The eighteenth century represents a break between the progress of science and the social transformations, turning towards the idea of what is the origin of our knowledge.
The empiricist approach denounces as an illusion of reason the dualism of ideas and things, showing that experience, is inseparable from practical activity, and is ultimately the only real base. The empiricists focused within their works, on the question of the correlation between the formation of ideas, as the relations between men are established.The Essay on the Human Understanding demonstrates the nature and limits of human understanding. Locke’s reflection on knowledge, questions the existence of where do innate ideas come from. Locke’s theory “no innate principles in the mind” (Locke, Book I).
opposes that there are innate ideas and exemplifies “that all children and idiots have not the least apprehension or thought of them … it is evident that there are no such impressions.
” (Locke, Book I, 5). Which emphasize that they would have no way of determining what could appear to be evident ideas like the idea that we can have A and not A. Nor is there any morality of necessity, or universal practical principles. Therefore, it is clear that Locke affirms that it is not possible at a young age to define principles based on reason, while Descartes, sets that all men will have an innate reason. (Locke, Book I, 3). Locke adds “If coming to the use of reason were the time of their discovery, it would not prove them innate.” (Locke, Book I, 14).
And “That men know them when they come to the use of reason, answered. To avoid this, it is usually answered, that all men know and assent to them when they come to the use of reason; and this is enough to prove them innate.” (Locke, Book I, 30). Ideas exist besides our senses, formed through experience, and so is what we can call reflection. Moreover, what we: perceive, doubt, believe, imagine, reason through our internal sense of the operations of our soul produce ideas of reflection that are none other than the ideas we have of these operations. Altogether, the ideas of sensation, and of reflection constitute what Locke calls experience.
Nonetheless, to support his argument that our knowledge derives from the experience, Locke uses the term “tabula rasa” to demonstrates that it is within the mind that ideas are formed but since it is sort of blank before they have been received through experience. Locke divides ideas into two main categories such as simple and complex ideas. But first, we must look at the simple ideas, then how they combine to form complex ideas (Book II), and how we perceive the discordance between ideas. Among the simple ideas, only the sensational can be considered as representative of exterior objects, which affect our senses and produce the impressions from our mind. For example, the idea of the color, and solid, figure and more. Unlike Locke, Descartes distinguish the ideas that are primary qualities which represent things as they are (movement, figure…) and ideas of secondary qualities (colors, flavors, sounds…) which are sensational ideas. On one hand, it is impossible for the mind to imagine these simple ideas existing by themselves, without a substance to which they are inherent; but on the other hand, “By the complex idea of extended, … than they have belonging to immaterial spirit.
” (Locke, Book II, 16). The substance, for Locke, no doubt exists, but we do not know what it is, and the only accessible source to discover it is through an experimental search for that qualities coexist. Locke leaves no room for objective knowledge that is between ideas and things. Hence, it can only be the perception of convenience or the dissonance between ideas, such as green is not red. (Book IV). The inclination of the mind often referred as the imagination, not only accounts for our beliefs in causality but also solves three problematic about the external world, the immateriality of the soul, and the personal identity. First, he questions why do we believe in the existence of bodies that are permanent and distinct from us, whereas our senses can only give us object which are constantly vanishing, and resolved by immediately given impressions? Subsequently, these impressions can only be dependent on the senses, alike illusion.
Secondly, the immateriality of the soul, except that the gods, by their nature, can only be inherent in a spiritual substance. But how can we define what is the substance, since we are only aware of our impressions and ideas that are copies of them? Following, this leads to the third solution, which concerns the belief within the identity of the self, as a permanent reality, superior to the changing course of impressions and ideas. Therefore, present in the mind must only be impressions and ideas, distinct from each other, with no direct link that can be seen.
Although, the identity of our ourselves is born as we have seen the creation of the notion of the identity of external bodies; the successive states of our self-care evoked in memory by resemblance or by the causal connection that unites them, and the imagination which creates the fiction of our permanence. We unrealistically conclude that there is a substance that supports these qualities. Locke suggested that secondary qualities attribute our ideas, which will allow Berkeley to form his problematic, such as he will focus on the location of qualities. Unlike Locke, Berkeley identifies all qualities with ideas and locates them in the mind.
Berkeley believes that everything we experience is mental, and nothing is physical. His work suggests, that the belief in material substance must lead to the lack of belief in knowledge of the world. On one hand, Berkeley accepted that Locke was right in regards of secondary qualities but on the other, he disagreed about Locke assertions of first qualities.
This is because Berkeley thought that all sensible qualities are ideas, and none the qualities of our ideas correspond to qualities of objects. Furthermore, Berkeley, claimed that it was unnecessary to refer to the supposition of anything that exist outside of our mind, and it could never be demonstrated through the resemblance of our ideas, since nothing can be like an idea, but the idea itself. Consequently, there are no material objects. But how can ideas not resemble the things outside the mind? And how to explain the link between the touch to something that is intangible? In the Three Dialogues, Berkeley used Locke’s arguments about the unreliability of secondary qualities in support of his own by using two characters, Philonous (Berkeley), and Hylas (Locke).
Within the dialogue, Philonous denies the existence of material substance in contrast to Hylas, which to him, this position is skeptical. Nonetheless, Berkeley supports his argument that secondary qualities only exist within people’s minds, like the difference between pleasures and pains: “Or can you frame to yourself an idea of sensible pain or pleasure in general, abstracted from every particular idea of heat, cold, tastes, smells? ….
” (Berkeley, p.6-15). For example, if we touch something very hot, like an oven, we get one sensation that arose from heat and pain, which leads him to deduce that the heat will equal pain. However, since the oven cannot feel our pain, then the oven cannot have extreme heat.
Another example, in this case, as the white color would appear to us, then we would separate what is white and what we perceive of white. Hence, all knowledge originates from the individual capacity to make the distinction between a felt sense, and the idea of the sense from the impression. Berkeley’s argument amplifies that nothing can exist and be independent of the mind.On the other hand, Hume makes a distinction between impressions and ideas, which, according to him, could remove a difficulty being that impressions, are considered strong while ideas are weak. By the same bias, demonstrating that ideas are the only representative, and only of an impression; so, no idea is valid, nor exist, if we cannot assign the impressions to which they are the copies.
Moreover, the proper object of reflection belongs to subjects of anatomy, physiology instead of philosophy since they are only ideas, copies of impressions, linked with one another along with the impressions formed within the mind. It is, therefore, a question of looking for what is formed naturally, and what link exists between each idea. Yet, experience shows that two ideas come into connection because of their similarities; or because the impressions of which they are the copies have been contiguous; or because one represents a cause of which the other represents the effect. These laws regard the functioning of the mind and are representative of Newtonian’s law of attraction to the bodies, as they maintain order while forming complex ideas. However, the problem of perceiving a cause and effect relationship, there must be a necessary connection, independent of the mind. According to Hume, nothing authorizes us to pass from the observation of this impotence of reflection, to explain the relation of causality, to a criticism of the sensory knowledge. This pushes to a dialectic between the appeal to the power of the mind, and the appeal of belief in our own mind.
Eventually, it is only when beliefs are added to ideas, that these will become the knowledge of something real. Now this notion of the idea, much believable, also derives from its correlation, along with impressions, all together having for the purpose to transmit something to form a link between ideas. As a result, Hume affirms there must be a necessary connection for the mind to create a link, through repetition “The repetition of the pattern affects it in such a way that when it observes an event of one of the two kinds it.” (Hume, 7, p.39). By placing, knowledge as the source of impressions of the senses, he depicts that ideas are nothing but mental images, exemplifying impressions of the senses like imagination.
Imagination allows us to believe ideas are the way they are, an independent reality, understood as the cause of impressions. Additionally, Hume strives to show that our knowledge of what is real can only derive from the product of experience. The affirmation that reason is nothing but an inclination of the mind, related to the vivacity of impressions, leads us to believe the connection of ideas refers to a reality independent of mental images. Hume, believes it to be a universal inclination of the mind, spread over external objects that makes us presume that this necessity is found within the objects we are considering, and not within in the mind which considers them.
The question posed by empiricists focus on knowing that we are always dealing only with ideas, can we not account for the objectivity of our knowledge, explaining the formation of these ideas from the data of the senses, without posing the insoluble problem of the relation of ideas and things, of thought and reality? Overall, out of Locke, Berkeley, and Hume, I believe Hume has the most empiricist theory. Hume’s reflection, in which skepticism appears the corollary of empiricism announcing that all our knowledge comes from experience, but we can learn nothing from the experience of the reality we believe in, whether it is nature, the faculty of knowing, or our individuality. Hence, the experience is the only reality we are dealing with, and only the belief can lead us to go farther than experience