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2XX3 INTRO.docx

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Graeme Ward

PHILOSOPHY 2XX3: INNATE IDEAS ESSAY, BK I Jan 8 • Epistle-purpose and method of Essay • Ideas, nature of • No innate ideas o Arguments o Objection and replies Epistle • P. 1-2 (letter to the reader) • Two subject matter: (1) that which he claims perplexed him and his friends and (2) the powers of understanding • What is the first and why set it aside in favour of the second? • Disputes in morality and revealed religion • Presumably if we are to have any hopes of resolving those disputes, we first have to come to terms with the nature and limits of our understanding Essay, method of • I.i.3: inquire into the original [origin]” of human knowledge • Determine how it is build up from this origin • Thereby, determine the limits of knowledge, faith and opinion • Distinguish between ideas proper and unintelligible nonsense Initial startling claims • I.i. • Does not plan to investigate the “physical consideration of the mind” (I.i.2) • Wouldn’t we have to investigate how the sensory stimulation affects the brain and this gives rise to ideas • Background: Locke was trained as a physician and well knew that the study of the brain and its processes would not translate into an understanding of how knowledge arises • Instead, employ a “historical plain method” I.i.2 Historical plain method • Autonomy of the understanding, of the cognitive faculties insofar as they reveal themselves to us in introspection • Not of the anatomy of the brain as perceived by outside observers • Determine how the elements revealed by way of introspection interact to produce knowledge • With the hope of determining what sorts of things lie beyond our powers of knowledge (and must be left up to individual opinion) • Note: not an investigation of physical processes • Note: assumes that ideas come to us via sensory experience; we are not born knowing these ideas “Ideas” • Central view here is that knowledge originates with “ideas” • Undertake survey of what sorts of ideas we have • And of what allows us to perceive relations between ideas • But what are “ideas?” • “whatsoever is the object of understanding when a [person] thinks” (I.i.8) • What sort of sense does this make? • Does it mean that thinking is one thing and whatever we think about are our ideas? • Since we often think about external objects, does this mean that external objects are ideas? • Alternatively, perhaps we are not thinking about external objects but about our sensations • Perhaps he meant both. Perhaps he merely referred to mental content • Whatever he meant specifically, the initial question is about the origin of the ideas we no doubt have No innate ideas • Main points of
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