Empiricism Is a Theory of Knowledge Essay

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Empiricism is a theory of knowledge that posits that what we know arises from a series of sensual experiences that are evidentiary and part of observable phenomena. Of course, the philosophical views of consciousness date back to the very foundations of human societies -- most especially the views of the Ancient Greeks on human morality and ethics and the manner in which human thought translated into action. Within the modern era, that is after the Renaissance, for instance, Francis Bacon proposed not a specific philosophy of knowing, but a methodology of verifying truth. Bacon, for instance, believed humans should use inductive reasoning from fact to axiom to law- from induction to deduction as a process of finding truth.

According to the empirical view, for any knowledge to be properly inferred or deduced, it must be gained through the test of one's own, individual experiences. The idea, then, of the so-called "blank slate" or Tabula rasa of the mind forms the basis for John Locke's view that experience is what leaves its mark on human consciousness. In fact, his Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Locke also viewed moral consciousness intertwined with moral responsibility and allowing the individual to become endowed with the power of knowing one's own thoughts and processing individual truth.

George Berkeley put for the idea of immaterialism or subjective idealism, in which individuals can only know direct sensations and ideas of objects, never abstractions such as "time" and "matter." David Hume furthered this point with the cornerstone of epistemology in with the problem of induction. This problem, how humans make truth out of references, states that we cannot rationally justify the claim that nature is, in fact, uniform simply because we observe incident x at time y. Instead, it is natural instinct that explains the human ability to make inductive inference. John Stuart Mill, though, in his political thoughts on Liberty (1859), viewed the idea of conciseness as a purposeful inward focus towards human perception of reality as opposed to a staunch epistemological approach to defining only what can be logically sensed.

Part 2 -- in contrast, rationalism is a view that uses reason as the justification and source of human knowledge -- a so-called Socratic life of inquiry, for example. Rene' Descartes in his famous Cogito Ergo Sum, formed the idea of individual knowledge arising from within the individual. It was Descartes who focused more that only the discovery of reasonable knowledge and eternal truths were found by reason alone. These truths, for Descartes, included the basic language of the universe for him -- mathematics, as well as the epistemological and metaphysical foundations of the sciences as a whole. Other knowledge, for example the knowledge required by utilizing one's experiences within the world, were aided by epistemological study. Descarates, too, found that the pursuit of truth was the foundation and reason for being and for the precise center of the individual road towards actualization. This resulted in Descartes deducing that this pursuit should include a sense of doubt about every belief -- question everything and the answers will arise. Thus, one of the main contributions of Descartes to the philosophical discourse was that as a result of his method of rationalization, reason alone determines knowledge -- completely independent of other senses.

Immanuel Kant wrote that "only on the presupposition of time can we represent to ourselves a number of things as existing at one at the same time, or at different times," forming a more fluid view of the subject. For Kant, then, the focus is on outcomes, or the ends of an action; in deontology the actions themselves must be ethical and moral, or the outcome is moot. Deontology argues that there are norms and truths that are universal for all humans; actions then have a predisposition to right or wrong, moral or immoral. Kant believed that humans should act, at all times, as if their individual actions would have consequences for all of society. Morality, then, is based on rational thought and is the direction most humans innately want. Taking this a step further, Leibniz believed that the identity of nature and human perception formed the basis for truth in that if a proposition is true, its negation must be false.

Laying the groundwork for1uth century Enlightenment philosophy, Baruch Spinoza not only believed in the abstraction of God, but that the system of nature imparted a unity of thought within the combination of the synergism of mind and body. There are, he said, causes and effects intra-naturally and extra naturally -- everything exists in nature and is known, it must simply be articulated and remembered by the individual.

William James, however, stressed that time is fluid in the sense of expression and human's limited ability to perceive outside the basic aspects of chronological views. Others, Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud, for instance, all followed various other expressions regarding the perception of consciousness. Marx focused on social relations and social inequality; Nietzsche on reversing classical liberal thinking of free will (e.g. "they give you free will only to later blame yourself," and Freud in the individuation and sublimation of parts of the human psyche (id, ego, superego).

Part 3 -- the mind-body problem is a view that there is an actual separation between the physical nature of what the body feels as reality, and what the mind perceives as reality (truth). In modern philosophy, it is the beginning of the Cartesian view of Dualism, but has many permutations and individual interpretations throughout history. In religious thought, for instance, the dichotomy is expressed as the corporeal vs. The spiritual; in philosophy, often as the pragmatic vs. The eternal.

As early as Plato, one can see the dualist nature of the argument -- the body is part of the material world, it withers and dies, it sickens, improves, and has touch with reality. The mind, however, cannot be so constrained -- it can imagine, create, subsume reality, and transform the individual simply through thought. For Plato, since the soul does not exist in time and space, like the body does, it can access universal truths. Thus, true reality lies in the ideation of thought, not in the empirical view of nature.

Because the debate is not one that can be factually settled, it becomes even more relevant in the contemporary arguments within social biology, computer science, and evolutionary psychology. It is this continual puzzle about the manner in which mind and body interrelate in the process of knowing that continues to plague humans. We know now that there is a great deal of biological bases in behavior and though -- yet there is also that which is not quantifiable and rationally explained. and, looking at the evolution of the human brain, for instance, at what point does mind begin and move from instinct and survival to a broader sense of self-awareness and actualization?

Part 4 -- the nervous system is a biological organ system that contains specialized cells that coordinate the actions of animals. Through the nervous system, a series of electrical events occur that allow communication to and from the brain to cause movement, respiration, and all aspects of physiology. The nervous system also contains specialized cells that allow detailed communication and interpretation to occur within the brain.

Early experimentation on nerves and the nervous system focused on more primitive forms of life that have simple systems that react mainly to stimuli as an on/off switch. The more complex the animal, the more complex the nervous system. In higher animals, the nervous system is defined by neurons -- or special cells that allow the communication between cells through organelles called synapses. These early experiments on the nervous system were mostly quantitative in nature, and viewed the nervous system as a closed system in which stimulus equaled response, and left… [END OF PREVIEW]

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