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Lecture 14

PHIL 2160 Lecture Notes - Lecture 14: Personal Identity, Institute For Operations Research And The Management Sciences, Tabula Rasa

Course Code
PHIL 2160
Patricia Sheridan

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Lecture – Locke
Locke is an empiricist
He discusses in book 1 his account of personal identities – he interested in the content of the mind,
how we formulate beliefs, and how we acquire knowledge
He does distinguish, as Descartes did, between knowledge and belief – to say you have knowledge of
something means you are certain about it (intuitively true)
Knowledge will involve math and morality (abstract concepts that are understood perfectly in
Adequacy means it’s a complete concept – I can understand the essence of a triangle by
understanding the complete definition of a triangle
I could be wrong about my beliefs about things like cats and dogs – I pay attention to features that are
central and definitive and that make cats and dogs different kinds of things
He sheds doubt on our notion of kinds, as Kripke later does, because the information we have of some
things is incomplete
Our account of the world outside the mind is largely subjective – for Locke, we do not have innate
Plato also questions how we classify things, but he argues that forms are innately within us which is
how we distinguish objects and categorize them into kinds
How do we understand the world if we don’t have innate ideas?
The world is made up of extended and thought – Locke worries about the account of the material
world – with Descartes we have a world of sensations that are doubtful, and we hope God is not
misleading us, and the world we can understand perfectly is mathematical (extension)
Locke says, how is the world of extension related to reason? There’s a distinction between how things
appear to me and how they really are (Descartes doesn’t worry about this, but Locke does)
Locke is worried about appealing to mathematics as a concept of reason about how we come to
understand things
There are no real and distinct things for Descartes, it’s all extension of the mind – Locke does not
agree with this
Locke is interested with the beliefs we form about the world of sensation – we get all the contents of
our mind from experience (tabula rasa) – we get simple ideas from sensation
We receive information passively – the sensation is the idea of the mind, you can’t alter the
experience you’re having (we can’t will how we are going to experience the world)
Experiences are also atomic/simple – the more sensory information you have about something, the
more complex the idea is – we receive information and put it together into complex ideas
The information we get from the world is always going to be limited – anything we say about the
world of experience can never be adequate and will always be incomplete
The reception of the ideas is passive, but the mind is active once it receives these ideas
Reflection is when we turn our mind’s eye on ourselves – my understanding of the world includes my
understanding of myself
Descartes says I come to an intuitive understanding of myself as a thinking thing
For Locke, ideas of reflection are a kind of experiential idea that are also atomic – constitute all the
things I am aware that my mind does (I will, predict, imagine, doubt)
I have ideas of the world outside of the mind based on sensation, and ideas about my mind based on
The rationalist will take the ideas inside our minds and apply them outside the mind – empiricists will
say we have concepts in our mind that we understand with complete certainty, but how do we know
that they capture what is out there?
Science for Locke is never knowledge – it is always belief
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