What is the future of epistemology
Locke dedicates his main work, the "Treatise on the human understanding" (1689), to epistemology. This is considered a milestone of modern empiricism. It deals with a key question of the Enlightenment: Is there a knowledge without the person first coming into contact with the outside world? The rationalists such as Descartes, Spinoza or Leibniz had claimed that knowledge from pure thought was possible. Man is therefore not dependent on experience in order to have knowledge about the world and its logical structure. Descartes, for example, sees the existence of God as an "innate idea" (Descartes 1992, pp. III. And V.). In contrast, the empiricists reject knowledge that is independent of experience. The human mind is first of all a "tabula rasa". Knowledge only comes about through (sensual) experiences.
The "treatise" is divided into four parts: The first book is about Locke's rejection of the rationalistic thesis about innate ideas, the second book deals with ideas as an object of knowledge, the third book contains a linguistic-philosophical treatise and the fourth book one Theory of knowledge. Locke is - alongside David Hume (1711–1776) and George Berkeley (1685–1753) - a prominent representative of modern empiricism. It is helpful to distinguish between a “genetic” and a “truth-theoretical” empiricism (for this distinction see (Specht 2007, p. 39 ff.)). “Genetic” empiricism is linked to the assertion that ideas are derived from experience come. So it relates to the origin of the ideas. The “truth-theoretical” empiricism, on the other hand, means the assertion that the truth of statements must be checked on the basis of experience. There is evidence of both claims in Locke. The "genetic" aspect of empiricism becomes clear here:
The origin of ideas (idea; Imagination) is experience. For Locke there are no innate ideas, neither in relation to theoretical knowledge nor to morality (cf. Essay I, ch. 3, 65 ff.). For Locke this is evident: For example, not all peoples had a concept of God. Locke distinguishes between empirical knowledge as follows: On the one hand, there is knowledge that arises from sensory experience:
So “genetic” empiricism involves you sensualism with a. However, Locke goes beyond pure sensualism. Knowledge is not only based on external experience (perception of external objects; sensation), but also on internal experience (reflection):
sensation and reflection are therefore for Locke the sources of ideas and thus of knowledge in general. Through the processes of sensation and reflection, “simple ideas” come about. As an example of a simple idea, Locke cites the idea of firmness, which one experiences through contact and resistance of a body (Essay II, ch. 4, 122 ff.). Simple ideas depend on man's endowment with sense organs; the mind behaves receptively-passively here, it receives impressions (Essay II, ch. 12, 163). The mind can, however, also actively relate to simple ideas and transform the existing material of ideas into new, “complex ideas” through its own operation of thinking. The complex ideas thus arise through thinking reworking of the simple ideas. This reworking of simple ideas into complex ideas is done in three ways:
Simple ideas become complex ideas with the help of active intellectual activity. Locke differentiates between the types of intellectual activity in connection, relation and abstraction. Locke divides the resulting “complex” ideas into modes, substances and relations (Essay II, ch. 12, 164). For Locke, "modes" are complex ideas that do not exist on their own, but are dependent on substances (e.g. the beauty of something). "Substances" are defined as ideas that represent certain individual things that exist for themselves, such as people (cf. Essay II, ch. 23, 295 ff.). The phrase “represent” expresses that Locke substances, as general terms, are not thought of as existing. Locke is - like Hobbes - Nominalistfor which the general terms exist only in language, but not in reality. Finally, Locke calls “relations” a complex idea. What is meant are relationships between simple ideas, such as cause and effect (cf. Essay II, ch. 26, 324 ff.).
After Locke described the object of knowledge in the second book in the ideas, he is concerned with a theory of knowledge in the fourth book of the "treatise". Our ideas are the subject and limitation of our knowledge:
So what is knowledge? The nominalist Locke can only give the following answer:
Here you can also find the "Truth-theoretical" aspect of empiricism, i.e. the compatibility of a statement with empirical knowledge as a truth criterion:
Locke gives an interesting example of the certainty of the existence of external things:
Question 14: Go into the terms “empiricism”, “sensualism” and “nominalism” and also refer to John Locke's epistemology in your answer!
Answer (click here)
“Empiricism” is understood to mean that all knowledge is ultimately based on experience. Modern empiricism was represented in particular by John Locke (1632–1704), David Hume (1711–1776) and George Berkeley (1685–1753). In epistemology, empiricism turns against rationalism. The latter asserts the existence of innate ideas. In contrast, empiricism regards the mind as a “tabula rasa” or “white paper”. Only experience leads to contents of the mind.
John Locke is a leading exponent of modern empiricism. His epistemology can be found in the main work "Treatise on the human mind" (An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, 1689). For Locke, the object of knowledge is ideas. Ideas initially come from external sensory perception (such as colors). Locke calls these “simple ideas”. In this respect, Locke's empiricism is a sensualism. Simple ideas can be transformed into "complex ideas" (example: beauty) through further mental processing, e.g. through abstraction. Locke formulates a nominalistic position because for him general terms (such as human, beauty) cannot claim an existence independent of language.
Question 15: Name at least two objections to classical empiricism!
Answer (click here)
There have been three main objections to the view that all knowledge comes from experience:
1. Concept of truth: The necessary truth of mathematical theorems, such as 1 + 1 = 2, cannot be justified empirically (Pfister 2011, p. 114). Thus empiricism cannot formulate necessary truths.
2. Induction problem: Empiricism also has to deal with the induction problem. The induction problem was largely formulated by David Hume: From individual observations we cannot obtain any certainty about all future observations. An inductive conclusion does not have the certainty of a logical conclusion. Hume's example is this: “Suppose, for example, that I have found in long observation that out of twenty ships that put out to sea, only nineteen return. Right now I see twenty ships leaving port. Then I simply transfer my previous experience to the future, so imagine nineteen of these ships returning undamaged and one sinking "(Hume , A Treatise of Human Nature, Book I: Of the Understanding). From the observation that in the past out of twenty ships only nineteen have returned, it does not follow with logical necessity that this will also be the case in the future. Since the synchronization of history cannot be proven, the induction problem addresses a lack of certainty in empiricism. 3. Kant's critique of empiricism: Sensuality is a necessary condition for knowledge, but not a sufficient one. Kant's saying is famous: “Without sensuality, no object would be given to us and without understanding no one would be thought. Thoughts without content are empty, views without concepts are blind ”(KrV, B 75). We have succumbed to a “myth of the given” (Sellars) when we think that mere contact with the world is insightful. Knowledge according to Kant requires both elements: the recording of sensory data and the understanding of its own (cf. more closely (Höffe 2011, p. 85 f.)). Among other things, the criticism of the scientific worldview is based on this objection by Kant: Theories about the world cannot be inferred from observation alone. Rather, scientific theories are constructions, creations of thought. The scientific worldview mixes model and reality.
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