John Locke 's Theory Of Nativism

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John Locke, an empiricist belonging to seventeenth century philosophy, is well-known today for his An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. In chapter ii of Book I of this work, Locke firmly rejects the theory of nativism that proposes innate ideas in humans. An important disclaimer to be noted before continuing is that Locke makes his case by first interpreting nativism in its simplest form (occurrent nativism) -- as opposed to the dispositional nativism that requires a sophisticated process of discovering the content of one’s mind. This distinction is significant since it is the latter definition of nativism that most of Locke’s opponents use to weaken An Essay. In any case, however, the nativist individual would claim that innate ideas are present in man from birth, with senses beginning in the womb, and that these primary ideas meet the soul as soon as they come into existence in the world. It is possible that Locke could accept the presence of innate capacities that make it possible to acquire knowledge, but he could not agree that the innate principles exist in an imprinted manner independent of sensory experience. He arrives at the hypothesis that the human mind is a tabula rasa upon which true knowledge can only be formed from empirical experience. The most convincing defense that Locke makes against the doctrine of innate ideas is a rebuttal to the argument that stems from universal consent. If Locke’s criticizers wanted to best dispute Book I of An Essay, they

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