"What a piece of work is a man! How Noble in Reason!” - Hamlet, Shakespeare
Our capacity to reason is what makes us human.
Considering reason and Western Philosophy
Western philosophy begins with Socrates, and the application of reason to problems, which prior to this had no solution.
The central element of western philosophy is reason. There is the assumption that there is a starting point in which you are
The ontological position
We cannot reason unless we know our starting point.
Ontology deals with what can be known with certainty?
There are some things that we can never know for certain
It is always possible to doubt what is a certain truth
Eg. 3D chalk drawings
We can doubt these input of our senses, and the ontological reason can be doubted. This was doubted until the early 7th
“Cogito, ergo sum…” - Renee Descartes. This statement is the point of origin of psychology as a discipline.
Descartes sat down in a chair in a room, and started to think about things, with his starting point being that he
was going to doubt everything, and when he hit something that he couldn’t doubt, then he would figure it
out. This then did away with psychological doubt.
He then claimed that you could not doubt you were thinking, and that thinning was the starting point for
Epistemology deals with how do we know what we know?
How does what we know get inside your head?
Action —> History
We know what we know because we act in the word.
Action always takes place in a historical context. Our history comes in three layered forms.
We grow up in the world
Culture constrains us
We are limited by how we develop
Descartes was a rationalist.
The primacy of mind/thought.
The capacity to think validates your existence, this means that thinking has to come before anything else. Therefore,
the mind is primary. It has to be there for the beginning, and if there is any gap, you let doubt back in. Thinking pre-
dates everything else. For the rationalists, the centrality of knowledge is a priori knowledge; there from the benign. It
then means that they are commented to the deductive construction of knowledge; we deduce knowledge. We go
from the general to the specific.
All men are rational
Descartes is a man.
Descartes is mortal.
The first serious philosopher who dealt with Descartes was John Locke.
Empiricists believes that you made sense of the world by using data to construct a meaning of the world. They rejected the
idea of prior knowledge; you cannot be born into the world knowing stuff.
If there were innate ideas, there children and idiots would be aware of them
Children would demonstrate the fact that they have these prior ideas.
Basic understandings of the world
What is self-evident?
Two object cannot occupy the same space at the same time.
There’s no evidence that children understand this, and therefore, Descartes ideas are incorrect.
They argued that the mind waits for experience.
Locke’s famous saying is that the mind is a blank slate in which the world writes.
And so we come to understand the world through our senses
This is the induction of knowledge.
Going from the specific to the general.
“What’s a swan?” A large white bird. In Australia, you’ll find black swans.
The constraint on inductive reasoning is that your knowledge is only as good as your experiences.
He decided to weigh into this debate in 1837: “Origin of man now proved. He who understand baboon will do more than
metaphysics than Locke.”
Darwin is saying that evolution has a role in it. We have a history. Therefore, if we have a history, it will tell us
something about our capacity to reason.
All of life had a single point from which it begins; a monophyletic origin. If it had this origin, it then radiated into all
the various life form we have now; it’s this modification that is the definition of evolution. We can take a comparative
approach to the study of minds.
Lock claimed that there was nothing in our heads to begin with; Darwin was saying, through revolutionary
theory, there had to be a historical origin.
Darwin argues against the blank slate. It does raise the question, how does that we know get into our heads?
At the simplest level, Darwin would say that there is wide variation in how we deal with the world; some successful,
some not, but the ones that work will multiply over time. It is a little like Descartes; we have fixed ideas a parameters
in or heads.
We wouldn’t exist as a species, if we didn’t want to take care of our offspring. If you are a mother who produces an ugly thing, then
we are dispositioned to not like it. Therefore, we are genetically made to think our offspring are cute, so that we make them, and
want to look after them. We are kind towards helpless infants, and it predisposes us to behave specially to young things.
Teddy bears then and now are also different looking over the course of 100 years. Teddy bears have become more and
more baby like, because they tap into the consumer’s likelihood of choosing a babied teddy.
Perceptions of the brain
A logical reasoning device with an explicit data store; manipulator of symbols/concepts
The truth of the matter is that brains evolved to make things happen in the world, but to act on the word. A tree
doesn’t have a brain, because things are far too slow for a tree to have a brain.
We are both deductive and inductive
Started out as a biologist, got interested in children, and worked with them. He was involved in the development of IQ tests
for children, as was interested in how small children engage with the world. The idea at the time was that children were just
stupid adults. Piaget argued that there was consistency if you looked long enough; what children really are scientists; they
act in the world. For us, the world questions.
His approach to this was Genetic Epistemology
How do we come to know what we need to know in order to preform the cognitive operations inherent in adult
Note that this is not about learning “facts” but about acquiring conceptual understanding.
Not only is thought itself a biological adaptation, but we accrue the capacity for thought through process of adapting
to the world in which we find ourselves.
Knowledge is constructed through action and builds on itself.
Adaptation is assimilation and accommodation
It is also equilibrium and disequilibrium
When the world changes, you are thrown into disequilibrium, and you change the way you act. When
there is nothing going on, you don’t learn.
Sensorimotor Stage (Birth - 2yrs)
The characteristic limitation of this stage is ‘thinking by doing’. The sensorimotor infant gains knowledge through
action. You lean object permanence. There are features in the world that are there whether or not you are engaging
Concrete operations; provided that you can see what’s going on, you can figure out what’s going on.
Identity, compensation, reversibility. This is then inductive logic.
Deductive logic is something we all have. We’ve learnt that the world exists, that it exists in a couple of ways, etc.
E K 4 7
If a card has a vowel on one side then it has an even number on the other.