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John Locke, George Berkeley, And David Hume

1378 words - 6 pages

Locke, Berkeley, and Hume

Enlightenment began with an unparalleled confidence in human reason. The new science's success in making clear the natural world through Locke, Berkeley, and Hume affected the efforts of philosophy in two ways. The first is by locating the basis of human knowledge in the human mind and its encounter with the physical world. Second is by directing philosophy's attention to an analysis of the mind that was capable of such cognitive success. John Locke set the tone for enlightenment by affirming the foundational principle of empiricism: There is nothing in the intellect that was not previously in the senses. Locke could not accept the Cartesian rationalist belief in innate ideas. According to Locke, all knowledge of the world must ultimately rest on man's sensory experience. The mind arrives at sound conclusions through reflection after sensation. In other words the mind combines and compounds sensory impressions or "ideas" into more complex concepts building it's conceptual understanding. There was skepticism in the empiricist position mainly from the rationalist orientation. Locke recognized there was no guarantee that all human ideas of things genuinely resembled the external objects they were suppose to represent. He also realized he could not reduce all complex ideas, such as substance, to sensations. He did know there were three factors in the process of human knowledge: the mind, the physical object, and the perception or idea in the mind that represents that object. Locke, however, attempted a partial solution to such problems. He did this by making the distinction between primary and secondary qualities. Primary qualities produce ideas that are simply consequences of the subject's perceptual apparatus. With focusing on the Primary qualities it is thought that science can gain reliable knowledge of the material world. Locke fought off skepticism with the argument that in the end both types of qualities must be regarded as experiences of the mind. Lockes Doctrine of Representation was therefore undefendable. According to Berkley's analysis all human experience is phenomenal, limited to appearances in the mind. One's perception of nature is one's mental experience of nature, making all sense data "objects for the mind" and not representations of material substances. In effect while Locke had reduced all mental contents to an ultimate basis in sensation, Berkeley now further reduced all sense data to mental contents. The distinction, by Locke, between qualities that belong to the mind and qualities that belong to matter could not be sustained. Berkeley sought to overcome the contemporary tendency toward "atheistic Materialism" which he felt arose without just cause with modern science. The empiricist correctly aims that all knowledge rests on experience. In the end, however, Berkeley pointed out that experience is nothing more than experience. All representations, mentally, of supposed substances, materially, are...

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