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Critically Evaluate Locke’s Argument Against Innate Ideas

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Submitted By cm1991
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Critically Evaluate Locke’s Argument against Innate Ideas
In the enquiry, Locke talks of the notion of innate ideas as being ‘an established opinion amongst some men,’ this opinion can be seen as a direct conflict with Locke’s empiricism. Locke’s philosophical standpoint is that the mind gains ideas and concepts solely through experience; he argues that when we are born, we are born tabula rasa, a blank slate free from any knowledge or understanding and it is as we grow and experience the world around us that we form knowledge. The notion of innate ideas and principles then is clearly in complete contrast with Locke’s epistemology and as such Locke needs to show the arguments in favour of innate ideas to be flawed. I will show how Locke focuses his attack on one major assertion for the innate concept thesis, known as the great argument; how his two major problems with this argument are unfounded and how we can hold onto the concept of innate ideas in light of Locke’s criticisms.
The great argument which Locke views as the main argument in favour of innate ideas goes as such:
1: If a principle is universally accepted then it is innate (as are the ideas which make it up)
1 2: There are some principles which are universally accepted 3: These principles (and the ideas which make them up) are innate
This argument can be seen as fairly self-explanatory, but it does seem to rely completely on two major assumptions. Firstly, that all universally accepted principles must be innate, and that there can be no other explanation for how a principle can become universally accepted, and secondly that ‘the argument of universal consent’ as stated in the second premise is true and needs no supporting evidence. The reliance upon these assumptions form the basis of two criticisms which Locke uses to attack the great argument for innate ideas and I think it is clear that he is…...

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