Essay on Descartes vs Locke

1257 WordsJul 27, 20126 Pages
The study of knowledge, or epistemology, contains theoretical methods in which information is learned. Of these methods, there are two that are most widely accepted. Rationalism and empiricism are also the most widely debated methods of knowledge. Rationalism claims that a priori processes and intuition gain knowledge. Rationalism claims that knowledge is innate; but that it varies among humans. At the other end of the spectrum, empiricism claims that knowledge is gained largely by experience, observation, and sensory perception. René Descartes and John Locke, both seventeenth century philosophers, are often seen as two of the first early modern philosophers. Both Descartes and Locke attempt to find answers to the same questions in…show more content…
For both Descartes and Locke there is something about man, which sets him apart from machines and animals. Descartes says that though machines may superficially appear to imitate man, they could still be discerned from real men with certainty. Machines, he says, ``could never use words, or put together other signs, as we do in order to declare our thoughts to others'' (Descartes, 44). Nor can animals (beasts), as they have not only less reason than men, but no reason at all (Descartes, 45). Compare this with Locke's claim that animals (brutes) ``have not the faculty of abstracting, or making general ideas, since they have no use of words'' (Locke, 64). In both Descartes and Locke, I see precursors for theories of the importance of reason and language. Descartes and Locke both discuss free will; in particular, they consider how it is that our will may be both directed and remain free, and how it is consistent with the existence of a God that we can err in our ways. On the first of these points, Descartes thinks this does not limit our freedom; instead he believes that the more one inclines in one direction, the more free the choice is. On the second point Descartes believes that the imperfection is not one from God, but that our intellect is not as great as our will (Descartes, 101). Locke picks up on these sentiments, agreeing that for us as well as God ``to be determined by [one's] own judgment is no restraint to
Open Document