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© Michael Lacewing Innate ideas Michael Lacewing.

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1 © Michael Lacewing Innate ideas Michael Lacewing

2 Lockes attack John Locke: there are no innate ideas –At birth, the mind is a tabula rasa –all ideas are gained through sense experience No idea can be part of the mind without the mind being conscious of it. Idea: Locke means both propositions and concepts If there were any innate concepts, everyone would be conscious of them from birth. And there is no proposition everyone assents to from birth.

3 Nativism: a different definition No major philosopher has defended innate ideas using Lockes definition. Innate ideas are ideas whose content cannot be gained through experience. We do not have the idea/concept from birth - experience must trigger our awareness of the idea, but the idea is not derived from experience.

4 Defending nativism Bird song is triggered; birds sing the song of their species after hearing just a small part of it. Carruthers: cognitive capacities have genetic base, but develop in response to experience (e.g. language); why not concepts and knowledge?

5 Attacking classical empiricism Do all concepts derive from experience? E.g. PHYSICAL OBJECT –This refers to something existing independently of experience, in objective space and time Hume: I cant have an experience of something existing independently of experience –Two experiences of the same thing, e.g. a desk, are very similar; but I cant infer that they are two experiences of the same thing, which existed between the two experiences

6 Innate ideas again If experience must trigger the idea, then are innate ideas just the capacity to acquire the idea? No: not just the capacity to acquire ideas, but which particular ideas we acquire, is innate; and their content cant be derived (inferred) from experience.

7 Descartes account Ideas can have any of three sources: –Adventitious: caused by something external to the mind –Fictitious: caused by the mind –Innate Physical object: see the wax argument

8 Descartes on God A cause must have at least as much reality than its effect –A picture of a sophisticated machine must be the product of an advanced society or a fertile imagination; a working version is even more impressive The idea of God is not derived from experience, nor could we invent it

9 Descartes on God The idea of God is an idea of something with the greatest reality –While my mind can create ideas, this idea is one of perfection and infinity, but my mind is imperfect and finite So the idea of God must be innate, and caused by God Objection: idea of God is derived by negation: not-finite and not-imperfect

10 Platos account Phaedo: in judging that two sticks are of equal length, we are using an idea of EQUAL. We cannot have gained this concept from experience, since nothing is exactly equal in experience, but only almost equal. But the concept ALMOST EQUAL contains the concept EQUAL.

11 Platos account The concept EQUAL is innate: part of our mind from birth, but triggered by experience (of almost equal things) We have knowledge of the Forms before birth. Objection: EQUAL is an abstraction from ALMOST-EQUAL

12 Kants account Certain basic concepts, which Kant calls categories, necessary for any intelligible experience at all, i.e. necessary for experience of physical objects

13 Causality To experience a (physical) world of objects, we must be able to distinguish the temporal order of our experiences from the temporal order of events. Compare two easily made judgments: –Look around the room - your perceptual experience changes, but the room itself has not changed –Imagine watching a ship sail downstream - your perceptual experience changes, and you say that the scene itself has changed (the ship has moved)

14 Causality How can we make this judgment? The room: we could have had the perceptions in a different order, without the room being different The ship: we could not have had the perceptions in a different order, unless the ship was moving in a different way With the ship, the order of perceptual experience is fixed by the order of events; the order must occur as it does.

15 Causality This is the idea of a necessary temporal order, which is captured by the concept CAUSALITY. Effects must follow causes - where one event does not repeatedly follow another, there is no causal link between the events. CAUSALITY is the concept that events happen in a necessary order.

16 Causality Without this concept, I cannot distinguish between the order of my perceptions (my perceptions changing) and the order of events (objects changing). But this distinction is needed to experience objects at all. So CAUSALITY is necessary for experience.

17 Consensus Not everyone thinks Kants argument works, but nativism is almost universally held now: –Certain ideas (object, cause, person, number) are genetically encoded, in that we will develop those particular ideas under normal environmental conditions This kind of rationalism is compatible with empiricist view of reason

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