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The Peculiarities Of Tabula Rasa Theory

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“The mind, according to Locke, is a blank tablet, or Tabula Rasa; it is filled or inscribed only by experience” (Locke, p.340). Locke presents a fair and balanced argument for why his theory of the ‘Tabula Rasa’ and can be applied in answering our questions into knowledge. In Locke’s essays, he shifts decisively away from the beliefs of nearly all of his peers by discarding the significant modern methods of innatism. In this essay I will be presenting Locke’s arguments for claiming the mind resembles a blank piece of paper and will argue that Locke’s argument is relatively persuasive.

Locke’s argument on the term ‘Tabula Rasa’ provides that we are born as a ‘blank slate’, meaning that when we are born, we lack any sort of pre-existing knowledge and that we acquire our information through sensory experiences of the world. Locke’s view is that we are born with no innate knowledge or ideas, but with a natural capability for understanding. Locke argues that knowledge is rather defined only by experience obtained from sense perception; this is now recognized as empiricism. Locke insists that people gain knowledge from the information they collect about objects and the physical world that our senses provide- we start with easy ideas then merge them with more difficult ones.

Disputing the work of others, Locke is said to have demonstrated the process of self-contemplation or examining the emotions and behaviors of an individual. Locke further argues that if innate knowledge did exist, then it would be common, and all individuals would possess it.

Young children and new-borns do not possess the slightest of knowledge or even everyday beliefs. To me, it appears almost odd to claim that there are ideas designated in the mind, although at the same time claim that the mind is not conscious of them.

If a person examines a new-born child, there would be no evidentiary basis to believe the baby contains pre-existing knowledge. Ideas progress over a period of time. Although the ideas of obvious and familiar qualities are designated before the consciousness begins to create a record and preserve them, several people cannot retrieve their earliest experiences with them. If there was a prevailing purpose, there is no doubt that a child’s experience, even with regular ideas, could be measured and defined until they were developed.

However, during the time a person is born into the world they are circled among groups of people that regularly affect them; a mixture of views is designated in their minds whether or not it is anticipated. Light and colors are everywhere while the eyes are open, sounds and physical qualities do not fail to amaze our similar sense of organs and overpower approach inside the mind.

Nonetheless, I believe it to be obvious that if a child happened to be kept in a controlled atmosphere and never observed anything except black and white until they were developed, they would possess no familiarity with the colors red or green.

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The laws of non-contradiction and identity are not universally recognized. Yet what is more significant is that this debate from universal approval seems to me to be a display that there are no innate ideas because there are none to which all humanity provides widespread recognition. John Locke begins with the most comprehensive examples of complex reasoned beliefs: ‘For if they are not notions naturally imprinted, how can they be innate? And if they are notions imprinted, how can they be unknown? To say a notion is imprinted on the mind, and yet at the same time to say, that the mind is ignorant of it, and never yet took notice of it, is to make this impression nothing’ (Locke, P. 8-9).

Locke opposed the idea of universal thoughts suggesting that even if universal conceptions were proven it would not substantiate the existence of innate knowledge.

In regard to the soundness of Locke’s argument, I would argue that the views expressed by Lock in this topic are compelling. This is because Locke’s arguments are supported by fairly obvious evidence with respect to the human experience. There is significantly more evidence to support the argument that we are born with no innate ideas, with philosophers such as Locke and Hume providing strong arguments back by relatively uncontestable evidence in support of the ‘blank slate’ claim, while the reasoning of those that support innatism, such as Plato, is more questionable at times. When we are born our thoughts are blank and are filled later with the information obtained from sensory experience. It inevitably follows from this that education plays a significant part in the growth of an individual. Education involves shaping each individual’s character and abilities and advocating effective learning to have people adapt and maintain their social, economic, and political activities. John Locke believed that a solid education should start in early childhood and emphasize that the teaching of reading, writing, and mathematics should be taught from a young age so we can implement these skills in the future. One can relate to this claim that Locke makes as it is relatively accepted that education will further develop and allow for growth into more complex tasks.

Hume was another influential philosopher that agreed with Locke. He opposes the notion of the mind possessing the ability for reason. Hume disputes that our minds are blank and that we obtain all thoughts and notions, and even the capacity for reason, through a sensory experience of the world. Locke entirely objects with the doctrine that logic established innate ideas, implying it was completely illogical. Locke said this was because innate philosophers typically invited the concept of universal reasonings, that there is, several kinds of basic truths believed and grasped by everyone.

I believe Locke’s argument to be the more persuasive of the two, as it is rather reasonable to believe that we can all be aware of our experience than attempting to over embellish it by supplementing innate qualities as a potential choice when observational proof already has revealed this. If we consider the society in which we live and our surrounding setting, we have an idea into how we can sufficiently strengthen our capacities. There is no doubt that for centuries we have been taught through observations and role-playing. What precisely do we grasp as children? Not really much, it could be argued. Nonetheless, acknowledging that all people are not the same, the way people experience the world in any society or time period differ, so it is relatively safe to assume a child comes into the world as a ‘blank slate’ and that slate is then written as a result of the individual’s life experiences.

When a child does something wrong, it is not uncommon for the child to end up apologizing to the parent, in order for the parent and child to repair the relationship and move forward. The experience that they have formulated over time, whether they chose to accept it or not, will conclude the result of the the future bond they have with their parent and essentially with other relationships that they decide to partake in. It is with discretion in which we need to ensure that the social encounters we have with a child or display them to are strong and emphatic. We begin the story for a child at birth. We guide them on how to apologize, get along with others, generate wholesome relationships, and countless other things, which shapes the child’s experience going forward.

To conclude, it’s essential to recognize the Tabula Rasa –, that is, the Blank Slate theory put forward by Locke. As adults, we formulate chapters that lead children. Their entire nature is based on how they are raised and their environment they are raised in. A child or new-born doesn’t grasp certain logic or concept immediately but rather learns these ideas through the experiences provided to them. This explains why the difference in sensory experiences between children who were otherwise born into similar circumstances is likely provided with a significant difference in their ultimate development. Locke said that the atmosphere of a child is particularly influential in the child’s early life because he recognized the mind is more receptive earlier during the time of development. Locke believed that the environment uses its influences within connections between ideas and emotions. His ideas set the foundation for the behavioral aspect for many other philosophers that followed.

Work Cited

  1. Locke, John. Essay Concerning Human Understanding. Edited by Kenneth P Winkler, Hackett Publishing Company, Inc, 1996.

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The Peculiarities Of Tabula Rasa Theory [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Feb 17 [cited 2023 Feb 2]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/the-peculiarities-of-tabula-rasa-theory/
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