Descartes Vs. Locke Essay

1175 words - 5 pages

Philosophy Essay (Descartes vs. Locke)

Socrates once said, “As for me, all I know is that I know nothing.” Several philosophers contradicted Socrates’ outlook and believed that true knowledge was in fact attainable. This epistemological view however had several stances to it, as philosophers held different beliefs in regards to the derivation of true knowledge. Rationalists believed that the mind was the source of true knowledge, while in Empiricism, true knowledge derived from the senses. Rene Descartes, a rationalist, and John Locke, an empiricist, were prime examples of epistemologists who were seen to differentiate greatly within each of their philosophies. However, although ...view middle of the document...

Secondary qualities rely on how a person senses the object subjectively, and is experienced differently depending on the individual (Paquette 212). Examples of secondary qualities include colour, taste, and sound (Paquette 212). Primary qualities, however, are objective and include aspects such as an object’s height and weight (Paquette 212). Through this, Locke claimed that the existence of objects can be made certain due to the primary qualities it possesses (Paquette 212). Similar to Descartes, Locke believed in a sense of existence. However, in his view, the facts from the primary qualities proved the object exists because the object exists within itself (Paquette 212).
Descartes and Locke also believed in some sense of the external world. Descartes claimed that there is in fact an external world, however it does not exist outside people’s minds (Paquette 206). Since Descartes was a rationalist, he believed that the only method to acquire true knowledge was solely through the mind (Moore 2002). Through the process of doubting existence, Descartes realized that the mind exists (Paquette 205). He went further into thought and concluded that since he, an imperfect person, has knowledge of perfection, something perfect has to exist to have put that knowledge in his mind. From there he claimed the existence of God (Newman 2010). Descartes then stated that a perfect god would not deceive his people, indicating that the material world exists (Newman 2010). Therefore through this thinking process, Descartes came to the conclusion that the real world is of the mind, and the external world is everything else that falls into the material world made by god (Newman 2010).
Like Descartes, Locke also believed in an external world. As an empiricist, Locke relied heavily on the senses to provide true knowledge (Moore 2002). He shared Aristotle’s belief that the mind is a blank slate, also known as tabula rasa, at birth (Paquette 211). Our sense experiences thereafter provide us with knowledge to fill in those slates (Paquette 211). In Locke’s “Representative Theory of Perception,” also known as Epistemological Dualism, he stated that material objects exist and are separate entities from human beings (Paquette 227). However, he also believed that objects exist in the mind as psychological entities (Paquette 227). Locke concluded that people can taste, smell, touch, and see the external world which, in turn, becomes impressions in our minds (Paquette 227). Descartes and Locke are thus seen to be similar in the sense that they both believed in an external world.
Descartes and Locke both had a process for understanding knowledge as well. As a rationalist, Descartes believed in innate ideas; that all humans were born with...

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