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Lecture 3

Lecture 3 - Empiricism and Rationalism

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Psychology 3950F/G
Mark Cole

th th Lecture 3: Empiricism and Rationalism in the 17 and 18 Centuries Empiricism vs. Rationalism  Empiricism: trusting sensory experience, doubting certainty could ever be achieved o All knowledge derived from sensory experience John Locke (1632-1704)  Eclectic student  B.A. 91656)  Dies in Oaks Manor in 1704 at age 72 The Nature of Ideas  An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690)  Main point of novel: there are no innate ideas o Just because some things are universal, this doesn‟t mean that they are innate  Occam’s razor o Locke reminiscent of William of Occam o “One should not increase beyond what is necessary, the number of entities required to explain anything”  Morgan’s Canon o Also reminiscent of Morgan‟s Canon o “In no case is animal activity to be interpreted in terms of higher psychological processes if it can be fairly interpreted in terms of processes which stand lower in the scale of psychological evolution and development” o If such universal ideas can be accounted for in some way other than innateness, they should be o Acquiring knowledge through sensory experience is simpler, and therefore should be used instead o Innateness is a last resort  Universal ideas are not really universal o “Universal consent proves nothing innate” o Neither children nor people of low intellect possess universal knowledge/have minds, and therefore there is no such thing as innate ideas  All ideas are acquired through experience o Ideas are habits – when a child is told something over and over again, it is a self-evident truth o Because these ideas are prevalent, and because you always seen to have had them, you may infer that they are innate, but Locke says you have actually learned them  Experience begins with a sensation (auditory, vision, etc.) Primary and Secondary Qualities of Objects  Primary qualities = physical properties of the object o E.g., solidarity, extension, figure, motion, or rest, and number  Secondary qualities not directly related to any physical aspect of the object o Don‟t lie in the object, lie in the secondary system that is taking information from those objects o E.g., colours, sounds, tastes, etc. o Buckets of water example  Presented 3 buckets with hot water in one, cold water in another, and room temperature water in the third  Puts one hand in the cold bucket and the other in the hot bucket, then puts both in the room temperature bucket  The hand that was previously in the hot water feels cool and the hand that was previously in the cold water feels warm  Argues this ability of the two hands to sense differently lies in the sensory system  Argues figure would never do the same thing (e.g., a sphere in one hand would not feel like a globe in the other)  Issue: not all animals or humans (colour blind) possess colour vision – how could the property of colour be in the object if not everyone can see it? o Colour can‟t be in the object, it has to be in the perceiver who has the ability to perceive the object The Association of Ideas  Reflection: simple ideas are combines through association, creating new ideas  Because the ideas produced through reflection are based on experience, they are still acquired through experience Abstract Ideas  Abstractions of the general from many instances of the specific (experience) Emotions and Conations  Pleasure and pain – two basic emotions arising from sensation or reflection  Good objects instill pleasure or reduce pain  Evil objects produce pain or eliminate pleasure  Objects and the emotion they engender lead to the passions (motivations) o E.g.:  Present object  pleasure  love  Absent object  pleasure  desire  Present object  pain  hatred  Probable object  pain  fear Contribution  Revived concept of association of ideas  Association has been a cornerstone of Psychology George Berkeley (1685-1753)  Born in Ireland  B.A. (1705) at age 20  M.A. (1707)  Towards a New Theory of Vision (1709)  A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge (1711)  Later Bishop of Cloyne in County Cork  Died in Oxford Mentalism  All qualities of objects are secondary o Argued there were no primary qualities like Locke thought  Mentalism (all ideas are mental events) o All ideas – whether sensory, etc. – are mental events o In the end, this is all we can ever know with certainty o Sounds more like rationalism than empiricism  Reaction to materialism o Recognized the dangers of the growing population of materialism o Thought an unquestioning belief in matter separate from mind laid in the root of an anti-spiritual movement that seemed to him to be dangerous  Beliefs about material objects in the world are just that  Berkeley did not deny the certain existence of material objects o Instead he distinguished them from possible realities o If an object can only exist in a perceiver, it might pop in and out of existence – to deal with this problem, he said this would never happen because God was always there to perceive objects The Denial of Common Sense  Denied Aristotle‟s common sense as integrator  Experience combines ideas  We learn to associate several senses of an object (e.g., sight and sound) together – separate senses integrated together only through association (experience)  No material objects, they only exist as ideas in your mind  Our knowledge of the world is highly limited and occurs through our sense Depth Perception  Depth perception is not arise form angles of incidence o Argues that the prevailing theory about depth perception is nonsense:  If you look at an object there are incident lines and because the lens of the eye turns the object upside down, causing our vision to cross over at the sense o Disagreed that we determine depth/distance by measuring these lines  If he can‟t see these lines when he is looking at something, then they don‟t exist  Ideas, such as distance, can only be suggested by other ideas o We infer that someone is angry from other ides (.g., this their face has turned red) – we can‟t see anger any more than we can see distance  We learn depth perception from: 1. Muscle-produced convergence of the optic axes o The eyes turn inward (converge) when viewing close objects o It is this inclination that provides us the idea of depth o If we have to move our eyes a lot, the object must be close o It requires muscles to move the eyes, which provides important information to the eyes to report what is going on o It‟s the feedback reported to the muscles that provides us information about depth o We would still have to learn how to interpret this distance 2. Confusion (blurriness) of retinal images o We have learned that close objects create „confused‟ retinal images (out of focus, blurry) o We learn to associat
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