The this idea seems quite unthreatening, there are

                The objective of this essay is to critically discuss and analyse Locke’s
empiricism. John Locke was a British Philosopher who lived through the late 17th
century and whose work theorised about power structure within government and the
reality of one’s self and knowledge. Throughout this discussion of his
empiricism, there is a direct relation to a rather wider question of the nature
of knowledge. Locke’s theory of empiricism maintains the ‘experience based
approach’ to knowledge.  The theme of
knowledge and the theme of experience come together in this theory, arguing
that we acquire knowledge solely through our experiences and our mind’s
reaction to said sensations. Whilst this idea seems quite unthreatening, there
are wider and more important implications that come along with it and that
Locke addresses.

            Firstly, it is important
to identify exactly how Locke’s theory of empiricism follows through in a coherent
and clear manner. Locke maintains the belief that all human beings are born as Tabula Rasa, blank slates, and
sensations are the initial bridge connecting the outside world to the human. As
the mental abilities begin to develop within an individual, they gain ‘ideas of
reflection’. This is achieved by observing the mind’s functionality and
reaction to certain sensations resulting in these thoughts of reflections.
Locke moves on further to state that this combination between the sensations of
outer things and the reflection on mental activities forms the ‘only sources
from which human beings can gain the simple ideas that form the building blocks
of all human thought’ (40, Nagel, 2014).Yet this idea of the formation of
thoughts and ideas (which is enough of a basis for knowledge) does not limit
itself to simply these floating sensations and reflections that have been
mashed together to form these ingredients for human thought. Locke’s theory
includes the possibility of processing already processed materials from
elsewhere. And that together the unique knowledge and thoughts within each
person and the processed materials create new complex ideas or creative
initiatives. From ideas such as justice, property and government, to ideas of
new inventions and possible creatures that exist. By this way of argument, it
is possible to say that Locke’s empiricist argument concludes that knowledge is
unique to every individual, as no two people experience the exact same
sensations and mind activities. Locke defines knowledge as being the following:
“the perception of the connection and agreement, or disagreement and
repugnancy, of any of our ideas”. This is where the British philosopher
categorises the ‘degrees of knowledge’ in order to list how ideas can be seen
to both agree and disagree at the same time.

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            Locke lists the degrees
of knowledge in three categories: intuitive knowledge, demonstrative knowledge,
and sensitive knowledge. The first degree of knowledge is the intuitive
knowledge, the knowledge we perceive right away, instantly being able to
recognise whether an idea is in agreement with ‘reality’. An example of that
would be me being able to recognise confidently that hot is not cold. The
consecutive degree of knowledge following the intuitive is the demonstrative,
which goes a step further and connects the agreement or the disagreement of the
idea with a collection of related ideas. I am conscious of the fact that hot is
not cold due my collection of ideas of the exact temperature and the strength
of the UV rays signifying heat rather than cold. Here we see how knowledge that
is demonstrated through ideas of science and nature is a degree of knowledge in
empiricism. Now the third degree of knowledge is quite self explanatory
following the last two and along with its name, is concerned with “the
existence of particular objects that we experience” (43, Nagel, 2014).
Sensitive knowledge is the knowledge of the things one feels, the sensations
from the outside. Sensitive knowledge in the example I provided would be the
feeling of heat on one’s skin, the scorching heat a reminder that hot is in
fact not cold. Sensitive knowledge is more vital than the other two degrees to
Locke, as it brings reality and ideas together, and the cognitive difference
between imagining the feeling of heat when one is subjected to its absence, and
the actual feeling of it within the senses.

            Locke’s empiricist theory
regarding an individual’s relation to knowledge is one that answers a lot of
questions and is very appealing. As most of these themes of knowledge and where
it comes from and the varying theories come to light over the years, there are
many ways in which can answer the big question as to where knowledge comes
from. Empiricism directly contradicts rationalism. Rationalism states that
humans are born with pre-downloaded innate ideas, that one is born with already
a set of knowledge or the potential for knowledge. Descartes argues for
rationalism with ties back to mathematics and abstract ideas and their
importance. This does not go hand in hand with Locke’s larger focus on
experience and observation. Both mainly differ in the basis of knowledge and
the way in which is it acquired. Rationalism heavily relies on reason and its
important role in constructing knowledge and ideas. Empiricists attempt to
explain where this information actually comes from, which is why it can be seen
as a more appealing argument. Experience is what creates and forms all of this
important information about our world and our senses. Some would say that if
this important information is not through experience, then it is not valid or
useful knowledge to have, if it even is knowledge. Stanford Encyclopaedia
claims that rationalism and empiricism need not even be contrasted or compared
to one another, that they simply do not occupy the same field, they only
conflict when covering the same subject. Which ultimately is a rather obvious
claim, yet it does hold some weight when discussing knowledge. That ultimately
Descartes and Locke had quite similar ideas as to what our ideas are, the main
difference being that Descartes relates some ideas to be innate whilst Locke
maintains that experience is the driving force behind the formation of ideas,
and ultimately knowledge.

            Locke’s empiricist
theory heavily relies on the existence of a mind, more importantly the mind’s
connection the sensations that the body feels. One would not be able to have
sensitive knowledge without a body to feel the sensations. This could lead the
topic onto another argument, the mind-body argument, yet it gives another layer
of significance to the presence of knowledge in one’s life. How according to
Locke, every small thing that we have experienced has mounted up and created
who we are today. Knowledge is a collection of individuals coming up with
knowledge, each in a new way. New inventions being invented every day, new
stories being written. Yet it’s possible to question and critique Locke’s
theory of empiricism. What if the experiences I’ve had have all been staged and
faked and I’m led to believe that a right triangle must have a 91° degree angle, and all my sensations have led me to believe
this too. All degrees of knowledge are satisfied, yet what I have learned is
not true. Yet perhaps what Locke is aiming for is not whether or not the
knowledge is true or not, as that is uncertain. The point is that we have
achieved in showing the transition of ideas into knowledge based on the mind
activity and the recognition of sensations. Nagel states that no one should
claim that their own knowledge is true, in terms of opinion and faith, as no
one has had the exact same experience and journey as each person’s blank slate
has. Simply put, everyone’s journeys differ, in terms of the people they meet,
the places they visit, and in terms of how the mind activity is with these
experiences of sensations.

            Locke’s theory of
empiricism as being the source of our knowledge is an idea that is seemingly
simple at first glance. Yet upon further reflection and discussion, it is
evident that it is an idea that will bridge the mind and the sensations of the
body in order to coherently argue that we are born as blank slates. Sensations
mark us and our reaction in the mind to these sensations is what further
cements knowledge. Locke also identifies variant degrees of knowledge which further
emphasises to what great lengths this philosopher does to maintain his theory
of experience based conception of knowledge.


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