Rene Descates and John Locke
John Locke were both philosophers of the 17th century. Descartes was a rationalist in the way that he thought and wrote about. A rationalist used reasoning to gain knowledge. John Locke on the other hand, was an empiricist in the way he philosophized and taught. An empiricist used senses and experiences. These philosophers, being a rationalist and empiricist, were very different in the way they saw life and knowledge, but they had some similarities as well in the way that they thought.
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Being of two different groups of philosophers, the rationalists and empiricists, John Locke and Rene Descartes were very different in the beliefs they had; however, as different as they may be there were some similarities that were shared by both of these seventeenth century philosophers. First and most importantly, the biggest similarity that they shared was the fact that they were not skeptics. In other words, they both believed knowledge can be gained by humans. In addition, both of them separated the mind and the body to be two different things or concepts of a living being.
For Descartes, mind was for thinking and reasoning and body was just matter or substance. For Locke mind was used for reflection or self-examination of oneself and the body was used for getting knowledge through its senses. For example, Locke says “it is past doubt that men have in their minds several ideas. ” This is an example of how he says and believes the mind works in a human being and gives those ideas which are ultimately reflections. Descartes when he begins to write first states that he is going to doubt everything and then search for the truth. He first establishes himself.
He writes “…I could imagine I had no body, and that there was no world nor or any place that I occupied, but that I could not imagine for a moment that I did not exist. ” This is where he starts to identify his self. He goes on to say the very well-known phrase “I think therefore I am. ” This is the first truth he presents. He pretty much says that he exists. Then he goes on to identify other truths that he finds. He ultimately finds the biggest truth and says that there is a God that exists. He says the God is almighty, all knowing and perfect in every way.
Upon stating the existence of God he says that everything we and do are true. In his writing, he states this when he says “…that all those things which we conceived very clearly and very distinctly are true, is known to be true only because God exists…” and he goes on to say that this is true because everything we have comes from God and that he cannot be wrong. The reason as to why Descartes writes this is to get people to understand one thing. That people are a thinking substance and that because we are thinking we have the ability to reason.
He says that “…we should never allow ourselves to be convinced except on the evidence of our reason. ” This is how Descartes views self; it is a living substance that has the ability to reason and think and therefore it should. John Locke’s first words on his paper Of Ideas in general, and their Original is “Idea is the object of thinking. ” This statement is a perfect way to summarize what Locke believes. Locke in his writing writes about how all ideas then come from experience. He then goes on to describe that there are two ways of achieving experience.
One of them is reflection or self-examination and the other is through your senses. Locke uses these two concepts of experience to ultimately describe what he feels self is. He understands self not to be a reasoning body, but a blank paper. In other words, people are not born knowing anything. They acquire knowledge through the experiences that they go through in life. For example, a person when born does not know that fire is hot, but if he tries to touch it and gets burned he will have learned that it is hot. This is one example of how Locke sees people molding themselves to be who they are.
He says “Men are differently furnished with these, according to the different objects they converse with. ” This essentially summarizes the meaning of the fire example. In addition, he writes “These, when we have taken a full survey of them, and their several modes, combinations, and relations…” He implies that our minds start to take these experiences and make them into ideas and then combine ideas to make bigger ideas and so on. All in all, John Locke regards the self to be born and be like a blank piece of paper and when grown he expects it to be a byproduct of its experiences.
In fine, both of these writers had similarities even though they were part of two very different groups of philosophers. They had similarities such as, the fact that they were skeptics and that they separated the mind and body and these were the places where they found the most disagreement. In other words, they both believed knowledge was attainable but disagreed how and they both believed mind and body were different, but had different duties for them. Both these writers, even though they are very different, have made huge impacts in the field of philosophy and in life in general.