Concept Empiricism

  • Created by: jmpollard
  • Created on: 25-02-17 12:33

Concept Empiricism is a branch of Empiricism that aims to tell us how our ideas and concepts become knowledge in our minds. Locke claims that the term 'idea' covers both sensations, concepts and thoughts, wheras Hume is clearer.

Hume distinguishes them as - 

Perceptions: what we are directly aware of.

Impressions: forceful and vivid and related to sensations.

Ideas: related to thoughts and less forceful or vivd. 

Concept Empiricism is the approach to concepts that claims we are born with no concepts or ideas (we are a tabula rasa) and all of our concepts and ideas must come from the input of our senses (a posteriori). Firstly sense impressions enter the mind, these impressions build into concepts imprinting on the tabula rasa. These concepts then build into knowledge (foundationalist way, so on top of each other).

Simple vs Complex ideas

Hume distinguishes simple and comple ideas, simple ideas are singular e.g. the colour red, shapes, smells etc...Complex ideas are amalgamations of these simple ideas, e.g. a dog, or a golden montain. They're combinations of concepts. 


  • Does the concept of simple ideas make sense? - The problem with simple ideas is they never appear as just one idea to the senses, e.g. we cannot perceive a square without a colour to it, even if they colour is just black it still has another idea paired with it. This implies we have innate ideas. 
  • Do all simple ideas come from sense experience? - If you asked soemone to come up with a new shade of blue, could they do it? if yes then CE is disproved as you can have a concept without sense experience. Hume says this is an exceptiontot he rule, but if there is an excpetion then there ould be more and the rule is defeated. 
  • Do all complex ideas/concepts relate to sense experience? - Conceptsdo not have to relate to experience, e.g. we could have the idea of justice without having experienced itbecause it is arguable you cannot really have a sense experience of it. Hume counters by saying if we lived in the world with no just behaviour then we wouldnt have an accuarte concept of justice.
  • Innate structures - Kant arguesthat cause and effectis used to sort information in the mind. We do not get cause and effect from the senses instead we apply it to the sense data. Chomsky says we can use language to support this, if we had no systems in the mind then we could'nt learn something as complex as language. 




what about locke? 



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