This week and next, we'll be tackling the root of knowledge - how do we learn the knowledge that ends up in our head? When it's all said and done, how did our knowledge of the world get into our mind, stay there, and be able to be recalled?
Descartes believed that we learned info through reason alone. We had to be skeptical of many many things, as he felt that we should be (especially of the learning of the Middle Ages). To quote Sophie's World, "Descartes maintains that we cannot accept anything as being true unless we can clearly and distinctly perceive it... You could say that every single thought must be weighed and measured, rather in the way Galileo wanted everything to be measured and everything immeasurable to be made measurable." Through this perception - though flawed b/c we can't always trust our senses, we must use reason to figure out what we're perceiving. One of the things that we have built in (innate) in us is our sense of God, according to Descartes.
To sum up with a quote from Sophie's World, "a rationalist believes in reason as the primary source of knowledge, and he may also believe that man has certain innate ideas that exist in his mind prior to all experience. And the clearer such ideas may be, the more certain it is that they correspond to reality."
On the flipside is the empirical belief that we learn about the world through experience. By contrast, we start with a tabula rasa, a blank slate, or nothing in our minds, and the things that we learn is added there b/c we have experienced it. "An empiricist will derive all knowledge of the world from what the senses tell us...in the final analysis, all the material for our knowledge of the world comes to us through sensations. Knowledge that cannot be traced back to a simple sensation is therefore false knowledge and must consequently he rejected." These ideas began with Englishman John Locke and his work, Essay on Human Understanding.
In your own opinion, how do you think we learn? Is it through reason? Through experience? Both? Neither? Another way not mentioned here? Your comments (200 words).
Due Monday, 10/20/08.