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An Essay Concerning Human Understanding Assignment

The problem of congenital attainments was an object for debates back in ancient time. Innate ideas are one of the most controversial and ambiguous concepts of European philosophy. The problem of inherent ideas, or, in general, of innate attainments, plays almost the decisive role in determining the model of human cognitive activity.
John Locke discussed in detail and criticized the theory of innate notions of René Descartes. In his opinion, there are no ideas common to all people. The attainments that Plato called “remembered” is either something that has become clear in the course of reasoning, or something that has been rediscovered, but in any case, it is not inborn attainments. Moral principles are also not congenital because the conscience of different people is different.

John Locke discussed in detail and criticized the theory of innate notions of René Descartes. In his opinion, there are no ideas common to all people. The attainments that Plato called “remembered” is either something that has become clear in the course of reasoning, or something that has been rediscovered, but in any case, it is not inborn attainments. Moral principles are also not congenital because the conscience of different people is different.
Describing the process of cognition, the English philosopher repeated Aristotle’s thought: “The wits acquire ideas when it begins to perceive.”

Describing the process of cognition, the English philosopher repeated Aristotle’s thought: “The wits acquire ideas when it begins to perceive.”
John Locke states that the human intellect does not contain any positions from the very birth. He very cautiously refuses to discuss the issue, what is the soul, and what properties does it possess. The matter of where we get our notions from and how to develop inherent principles seems much more accessible to understanding for him. He provides the main argument in favor of the existence of innate principles in his Essay Concerning Human Understanding. His main argument is as follows. There are some attainments obvious to the knowing wits that the wits can not deny it. For example, the logical law of identity, as well as the law of prohibition of contradiction in the phrase “it is impossible that the same thing exists and does not exist,” should be observed with any reasoning. Strictly speaking, the universal recognition of these truths does not prove their inherent nature. Although it is obvious that the wits can not do without them, nevertheless, it is not obligatory that attainments of these principles should be “embedded” in the wits from the very beginning. It is obligatory to understand the formal side of this argument. The universal agreement or the recognition of these truths does not prove the native nature of these ideas. But the absence of such universal consent will unambiguously prove that these ideas never thought innate.

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John Locke states that the human intellect does not contain any positions from the very birth. He very cautiously refuses to discuss the issue, what is the soul, and what properties does it possess. The matter of where we get our notions from and how to develop inherent principles seems much more accessible to understanding for him. He provides the main argument in favor of the existence of innate principles in his Essay Concerning Human Understanding. His main argument is as follows. There are some attainments obvious to the knowing wits that the wits can not deny it. For example, the logical law of identity, as well as the law of prohibition of contradiction in the phrase “it is impossible that the same thing exists and does not exist,” should be observed with any reasoning.

Strictly speaking, the universal recognition of these truths does not prove their inherent nature. Although it is obvious that the wits can not do without them, nevertheless, it is not obligatory that attainments of these principles should be “embedded” in the wits from the very beginning. It is obligatory to understand the formal side of this argument. The universal agreement or the recognition of these truths does not prove the native nature of these ideas. But the absence of such universal consent will unambiguously prove that these ideas never thought innate.

Understanding. His main argument is as follows. There are some attainments obvious to the knowing wits that the wits can not deny it. For example, the logical law of identity, as well as the law of prohibition of contradiction in the phrase “it is impossible that the same thing exists and does not exist,” should be observed with any reasoning.

Strictly speaking, the universal recognition of these truths does not prove their inherent nature. Although it is obvious that the wits can not do without them, nevertheless, it is not obligatory that attainments of these principles should be “embedded” in the wits from the very beginning. It is obligatory to understand the formal side of this argument. The universal agreement or the recognition of these truths does not prove the native nature of these ideas.

But the absence of such universal consent will unambiguously prove that these ideas never thought innate.

Our wits, Locke says, is a tabula rasa. First of all, the human wits receive simple ideas with the help of the senses.

Senses should deliver single ideas to us. They are placed in memory and then are remembered and defined with common names. And the formation of ideas, for example, of bitter and sweet, comes only from a personal sensory practice. The corresponding words are recognized later. Learning from the sensations of sweet and bitter, a person compares them and comes to the understanding that sweet is not bitter. In order to achieve the notion of a difference, one needs to get hundreds of other sensual juxtapositions. For example, that black is not white, that the quadrilateral is not a circle. By combining and comparing simple ideas, our thinking forms complex and general ideas (i.e., concepts), Locke concludes that private principles are known to a person much earlier than common ones.

If each of the listed particular comparisons is considered innate, then it is obligatory to assume the innate feeling of colors or different tastes. It clearly contradicts common sense. It will be obligatory to admit a whole legion of innate notions. All arithmetic actions, for example, additions, should already be contained in our wits. This is an absurd. In other words, if we have to admit that particular propositions must be preceded by general ones, then general principles can not be innate and can not be taken from the wits. Initially, a feeling that will help a person form an idea of an apple and fire should appear. Then the person will be taught to use the appropriate words. One day he will willingly agree that an apple is not fire. Only after a considerable time, a person will rise to the generalizing position “the same thing exists and does not exist.”

Our wits, Locke says, is a tabula rasa. First of all, the human wits receive simple ideas with the help of the senses. Senses should deliver single ideas to us. They are placed in memory and then are remembered and defined with common names. And the formation of ideas, for example, of bitter and sweet, comes only from a personal sensory practice. The corresponding words are recognized later. Learning from the sensations of sweet and bitter, a person compares them and comes to the understanding that sweet is not bitter. In order to achieve the notion of a difference, one needs to get hundreds of other sensual juxtapositions. For example, that black is not white, that the quadrilateral is not a circle. By combining and comparing simple ideas, our thinking forms complex and general ideas (i.e., concepts), Locke concludes that private principles are known to a person much earlier than common ones.

If each of the listed particular comparisons is considered innate, then it is obligatory to assume the innate feeling of colors or different tastes. It clearly contradicts common sense. It will be obligatory to admit a whole legion of innate notions. All arithmetic actions, for example, additions, should already be contained in our wits. This is an absurd. In other words, if we have to admit that particular propositions must be preceded by general ones, then general principles can not be innate and can not be taken from the wits. Initially, a feeling that will help a person form an idea of an apple and fire should appear. Then the person will be taught to use the appropriate words. One day he will willingly agree that an apple is not fire. Only after a considerable time, a person will rise to the generalizing position “the same thing exists and does not exist.”

Recognition of strict one-sided dependence of the complex from the simple in a new way raises the problem of analyzing the reliability of our attainments. The philosopher evaluates the attainments in the following way. For him, the evaluation of all attainments is made dependent on how we evaluate the reliability of simple ideas. We need to analyze their cognitive status. More simply, we need to understand whether they are reliable and whether we can trust them. Locke offers a program of substantiating attainments, which is based on a directly opposite strategy than Descartes’ one. Locke wants to justify scientific attainments from practice. The critical point of his teaching will be the doctrine of simple concepts, and if he succeeds in showing that they present us with a true picture of reality, then empiricism will prove to be a more productive platform for substantiating scientific attainments than rationalism.

Therefore, the second important matter after the matter of what the content of our wits is the matter of how simple ideas appear in our wits.

Locke sees two main sources of simple ideas. The first source is sensory perception. With the help of perception, we become aware of simple sensual qualities – white, hot, soft, bitter, and so on. External sense gives person attainments about the environment. An individual is surrounded by objects represented in the field of perception by a set of simple perceptions. The second source of simple ideas is inner self-perception or reflection.

The sensual ideas acquired in external practice act as an initial material for the special inner activity of the soul, through which ideas of a different kind are born that differ significantly from sensory ideas. This special activity of the soul, named the reflection by the philosopher, is the ability of the soul to look at its own states while generating new mental products in the form of ideas about ideas. Although the reflection is not related to the external world, it is similar in function to external senses. It is based on them and can be named “inner feeling” or inner practice.

Internal and external practices are interconnected. Since reflexive activity generates ideas of its own that are distinct from the ideas of external practice, it has been treated by Locke as another relatively independent source of attainments. Reflection is a practice about the practice. Simple ideas are products of sensory cognition. Reflection products, as a rule, are general concepts and complex ideas.

Locke shows some inconsistency in these moments. He considered reflection as a special power of the soul, the power of reason. It relies on external practice but does not grow out of it. In this way, the internal practice was transcended from the limits of natural determination, which inevitably led the English philosopher to the recognition of the existence of a reflexive spiritual substance. Descartes’ reflection is the self-discovery of innate ideas. According to Locke, it is cognition of the ideas of external practice. With his new view, Locke gave the doctrine of reflection (inner practice) materialistic sound, but at the same time, it contained the embryo of an introspective approach to the analysis of psychic phenomena, which will later be developed within the framework of the English empirical school.

Empiricism as a unique strategy of substantiating attainments faces fundamental difficulties. Firstly, it is difficult to ascertain, based only on experimental data, the similarity of our sensations to the material objects themselves. Since, according to the condition, one can not leave the limits of one’s own perception. Secondly, it is extremely difficult to prove on the basis of perception, whether there is any external source of our sensations at all. In other words, on the basis of consideration only of our feelings, one can not prove that there is an external prototype of perceptions in general, even if it is not similar to our sensations. Locke introduces a clause about degrees of conviction or faith. Its purpose is to alleviate the inconvenience of his position. The existence of a material object independent of consciousness, although it can not be substantiated in the experiment, is nevertheless highly probable, and we have quite sufficient grounds for believing that things exist. According to empiricism, everything that we recognize should be taken from our feelings, either external or internal. If we can not infer the existence of external material objects with absolute certainty from practice, then we can not claim for attainments of this kind. Locke poses the fundamental matter of the limitations of our attainments.

In response to Locke’s work, Leibniz wrote the paper “New Practices on Human Understanding,” where he addresses the same matters, but from a completely different view. Thus, Locke’s sensory theory of cognition and the intellectual theory of Leibniz’s attainments remained the basic concepts before Kant’s reinterpretation.

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