Reason and Experience
Mind as Tabula Rasa (blank slate) –
- The view that all ideas are derived from sense experience
- The view that claims about what exists must ultimately be grounded in and justified by sense experience.
- Empiricists argue that all matters of fact must be grounded on experience and the use of inductive reasoning
Both Hume and Locke are empiricists as they argue that all knowledge depends on experience.
Locke on the origin of Ideas:
The mind is a tabula rasa or "blank slate" at birth, empty of all ideas and knowledge; it is gradually filled through experience
Locke's definition of "idea" = "the object of thinking"
He gives examples: "such as are those expressed by the words whiteness, hardness, sweetness”
We might say concepts rather than ideas, the basic mental building blocks of propositions or declarative sentences
Simple and Complex Ideas
we can use ideas acquired from these two original kinds of perception to form other, more complex ideas:
Simple ideas: we have simple ideas, e.g. single colours, shapes, smells, etc. Simple ideas are derived from these.
Complex ideas: We can unite and abstract from simple ideas to make complex ideas we abstract from simple ideas which does not refer to any particular impression. Therefore, we can have complex ideas E.G Gold Mountain.
Locke's view is that there are no ideas at all that do not, ultimately, originate in sense experience.
Hume on the origin of ideas
Ideas are (faint) copies of original sense impressions
because my original experience was forceful and vivid, it impressed upon me, like a stamp, a copy of itself.
Hume supports this with the claim that if we lack the ability to have the original sense impression, we can never form the corresponding idea. This explains why blind men can have no idea of colours and deaf men of sounds.
He believes we can combine simple ideas to form complex ideas. Thus I can have ideas of things which do not actually exist, like golden mountains. Can acquire this idea by combining my idea of gold, which comes from a real original sense impression of gold, and my idea of a mountain.
Hume claims that the imagination is limited and is really no more than "the faculty of compounding, transposing, augmenting, or diminishing the materials afforded us by the senses and experience."