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COLUMBIASTATE PHIL 1030 - Descartes’ Rationalism and Locke’s Empiricism

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Descartes’ Rationalism and Locke’s EmpiricismEpistemology Essay: Descartes' Rationalism and Locke's EmpiricismDescartes’ Rationalism and Locke’s EmpiricismDescartes tested the reliability of knowledge by doubting all beliefs’ truth, and any belief that was left standing after his scrutiny was dubbed indubitable and certain knowledge (Vaughn, 2019). In this process, he identified a few critical innate ideas (Vaughn, 2019). The first is, “I think, therefore I am,” meaning if you have a mind that thinks, you indeed exist (Vaughn, 2019). If you perceive something as clear and distinct, it must be certain (Vaughn, 2019). The second is God’s existence which would keep him from being deceived when correctly using his God-givenability to seek knowledge (Vaughn, 2019). The third is the intuition of the mind as opposed to sense data (Vaughn, 2019). Descartes writes about a piece of wax and the changes made to the wax when it melts (Vaughn, 2019). Though our senses tell us that the wax has become something else entirely, our mind’s intuition is aware that it is still, in fact, wax (Vaughn, 2019).Locke rejected skepticism and the concept of innate ideas (Vaughn, 2019). He compared our minds to a white paper, only to be marked on through sense experience which he believed to be the foundation of all credible knowledge (Vaughn, 2019). He tested the reliability of knowledge claims by differentiating between external objects and sensations we perceive from them, allowing the sensation caused by them to represent the object itself, thus constituting it as certain knowledge (Vaughn, 2019). During his journey, he makes a distinction in how wedescribe perceived objects (Vaughn, 2019). Primary qualities belonging to the object itself, being size, solidity, and mobility (Vaughn, 2019). Secondary qualities that accompany sensory perception, being color, scent, and feel, are left to the mind to sense and interpret (Vaughn, 2019). As seen in his work, “An Essay Concerning Human Understanding,” he felt that this was a more plausible explanation of our experiences and beliefs (Vaughn, 2019).In my opinion, Descartes’ theories reflected the cultural foundations of their times more than Locke’s theories. Descartes’ theories seem to revolve heavily around his belief in a perfect God in a time where most people also utilized their faith in God to gain a certain level of understanding of the world around them and themselves (Vaughn, 2019). Locke’s theories feel more ahead of their time, holding an almost scientific tone. I feel that Locke’s views are superiorin terms of contemporary student learning. He seems to have a more solidly structured foundation of determining knowledge. His theories get down to the “why” and “how” of knowledge, unlike Descartes who gauges knowledge based off innate principles which cannot technically be measured and that may not be the same for every person. Locke’s theory would allow students to decipher their knowledge and belief systems more accurately (Vaughn, 2019).ReferencesVaughn, L. (2019). Philosophy Here and Now (Third Edition). Oxford University Press.


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