Thursday, 14 October 2010
HCJ - Semester One - Lecture Two
John Locke is a very important figure when discussing empiricism. He had many ideas about the social contract, or the way in which people agreed to be ruled.
During the lecture it was put across that Locke's work and opinions are only key to his time, and that the context of his work and findings were extremely important. Others do believe that Locke would maintain the same beliefs even in todays world - personally I do not feel that the time in which Locke lived played an important role in his beliefs. Locke's 'state of nature' can be seen as an example; 'everyone enjoys a natural freedom and equality but obey natural laws' - We do live in this sort of environment today, in that we obey laws put out by the government, and everyone does have the freedom to do as they please within the laws. Even though this outlines some of Locke's ideals, he may not be happy with it all together when he sees it put into practice.
Descartes was one for thinking that we were born with set ideas imprinted onto our mind, however, Locke disagrees with this notion and I would have to agree with him. In his Essay Concerning Human Understanding he outlines that all of our knowledge comes from experience: 'All our knowledge is founded'. It was also mentioned in the lecture that there is test where by you can think of anything you know in your brain and it can be traced back to an earlier memory or experience where you learned this piece of information, I do not know about anybody else, but I certainly do not have anything in my brain by which I cannot recall how it was learned. For instance a baby is not born with the ability to talk or walk; hence it learns from parents or others around it, this is why an English baby with English parents will learn English, on the other hand a Spanish born baby with Spanish parents will not automatically talking English! The way by which Locke says we get this knowledge is through sensation, using our God given senses to take the information we are given. Locke is not a man who dismisses religion as he does believe that God has given us a brain which is capable of reasoning, but not given us ideas before we are born. 'I think, it will be granted easily, that if a child were kept in a place where he never saw any other but black and white till he were a man, he would have no more ideas of scarlet or green' - a quote from Locke outlining his belief that if you were only exposed to certain things like colours of black and white, you would not know of any other colours at all, thus backing up the point that we are not born with imprints or ideas already in our heads.
Locke: 'To ask, at what time a man has first any ideas, is to ask, when he begins to perceive' - you can only have ideas once you can perceive, you can only begin to perceive once you are born - you are born with no ideas. 'foetus in the mother's womb differs not much from the state of a vegetable' - This is a quote from the reading which I found quite amusing but at the same time quite important. He likens the baby in the womb as a vegetable, something that cannot perceive or think, therefore it will have no thoughts or impressions, how can it be then that we are born with ideas in our heads?
Locke begins to question the soul and the body and if they are two separate things. He asks himself if the soul is still thinking whilst the man is sleeping; and if so doe this mean that the soul is experiencing joy, happiness, sorrow and pain whilst the man is non the wiser. 'For to be happy or miserable without being conscious of it, seems to me utterly inconsistent and impossible' - this could back up his claims that the soul and body are two persons in that he believes that the soul does think whilst you sleep and therefore does experience feelings but the person is not conscious of it. Locke then goes on to discuss even further possibilities of the soul leaving the body whilst we sleep and taking up someone else's body to do its thinking. He even goes on to suggest that two people could share a soul - At this point in the essay I find it hard to grasp the concept that Locke is getting at although I can see why he may think that. Personally, I believe that any thought made whilst asleep is conveyed as a dream and is a reflection on previous days events and this is the reason as to why we may not remember the dreams, because we have already lived them. The reason why Locke believes we do not remember the souls thoughts when we wake is that the soul does not have organs or body for the thoughts to leave an impression on.
Locke seems to like playing with the idea of dreaming and is it the soul that makes us dream. He describes dreaming as irrational and frivolous, therefore making it insignificant, so he concludes that this is the reason why the brain may forget to remember it.' And I say, it is as possible that the soul may not always think; and much more probable that it should sometimes not think, than that it should often think, and that a long while together, and not be conscious to itself, the next moment after, that it had thought.' What I think Locke is trying to say here is that he believes the soul to be thinking on some occasions but not on others, even though he does argue that it is impossible to prove. What I also get from this is that he believes the soul to not be aware of its thoughts.