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How can we have knowledge? LOCKE ESSAY

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How can we have knowledge? John Locke was an empiricist who believed that people could acquire knowledge from experience. Ideas acted as raw materials and by knowing the relation of the ideas, we got knowledge. All ideas are based on experience but knowledge can also be justified by intuition and demonstration. By sensation and reflection, we get sensitive, intuitive and demonstrative knowledge with different degrees of certainty and ways of evidence. In investigating the two main sources of ideas of Locke, we then will explain the two kinds of knowledge which based on reasoning by using suitable examples. The existence of external objects by sensation will also be proved. At last, we will introduce the dream arguments which challenge Locke certainty of experience and explain how Locke rejected it. Locke suggested sensation and reflection as two sources of ideas. Sensation is a kind of external sense which is a process of external objects convey into the mind and formed perceptions. Our sense come across sensible objects and several distinct perceptions of the objects convey into our mind through various sense organs. Thus, we have ideas of hot, cold, black, white, soft and hard, which we call them sensible qualities. ...read more.


In this case, intervention of other ideas is needed. These intervening ideas are the proofs that demonstration depends on. When these proofs are clearly perceived and show the agreement of two ideas, demonstration occurs. To prove the sum of interior angles of a triangle is 180 degree, we first calculate each angle of the triangle and add them together. We then find out the sum of the angles are always equal to 180 degree. We also know that the degree of a right angle is 90 degree, so two right angles are equal to 180 degree. Eventually, we can conclude that the sum of interior angles of a triangle is equal to two right angles. With proofs and reasons, demonstrative knowledge is certain, yet it is not as ready and easy as intuitive knowledge. More than one transitory view is needed to find the agreement of ideas. Although demonstrative knowledge is certain, before the demonstration there was a doubt. Certainty is reached by going through steps of intuition with progression of degrees. Sensation can prove the existence of external objects even without us. Locke argued that all our knowledge is founded by experience, thus we could not have knowledge without sensation. ...read more.


Locke responded to the first argument by suggesting the importance of reality to the person in dream. If a person lives in the dream eternally without waking up, reality is of no importance to him anymore. Reasoning and demonstrations are not able to help the person to gain knowledge, whereas knowledge and reality are meaningless to the one who stays in dream forever. Locke was also certain that human could distinguish real experience and being in dream. Human have the senses to perceive external objects and from them we receive pleasure and pain. For example, the pain I receive from hitting by Dr. Cheng in dream is different from actually hitting by him. The pleasure and pain are as great as happiness and misery that for certain is different from being in dream. We review the experience in dreams in real life and for sure it is unclear and gives us no pain. To conclude, sensation and reflection gives us ideas, and by knowing the relation of ideas, we have knowledge. Sensation is the foundation of all other knowledge and by reasoning, we can have intuitive and demonstrative knowledge. The consistence of experience and direct perception of external object by sensation proved the existent of that object. By acknowledging the difference of pain and pleasure received from the real world and in dream, we can definitely realize we are in dream of not. ...read more.

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