Essay: Scandal in Philosophy in Soccio

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[. . .] However, in the colonial possessions of Great Britain (Ireland and Scotland) would arise the Enlightenment philosophers who issue a stern wake-up call to the blithe post-Cartesian rationalists who do not attend to sensory evidence. The first of these is John Locke, who is considered to be the classic Empiricist. Locke recognized that, in the wake of Cartesian dualism, there were significant epistemological questions to be answered: what are the origins of our ideas, for example? Descartes had believed in the existence of "innate ideas" which existed "a priori," almost as a built-in condition of thought itself: these included such things as mathematical statements of identity (2 + 2 = 4) and the basic facts of geometry. To a certain degree, Descartes' thinking on this matter is not as odd as it may sound: in Plato's Meno, Socrates takes great effort in asking Meno's uneducated slave-boy, in plain language through the questioning Socratic method, to conclude with universal geometrical truths that he had never been taught. For Platonic dualism, these geometrical truths indicated the existence of a kind of purity of knowledge and intent in the realm of the Forms, which is why the boy is able to access them despite no prior instruction (or so Socrates seems to prove) -- Socrates and Plato hold to the belief that knowledge is "anamnesis" or "un-forgetting" of eternal truths known by the soul due to its participation in the realm of the Forms. In Cartesian dualism, the geometrical and mathematical proofs actually serve more to indicate the existence of a world outside the mind. Of course Locke challenges the notion that somehow these mathematical ideas could be pre-existing in the mind with his famous definition of mind as a "tabula rasa" or [END OF PREVIEW]

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