Descartes vs Locke Essay

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Philosophy Essay (Descartes vs. Locke)

Socrates once said, “As for me, all I know is that I know nothing.” Several philosophers contradicted Socrates’ outlook and believed that true knowledge was in fact attainable. This epistemological view however had several stances to it, as philosophers held different beliefs in regards to the derivation of true knowledge. Rationalists believed that the mind was the source of true knowledge, while in Empiricism, true knowledge derived from the senses. Rene Descartes, a rationalist, and John Locke, an empiricist, were prime examples of epistemologists who were seen to differentiate greatly within each of their philosophies. However, although Descartes and Locke’s ideas did contrast in that sense,
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He shared Aristotle’s belief that the mind is a blank slate, also known as tabula rasa, at birth (Paquette 211). Our sense experiences thereafter provide us with knowledge to fill in those slates (Paquette 211). In Locke’s “Representative Theory of Perception,” also known as Epistemological Dualism, he stated that material objects exist and are separate entities from human beings (Paquette 227). However, he also believed that objects exist in the mind as psychological entities (Paquette 227). Locke concluded that people can taste, smell, touch, and see the external world which, in turn, becomes impressions in our minds (Paquette 227). Descartes and Locke are thus seen to be similar in the sense that they both believed in an external world.
Descartes and Locke both had a process for understanding knowledge as well. As a rationalist, Descartes believed in innate ideas; that all humans were born with some knowledge (Paquette 206). This differentiates from the empirical view that the mind is a blank slate at birth (Paquette 211). Descartes also used intuition and deduction to establish truth (Kaplan 2008). He believed that intuition is direct knowledge which can be known without ever sensing or experiencing it (Paquette 206). Deduction however, is where you start with a premise, or a statement you believe to be true, and then determine more truths based on that origin (Paquette 206). As shown,