Locke's "Essay, Book I": The Question-Begging Status of the Anti-Nativist Arguments

In this paper I argue against the received view that the anti-nativist arguments of Book I of Locke's Essay conclusively challenge nativism. I begin by reconstructing the chief argument of Book I and its corollary arguments. I call attention to their dependence on (what I label) "the Awareness Principle", viz., the view that there are no ideas in the mind of which the mind either isn't currently aware or hasn't been aware in the past. I then argue that the arguments' dependence on this principle is question begging on two counts. Unless this principle is defended, Locke's arguments beg the question against Descartes and Leibniz because their nativism implies the denial of the Awareness Principle. And even when Locke defended the principle, his arguments remain question begging because they presuppose the empiricism they aim to prove. The disclosure of the question-begging status of these arguments debunks a seemingly powerful way of attacking nativism
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DOI 10.2307/40040702
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David Hume (2009/2004). An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding. In Steven M. Cahn (ed.), The Monist. Oxford University Press 112.

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