all of those referred to as a bachelor, are unmarried men. You don?t actually have to physically go out and do a survey to check if all bachelors are unmarried, therefore you don?t need any form of sense experience to know that every unmarried man is a bachelor. An empiricist?s reply to this would be that such knowledge is trivial because it does nothing but tell us about the meaning of words. ...read more.


He believes that the only way to gain real knowledge of the world is through reason. Descartes argues this in his three waves of doubt. Each wave is stronger than the last. The first wave is that, his senses have deceived him in the past, so it is sensible to never trust entirely something that has deceived you already. So he can?t trust his senses. However, since our senses have ensured human survival for thousands of years, it?s fairly trustworthy. The second wave of doubt states that he has often dreamed he was sitting by the fire in his dressing gown. For all he knows, he could be dreaming, so he can?t trust his senses, even when they tell him things about his immediate surroundings. Descartes counters this himself and says even if he is dreaming now; his dreams would have to be constructed from experiences in real life outside of the dream. The third wave of doubt is that an evil demon could be deceiving us, and that all our sense experiences are actually false. ...read more.


Therefore, having knowledge of an all perfect being can?t have come from sense experience. However there are problems with the trademark argument, for example the butterfly effect: if a butterfly flaps its wings, it could cause a hurricane in the other side of the world. A lesser cause, having a greater effect. Therefore with this major problem, the trademark argument poses little threat the empiricists view. Furthermore, another objection is that there are in fact some synthetic a priori truths, for example the truths of mathematics e.g. 2+2=4. This is clearly a priori, but it doesn?t seem to be analytic because we know it is true, however it is not simply true just by definition. Also the basic truths of morality, for example, knowing that needless suffering is bad. This also seems to be a priori, but once again, not analytic because we don?t need to experience someone telling us that is bad, for us to already think that. In addition there are philosophical truths, for example the ontological argument doesn?t work. This again seems to be a priori, however not analytic, as it?s not true just by definition. Therefore this leads to the idea that empiricism itself may be self defeating, since it seems like it is neither analytic nor based on sense-experience. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Philosophy section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Philosophy essays

  1. Marked by a teacher

    Assess Empiricism. In this essay I intend to seek the values of Empiricism ...

    4 star(s)

    Hume states this to be the exception to the general rule of sense experience. But if we can form this concept without our senses, why can't that apply to other concepts? Another significant concept in Empiricism is Logical Positivism. Logical Positivism in its simplest form is classifying whether or not a sentence is meaningful or not.

  2. Evaluate Descartes Method of Doubt

    but then goes on to make a clear distinction between the properties of dreams and those of 'reality'. This seems to be an example of either invalid reasoning, or at the least poor linguistic choice. Furthermore, the second wave of doubt can be criticised by the forgery example used to destroy the first.

  1. `I know God exists, because I have an idea of perfection Discuss whether knowledge ...

    Firstly, the possibility of knowledge being gained prior to experience relies heavily on the ability to reason. Rationalists, including Rene Descartes and Plato argued for the existence of innate knowledge and dismissed the view of empiricists that knowledge could only be gained via sense experience.

  2. What are the limitations on our personal liberty? Are all of them justified?

    This is clearly a case where, although the written law dictates that consensual acts are lawful, in reality convictions can take place depending upon the subjective values of the judge, jury and Lords. This can be seen as leading to a dangerous 'tyranny of the majority', in which the law

  1. Science Solves All The Problems About Where We Come From Discuss

    A chemical has even been found that has been implicated with maternal bonding, romantic bonding and the trust that undergoes friendship. Using all of this evidence, Wright feels that not only can science solve the problems as to where

  2. Theory of Knowledge

    This is due to the fact that it eliminates difficulties in perception which, for example, representative realism and phenomenalism both hold. Representative realism states that we experience reality indirectly by perceptions that represent the real world, so for example, if we see a red cup, what we are seeing is not the cup itself but a representation of it.

  1. Examine and Comment on a philosophical analysis of religious experience

    to be on the sceptic to disprove the validity of religious experience rather than the reverse, and asserts that the argument is a cumulative one; it seems that the sheer weight of accounts of religious experience undermine the sceptic's ability to dismiss all.

  2. Critically Assess the View that, Without a Predetermined Conceptual Scheme, Our Sense Experience Would ...

    However, if this office has no prior system for filing, and you were just told to put the documents into each draw, as you get them, then after about 2 months when you are asked to retrieve a certain document you will be unable to do so.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work