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Locke says that before we experience anything our minds are blank, what he calls "tabula rasa". To what extent does our knowledge derive from our senses?

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Introduction

Locke says that before we experience anything our minds are blank, what he calls "tabula rasa". To what extent does our knowledge derive from our senses? The philosopher Locke says that we are born with nothing in our heads, this means we are required to learn everything as we grow up. The meaning I am going to take for "senses" is the different ways we absorb information: Orally, by hearing; visually, by sight; by touching; by smelling and tasting. Knowledge as I understand it is everything we know. The term "tabula rasa" literally means "blank slate". This is how Locke is describes our minds at birth. The belief that knowledge comes from our senses is called Empiricism, and two well know empiricists are Locke and Berkeley. They believe in the tabula rasa I spoke of above. ...read more.

Middle

The men in the cave would have been born with no knowledge, and as their senses developed they would have learned about their environment; the moving shadows. This would mean that, having been born with a blank mind; they would believe the world they were in was the only world. They would not be intrigued by the shadows, and they would know no better. However, as soon as one of these men left the cave and experienced the outside world, his senses would absorb this new world, and he would have more knowledge. After returning to the cave he would probably go mad because he would know there is a better place to be. He would most likely attempt to break free. On returning to the cave he would also pass his knowledge onto the other men in the cave, who themselves would become intrigued and eager to experience what they have learned of. ...read more.

Conclusion

All of the above listed cannot be performed by a newborn child until they have experienced them through their senses, e.g. to distinguish smells you would have to experience them and be able to relate them. The rationalists believe that the things you are born knowing are more detailed than walking etc. They believe that when you are born your mind is full of knowledge such as ostensive definitions. These are the simplest of definitions, for example: pointing out a house and saying "that is a house". Rationalists say that a new born child would know that a duck was a duck, but it is difficult to prove as very young children cannot speak. In conclusion, I am in favour of the tabula rasa, empiricist view of the argument. This is because there is no way of proving the rationalist view, and that it is unlikely that knowledge is passed from the mother to the child. ...read more.

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