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Key Topic: discussion
• The origin of concepts and the nature of
knowledge: where do ideas/concepts and
knowledge come fro...
Task: initial definitions
• What is the difference between ideas or concepts
and knowledge?
• Ideas or concepts = mental c...
Concept Empiricism, Concept Innatism
Knowledge Empiricism, Knowledge Innatism
• CE vs CI
– ALL ideas are derived only from...
Label with the correct terminology,
and give an example
• A statement that is empty, useless, because it
tells you nothing...
The Origin of Concepts
Concept Empiricism
Concept or Idea Empiricism
• All concepts or ideas are
derived from experience
and none come from any
other source.
• Aris...
John Locke: the ‘tabula rasa’
Question: what might the blue arrow stand for?
John Locke: The Tabula Rasa and the Empty Cabinet
The ‘tabula rasa’ idea
Let us then suppose the mind [at birth] to have n...
Tabula Rasa Theory: (Some of)
Locke’s reasons for holding this view
1. [Explains why new-born children know nothing] “If y...
Pop Quiz
• What reasons does Locke give to support
concept empiricism? (He gives six…)
John Locke: impressions and simple ideas
Essay concerning Human Understanding, Bk. 2, Ch.2, Sec. 1 and 2
To get a better g...
John Locke: what are complex ideas?
Essay concerning Human Understanding, Bk. 2, Ch.7, Sec. 1 and 2
So far we have conside...
John Locke: what are complex ideas?
Essay concerning Human Understanding, Bk. 2, Ch.7, Sec. 1 and 2
[So the human mind can...
Pop Quiz
What product is:
– A good metaphor for the
empiricist account of
concept formation?
– Made in Billund,
Denmark, b...
Hume on Sensations and Thoughts
EVERY one will readily allow, that there is a considerable difference
between the percepti...
Hume on Ideas versus Impressions
Here therefore we may divide all the perceptions of the mind into two classes
or species,...
Pop Quiz
• What’s the connection between Humean
Empiricism and Berkeleian Idealism?
David Hume: our thoughts seem unbounded…
Nothing, at first view, may seem more unbounded than the thought of
man, which no...
Hume: but our most elaborate ideas are built
from simpler ones
But though our thought seems to possess this unbounded libe...
So: another strength of Concept Empiricism
Using the following script, say something
about this…
Thought seems unbounded… ...
But!
Could this advantage actually be somewhat of a limitation?
Plan 6-paragraph essay
Have 5 keywords/3 key points/3 key quotes/images for each
• ‘All ideas are derived from experience....
Origins of knowledge 2016 revision 1. concept empiricism
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Origins of knowledge 2016 revision 1. concept empiricism

  1. 1. Key Topic: discussion • The origin of concepts and the nature of knowledge: where do ideas/concepts and knowledge come from? • There are two (historical) schools of thought about this question. – Name the two schools of thought. – Specify some thinkers who support either account. – What initial difficulties can you foresee for either school?
  2. 2. Task: initial definitions • What is the difference between ideas or concepts and knowledge? • Ideas or concepts = mental contents, notions, something that you think. John Locke: "whatsoever is the Object of the Understanding when a Man thinks." • Knowledge = propositions that are true, believed, justified – hence, something that you know for sure because it can be articulated into statements.
  3. 3. Concept Empiricism, Concept Innatism Knowledge Empiricism, Knowledge Innatism • CE vs CI – ALL ideas are derived only from experience. OR – SOME key ideas are innate to us. • KE vs KI: – ALL synthetic knowledge is a posteriori, ALL a priori knowledge is merely analytic or tautologous. OR – SOME synthetic knowledge is a priori.
  4. 4. Label with the correct terminology, and give an example • A statement that is empty, useless, because it tells you nothing new about the world. • A statement that is not self-evident or true by definition, and so one that tells you something new about the world e.g. • Knowledge that is true independently of experience e.g. • Knowledge obtained only after experience e.g. • A statement that is true by definition e.g.
  5. 5. The Origin of Concepts Concept Empiricism
  6. 6. Concept or Idea Empiricism • All concepts or ideas are derived from experience and none come from any other source. • Aristotle, Locke, Berkeley, Hume etc – all belong to this school of thought. • Key empiricist notions: 1. Mind at birth = ‘tabula rasa’ 2. ‘Impressions’  ‘ideas’ 3. Simple ideas  complex ideas
  7. 7. John Locke: the ‘tabula rasa’ Question: what might the blue arrow stand for?
  8. 8. John Locke: The Tabula Rasa and the Empty Cabinet The ‘tabula rasa’ idea Let us then suppose the mind [at birth] to have no ideas in it, to be like white paper with nothing written on it. How then does it come to be written on? From where does it get that vast store which the busy and boundless imagination of man has painted on it - all the materials of reason and knowledge? To this I answer, in one word, from experience. Our understandings derive all the materials of thinking from observations that we make of external objects that can be perceived through the senses [‘by sensation’] , and of ‘the internal operations of our minds, which we perceive by looking in at ourselves [‘by reflection’].These two are the fountains of knowledge, from which arise all the ideas we have or can naturally have. The ‘empty cabinet’ idea ‘The senses at first let in particular ideas and furnish the yet empty cabinet, and the mind growing familiar by degrees with some of them, they are lodged in memory…’ John Locke, ‘Essay concerning Human Understanding’ (1689) Book II – Of Ideas, Chapter i: Ideas in general, and their origin What writes the story of your life, fills your mental cabinet?
  9. 9. Tabula Rasa Theory: (Some of) Locke’s reasons for holding this view 1. [Explains why new-born children know nothing] “If you look carefully at the state of a new-born child, you will find little reason to think that he is well stocked with ideas that are to be the matter of his future knowledge. He gets ideas gradually; and though the ideas of obvious and familiar qualities imprint themselves before the memory begins to keep a record of when or how, ideas of unusual qualities are different…” 2. [Explains ignorance] “I think it will be readily admitted that if a child were kept in a place where he never saw any other but black and white till he was a man, he would have no ideas of scarlet or green - any more than a person has an idea of the taste of oysters or of pineapples if he has never actually tasted either.” 3. [Explains cleverness and stupidity] “How many simple ideas a person has depends for ideas of sensation on what variety there is among the external objects that he perceives, and for ideas of reflection on how much he reflects on the workings of his own mind…That is why it is quite late before most children get ideas of the operations of their own minds, and why some people never acquire any very clear or perfect ideas of most of their mental operations. Their mental operations are there all the time, like floating visions; but until the understanding turns inward upon itself, reflects on them, and makes them the objects of its own thoughts, they won’t make deep enough impressions to leave in the person’s mind clear, distinct, lasting ideas…” 4. Explains how concepts are formed and why we have the ones we do. 5. Explains why we don’t agree about abstractions such as God etc 6. Explains why different peoples around the world both agree about things, and disagree about them.
  10. 10. Pop Quiz • What reasons does Locke give to support concept empiricism? (He gives six…)
  11. 11. John Locke: impressions and simple ideas Essay concerning Human Understanding, Bk. 2, Ch.2, Sec. 1 and 2 To get a better grasp of what our knowledge is, how it comes about, and how far it reaches, we must carefully attend to one fact about our ideas, namely that some of them are simple, and some complex. The qualities that affect our senses are intimately united and blended in the things themselves, but it is obvious that the ideas they produce in the mind enter (via the senses) simple and unmixed. …The coldness and hardness a man feels in a piece of ice are as distinct ideas in the mind as the smell and whiteness of a lily, or as the taste of sugar and smell of a rose. And nothing can be plainer to a man than the clear and distinct perception he has of those simple ideas, each of which contains nothing but one uniform appearance or conception in the mind, and is not distinguishable into different ideas. These simple ideas, which are the materials of all our knowledge, are suggested and supplied to the mind only by sensation and reflection. Once the understanding has been stocked with these simple ideas, it is able to repeat, compare, and unite them, to an almost infinite variety, and so can make new complex ideas as it will. But no-one, however quick and clever, can invent one new simple idea that wasn’t taken in by one of those two ways. Nor can any force of the understanding destroy those that are there. Write a definition and give an example of a ‘simple idea’. What’s the connection between sensory impressions and simple ideas? (Issue: is there really that much of a difference?)
  12. 12. John Locke: what are complex ideas? Essay concerning Human Understanding, Bk. 2, Ch.7, Sec. 1 and 2 So far we have considered only ideas that the mind receives passively, namely the simple ones that come to it from sensation and reflection. The mind can’t make any such simple idea for itself, and can’t have any idea that doesn’t wholly consist of them. But while the mind is wholly passive in the reception of all its simple ideas, it acts in various ways to construct other ideas out of its simple ones [by] • [Compounding] - combining several simple ideas into one compound one; that is how all complex ideas are made. • [Comparing] - Bringing together two ideas, whether simple or complex, setting them side by side so as to see them both at once, without uniting them into one; this is how the mind gets all its ideas of relations. • [Abstracting] - Separating them from all other ideas that accompany them in their real existence; this is called abstraction, and it is how all the mind’s general ideas are made. By what methods are complex ideas made?
  13. 13. John Locke: what are complex ideas? Essay concerning Human Understanding, Bk. 2, Ch.7, Sec. 1 and 2 [So the human mind can] unite ideas together, or set them side by side, or wholly separate them, [just as the human body] cannot make or destroy rocks, but can assemble them to make a wall, or dismantle a wall that has been made from them. Ideas thus made up of several simple ones I call complex. Examples are the ideas of beauty, gratitude, a man, an army, the universe. These are all complex ideas made up of simple ones, but the mind can if it wishes treat each of them by itself as one unified thing, signified by one name. By being able to repeat and join together its ideas, the mind has great power to vary and multiply the objects of its thoughts, infinitely beyond what sensation or reflection provides it with.... The basic raw materials of all its compositions are simple ideas…[but] it can by its own power put together the ideas it has, making new complex ones. Write a definition and give an example of a complex idea
  14. 14. Pop Quiz What product is: – A good metaphor for the empiricist account of concept formation? – Made in Billund, Denmark, by the town’s biggest employer? – A popular children’s toy? – named from the Danish leg godt, meaning "play well“?
  15. 15. Hume on Sensations and Thoughts EVERY one will readily allow, that there is a considerable difference between the perceptions of the mind, when a man feels the pain of excessive heat, or the pleasure of moderate warmth, and when he afterwards recalls to his memory this sensation, or anticipates it by his imagination. These faculties may mimic or copy the perceptions of the senses; but they never can entirely reach the force and vivacity of the original sentiment. The utmost we say of them, even when they operate with greatest vigour, is, that they represent their object in so lively a manner, that we could almost say we feel or see it: But, except the mind be disordered by disease or madness, they never can arrive at such a pitch of vivacity, as to render these perceptions altogether undistinguishable. All the colours of poetry, however splendid, can never paint natural objects in such a manner as to make the description be taken for a real landskip. The most lively thought is still inferior to the dullest sensation. What’s the difference between thoughts and sensations?
  16. 16. Hume on Ideas versus Impressions Here therefore we may divide all the perceptions of the mind into two classes or species, which are distinguished by their different degrees of force and vivacity. The less forcible and lively are commonly denominated Thoughts or Ideas. The other species want a name in our language…Let us, therefore, use a little freedom, and call them Impressions…all our more lively perceptions, when we hear, or see, or feel, or love, or hate, or desire, or will. All ideas, especially abstract ones, are naturally faint and obscure: the mind has but a slender hold of them…On the contrary, all impressions, that is, all sensations, either outward or inward, are strong and vivid: the limits between them are more exactly determined; nor is it easy to fall into any error or mistake with regard to them. When we entertain therefore, any suspicion that a philosophical term is employed without any meaning or idea (as is but too frequent), we need but enquire, from what impression is that supposed idea derived? What is the relationship between impressions and ideas? What is the connection between ‘impressions’ and the ‘tabula rasa’? What’s Hume’s killer question?
  17. 17. Pop Quiz • What’s the connection between Humean Empiricism and Berkeleian Idealism?
  18. 18. David Hume: our thoughts seem unbounded… Nothing, at first view, may seem more unbounded than the thought of man, which not only escapes all human power and authority, but is not even restrained within the limits of nature and reality. To form monsters, and join incongruous shapes and appearances, costs the imagination no more trouble than to conceive the most natural and familiar objects. And while the body is confined to one planet, along which it creeps with pain and difficulty, thought can in an instant transport us into the most distant regions of the universe… What never was seen, or heard of, may yet be conceived; nor is any thing beyond the power of thought, except what implies an absolute contradiction. What’s Hume’s ‘second view’? (Why does he hold it?)
  19. 19. Hume: but our most elaborate ideas are built from simpler ones But though our thought seems to possess this unbounded liberty, we shall find, upon a nearer examination, that …all this creative power of the mind amounts to no more than the faculty of compounding, transposing, augmenting, or diminishing the materials afforded us by the senses and experience. When we think of a golden mountain, we only join two consistent ideas, gold, and mountain, with which we were formerly acquainted. A virtuous horse we can conceive; because, from our own feeling, we can conceive virtue; and this we may unite to the figure and shape of a horse, which is an animal familiar to us. In short, all the materials of thinking are derived either from our outward or inward sentiment: the mixture and composition of these belongs alone to the mind and will. Or, to express myself in philosophical language, all our ideas or more feeble perceptions are copies of our impressions or more lively ones… What examples does Hume give of complex ideas? How does he explain how they are formed?
  20. 20. So: another strength of Concept Empiricism Using the following script, say something about this… Thought seems unbounded… yet Ideas [are] faint and obscure…ideas [are] feeble perceptions…not restrained within the limits of reality…Suspicion…philosophical words without meaning…‘From what impression…’…‘Consign it then to the flames: For it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion.’ What might another advantage of (the Humean account of) Concept Empiricism be?
  21. 21. But! Could this advantage actually be somewhat of a limitation?
  22. 22. Plan 6-paragraph essay Have 5 keywords/3 key points/3 key quotes/images for each • ‘All ideas are derived from experience.’ Discuss. – Definition of concept empiricism – Tabula Rasa idea – Impressions  simple ideas – Simple ideas  complex ideas – Strengths of concept empiricism: Locke’s reasons for holding the view. – Strength that might also be a limitation: limits of knowledge. – Conclusion: How plausible is CE?
  • FernandoMorales247

    Jul. 16, 2020
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    May. 11, 2016

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