Leibniz And Locke 's Nature Of Innate Ideas

1827 WordsMay 3, 20178 Pages
Leibniz and Locke argued back and forth about the nature of innate ideas and whether or not they could/do exist. Locke took the position that in order for innate ideas to exist, they must be universal and universally assented to by all people. Leibniz counters by distinguishing between contingent and necessary truths, pointing out that no amount of experience will give us insight to necessary truths and that they must be innate. He also brings up the example of innate moral knowledge that most people know without having to be taught. Leibniz seems to come out ahead in this debate due to his ability to show how Locke’s definitions were arbitrary and there do seem to be ideas that, while not universally assented to, the vast majority of…show more content…
Another proposed replacement for Locke’s definition is that an innate idea is assented to in the very instance that it is understood. But again, sensory experiences also fall under this definition, because as soon as you experience something you understand what it is, such as red is not yellow and vice versa. Locke also makes the claim that there are no universally assented to moral principles/knowledge. On many occasions, people have done immoral things, knowing that they are immoral. And if they did not know that their actions were immoral (as is the case with the criminally insane), then that moral knowledge was not universally assented to and was not innate in that person. The legal system and laws themselves go against the idea of innate moral knowledge. If the principles were innate, there would be no need to deliberate or argue over the meanings or intricacies of certain laws or amendments that guide society. Like Locke, Leibniz makes a distinction for his argument. He distinguishes between “mental content” (ideas for Locke) that is gained from sensory experiences and mental content that is not. He structures his argument around the following main claims: An idea can be known without its thinker being conscious of the idea in question. Necessary truths and contingent truths are separate entities. Necessary truths are a priori (innate) truths, while contingent

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