Concept Innatism (Reason as a source of Knowledge)

(In case you're new to Get Revising and this mindmap appears all squished together, you're gonna have to zoom in to see it all properly.) This is a mindmap, based off of the AQA A(A2) Level Philosophy course. It is from the Epistemology unit, specifically under the general question of "Where does knowledge come from?". This is mostly taken from Routledge. 

  • Created by: Daenni92
  • Created on: 08-05-19 17:30
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  • Concept Innatism
    • Locke
      • His arguments against concept innatism assume that innate concepts are universal and that we're conscious of them
      • Argument against innate knowledge pt 1: when we look a new-born babies, we have no reason to believe that they have any concepts except those learn via experiences in the womb (warmth, pain) but we wouldnt say babies have complex ones like identity & impossibility (coming from the innatist claim that "it is impossible for the same to be and not to be" is innate knowledge)
      • Argument against innate knowledge pt 2: God is also considered to be an innate concept by innatism. But this is not a concept that babies have - neither is it universal; whole societies have been atheist, historically speaking. Clearly God is a concept learned/taught.
      • Argument against innate knowledge pt.3: the only way one could have a concept they are not conscious of is if it's lodged in memory. To remember something is to have been conscious of it in the past. If you aren't remembering a concept, then it's new to your mind. So innate ideas will have to be both new and remembered. This is nonsensical.
      • Rejecting Locke's definition: innatists reject the idea that we have to be conscious of innate concepts. Experience is necessary to trigger our development of the concept but not sufficient to explain our having it. This means we're predisposed to having some concept which we cannot form from experience alone.
    • Leibniz
      • He agrees with Locke that we must have innate concepts in order to have innate knowledge, but rejects his first objection. Babies have the disposition to form these concepts (as we all do from birth). To answer his second objection, he notes that not having a word for God doesn't mean we don't have a concept. We are predisposed to develop the concept of a higher being. To answer the third objection, innate concepts are dispositions so neither new (coming from outside the mind) nor remembered.
        • Locke
          • His arguments against concept innatism assume that innate concepts are universal and that we're conscious of them
          • Argument against innate knowledge pt 1: when we look a new-born babies, we have no reason to believe that they have any concepts except those learn via experiences in the womb (warmth, pain) but we wouldnt say babies have complex ones like identity & impossibility (coming from the innatist claim that "it is impossible for the same to be and not to be" is innate knowledge)
          • Argument against innate knowledge pt 2: God is also considered to be an innate concept by innatism. But this is not a concept that babies have - neither is it universal; whole societies have been atheist, historically speaking. Clearly God is a concept learned/taught.
          • Argument against innate knowledge pt.3: the only way one could have a concept they are not conscious of is if it's lodged in memory. To remember something is to have been conscious of it in the past. If you aren't remembering a concept, then it's new to your mind. So innate ideas will have to be both new and remembered. This is nonsensical.
          • Rejecting Locke's definition: innatists reject the idea that we have to be conscious of innate concepts. Experience is necessary to trigger our development of the concept but not sufficient to explain our having it. This means we're predisposed to having some concept which we cannot form from experience alone.
        • Vein in marble argument; innate knowledge is like a vein in marble, that takes some shape to be carved out by the sculptor. Innate knowledge exists within us but we have to work to get it out.
      • He comments on Locke's distinction between concepts that originate in sensation from those that originate in reflection, which he calls 'intellectual ideas'. He notes the to reflect is to attend to what is within us, and what is within us is not from the senses. So concepts such as Being, Unity, Substance, Change etc. are all innate because we ourselves are beings, unities, substances, and we change etc.
      • However not all innate concepts come from "intellectual ideas", ones such as "impossibility" or "square" do not come from reflection of the self. These are necessary truths.
        • Necessary Truths must be innate. Sense experience only gives us info of particular instances. We can constantly experience 2 apples and 2 oranges making 4 things all together, but this doesn't establish the universal truth that 2+2=4. If we are to accept that necessary truths like this are not innate then it would mean that these truths can possibly be false, which is not the case.
    • Plato
      • Whatever we experience via senses is a particular thing - a red car or a beautiful flower, but we never experience "redness" or "beauty" themselves, they are properties of things. Properties are "universals". It is difficult to argue we gain the concept of these through sense experience because we always experience them in relation to something else, never as their own thing.
      • Our conception of beauty is that it is some kind of perfection, yet everything we experience (through senses) is imperfect, so how could experience give us this concept?
      • In judging that two sticks are of equal length, we use the concept of equal which we cannot have derived from experience nothing is exactly equal in experience, but almost equal. And almost equal still has the concept of equal. Again, where did this concept come from? If we do not gain the concept from experience, it must be innate.
      • Slave Boy Argument; in which Socrates asks a slave boy questions in order to prompt him to get the correct answer to a geometry question (ie. asking him about rules to help him realise he's wrong/what to do). Therefore this illustrates that innate knowledge exists and just needs to be 'remembered'
    • Descartes
      • The Concept of Substance- is it innate? I know I am a substance by reflection on myself (mental substance) - but physical substance?
        • The Wax Argument - if i melt wax, it loses all of its sensory qualities (taste, smell, feel, shape) yet I believe its the same bit of wax. therefore what i think of as the wax is not its sensory qualities. it can undergo more changes than i can possibly imagine, therefore my concept of the wax as extended and changeable is not from the imagination. therefore i comprehend what the wax is through my mind alone. only this thought of the wax, not the perceptual experience of it, is clear and distinct.
          • The wax he comprehends by his understanding is the same wax is the same wax that is presented by images from the senses. Although we say we see the wax, we in fact judge (using our understanding) that its present from what we see.
          • This argument is intended to show that the concept of a physical object doesn't derive from sense experience, but is part of the understanding. We can now add that this means that is it innate.
      • Trademark Argument; there are 3 sources of concepts either "myself", outside "myself" or its innate. The concept of God is innate, because God is infinite whilst "i" am finite and thus the concept has more reality than I do and so I am not the source of the concept. It cannot be from outside myself because the concept is not "unexpected" like those derived from sense experience, thus God is innate.
    • Empiricist Arguments against concept innatism
      • There are two ways an empiricist can refute concept innatism claims - 1) they can say that the concept ins, in fact derived from experience or 2) that there is 'no such concept'; that its incoherent, the result of some type of mental error.
        • Response to Leibniz; reflection upon what I am does not establish innate concepts. Locke argues we must first experience our mind and its activities (in reflection) to develop the concepts, hence they're not innate.
        • Response to Plato; Locke & Hume - they are derived by abstraction from experience. Almost equal doesn't involve the concept 'equal', it is a simple concept derived from sense-experience of comparing objects. We have experiences of 2 sticks not being the same length. We form the concept of equal by abstracting the experience of differing lengths. Same with beauty, which we abstract from what beautiful things have in common.
        • Substance/mind; I may be a substance but it doesn't follow i derive the concept of substance from reflection upon myself. I need to experience myself in reflection as a substance. Berkeley: the concept of substance is derived from our experience of ourselves. So it's not innate.
          • Substance/physical objects: 1) extension as a primary quality must derive from sense experience. We can abstract it from our many changeable experiences. This may require some operation of the understanding but this is fine for an empiricist. 2) Berkeley - the concept of 'physical object' cannot be a concept of a mind-independent substance. We don't experience physical substances, only prim + sec quals, which are mind-dependent. The concept is therefore confused. Nothing in sense experience supports the existence of a mind-independent physical object.
        • Hume on Substance and Self
          • The concept of a physical object is of something independent of experience existing in a 3-dimensional space. But how can experience show us something exists independent of experience? If I am not experiencing something I cannot 'tell'/'verify' that is is persisting without my perception of it. An object may appear similar to the way it was before I stopped perceiving it, but qualitative identity and numerical identity are different things.
            • This can be applied to 'self' or 'mental substance' - He argues we don't experience a continuing substance over time, we only experience a continually changing array of thoughts & feelings.
          • Although arguing against the idea that mental substance/self is derived from experience, he doesn't argue it's innate. Rather he argues the concept is confused.
            • In coming up with the concept of a physical substance that exists independently of our experiences, we've confused similarity with identity. Our perception of physical objects exhibit constancy - if you close your eyes while looking at a desk a similar one is there when you open them. On the basis of this similarity, the mind has a tendency to assume that the desk i see after i open my eyes is in fact identical to the one from before i closed them.
              • The imagination creates the idea of identity is similarity and unity, both of which we can derive from experience but there's nothing in reality that matches this concept.
                • This can be applied to mental substance - we've confused the similarity of our thoughts and feelings from one moment to the next with the identity of a 'thing' to which mental states belong. So the concept is not innate, it's confused.
                  • In coming up with the concept of a physical substance that exists independently of our experiences, we've confused similarity with identity. Our perception of physical objects exhibit constancy - if you close your eyes while looking at a desk a similar one is there when you open them. On the basis of this similarity, the mind has a tendency to assume that the desk i see after i open my eyes is in fact identical to the one from before i closed them.
                    • The imagination creates the idea of identity is similarity and unity, both of which we can derive from experience but there's nothing in reality that matches this concept.
                      • This can be applied to mental substance - we've confused the similarity of our thoughts and feelings from one moment to the next with the identity of a 'thing' to which mental states belong. So the concept is not innate, it's confused.
                        • We can object that this conclusion makes our commonsense idea of the world wrong. If we are to avoid scepticism, we must either find a way to derive these concepts from experience or accept that they're innate.
                  • We can object that this conclusion makes our commonsense idea of the world wrong. If we are to avoid scepticism, we must either find a way to derive these concepts from experience or accept that they're innate.

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