A dsicussion of the relative merits of Locke and Leibniz

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A dsicussion of the relative merits of Locke and Leibniz Rene Descartes (1641) exerted a tremendous influence on developments in the fields of philosophy and science. The Frenchman was said to be an intellectual genius whose scholarly contributions extended from philosophical speculation and pure mathematics to the physiology of the animal body. Descartes is regarded by some historians as one of the founders of modern epistemology. Dissatisfied with the lack of agreement among philosophers, he saw the need for a new philosophical method - a method as rigorous as mathematics itself. He began by questioning everything which failed to pass the test of his criterion of truth - the clearness and distinctness of ideas. It was his intention to submit every thought to test, every thought to doubt. Reasoned by Descartes: though I might doubt everything, I cannot reasonably doubt that I, the thinking doubter, exist as a res cogitans (thinking substance). And thus evolved the famous Cartesian aphorism: Cogito, ergo sum (I think therefore I am). This Descartes offered as an immediate intuition of his own thinking mind. Descartes was a interactive dualist, as he argued that a body without a soul would be an automation, completely under the mechanistic control of external stimuli and its internal hydraulic or "emotional" condition - and completely without consciousness. On the other hand, a soul or mind without a body would have consciousness, but only of the innate ideas; it would lack the sensory impressions and ideas of material things that occupy normal human consciousness most of the time.


Despite their theoretical differences, Leibniz and Locke had much in common. Both had extremely wide interests, ranging from history and economics to science and religion. Both had rejected opportunities to pursue academic careers in favour of participation in the "real world" of politics and public affairs. Politics then being largely the domain of the wealthy aristocracy, both of these middle-class men had had to function as courtiers. Also, both had tried to integrate their political ideas with a larger and general philosophy of mind, derived in part from the earlier work of Descartes. Although both Locke and Leibniz were greatly influenced by Descartes, each had reacted for and against different aspects of his system, thus heading in different directions. Locke had accepted many of Descartes's basic ideas regarding physics and physiology, while strenuously rejecting the notion of a constantly active conscious soul, brought into the world with a ready-made supply of innate ideas. Leibniz, by contrast, strongly objected to aspects of Descartes's physics. On logical grounds, he disputed that infinitely divisible material particles could ever be taken as the ultimate units of reality. Leibniz thought there must be forces or energies that produce the impressions of matter in motion. He did agree with Descartes about the unquestionable reality of the conscious soul, however, and therefore concluded that the ultimate "substance" of the universe must be some consciousness-bearing, soul-like entity which precedes all apprehension of the physical world. Thus he proposed a philosophy of mind emphasizing the nativist and rationalist tendencies of Descartes.


If this is so, we are able to detect qualitative differences in the contents of our mind, and we are compelled to separate the natural or physical process, which results in a distinct image from the other logical activity which leads to the inner recognition of the distinction itself. This theory was then applied to Kant's idea of the soul. Rational psychology was founded on the idea of the soul as a possible object of a sensuous experience. Kant rejected this, whereas Locke did not, demonstrating their differing views once again. Kant saw that it was not possible to speak of the soul which entered into relation with a system of pre-existing things. Therefore, it can be seen at a glance, that after Descartes, Locke took British empiricism in one direction and Leibniz and Kant took German idealists in another direction. Looking closely at the three influential philosophers, Kant supports certain areas of Locke's theories and argues against those areas of Leibniz's theories. Thus it cannot be concluded that Locke heads in a completely separate direction to Leibniz and Kant. Although it could be stated that all three travel part of the journey in a similar direction and then depart, heading in different directions. ` ` ` `APPENDIX. Peters, R. S. (1962) Brett's History of Psychology, London: George Allen and Unwin Ltd. Capretta, P. J. (1967) A History Of Psychology In Outline, New York: Delta Publishing. Murphy, G. and Kovach, J. K. (1972) Historical Introduction To `Modern Psychology, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul Limited. Fancher, R. E. (1990) Pioneers Of Psychology, London: W. W. Norton & Company. Leahey, T. H. (1990) A History Of Psychology, London.

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