Draft. Berkeley denied the existence of abstract ideas and any faculty of abstraction. At the same time, however, he embraced innateideas and a faculty of pure intellect. This paper attempts to reconcile the tension between these commitments by offering an interpretation of Berkeley's Platonism.
This article starts from the assumption that there are various innate contributions to our view of the world and explores the epistemological implications that follow from this. Specifically, it explores the idea that if certain components of our worldview have an evolutionary origin, this implies that these aspects accurately depict the world. The simple version of the argument for this conclusion is that if an aspect of mind is innate, it must be useful, and the most parsimonious explanation (...) for its usefulness is that it accurately depicts the world. There are a number of important criticisms of this argument. These include the idea that evolutionary justifications are circular, that evolved mental content and principles are not necessarily accurate, and that, if the argument is taken seriously, it has some highly dubious consequences. These criticisms necessitate various qualifications to the initial argument. Nonetheless, it is argued that, in some cases, important conclusions can be drawn about the world from an analysis of evolved contributions to our view of the world. An evolutionary approach cannot provide an ultimate justification for any belief; however, in certain circumstances, it supports the conclusion that a given belief is a reasonable first approximation. To the extent that innate content and principles pertain to topics in metaphysics, they can be viewed as a naturalistic source of metaphysical knowledge. (shrink)
Here's one way this chapter could go. After defining the terms 'innate' and 'idea', we say whether Chomsky thinks any ideas are innate -- and if so, which ones. Unfortunately, we don't have any theoretically interesting definitions to offer; and, so far as we know, Chomsky has never said that any ideas are innate. Since saying that would make for a very short chapter, we propose to do something else. Our aim is to locate Chomsky, (...) as he locates himself, in a rationalist tradition where talk of innateideas has often been used to express the following view: the general character of human thought is due largely to human nature. (shrink)
Evidence, For the most part from books I and iv of locke's "essay concerning human understanding", Is presented to show that the issue about innateideas as understood by locke was not primarily psychological but methodological. Locke's philosophic ire was directed against those who used the doctrine of innateideas to advocate a close-Minded, As opposed to an open-Minded, Method of inquiry.
This paper seeks to reconstruct an important controversy between leibniz and malebranche over innateideas. It is argued that this controversy is in some ways more illuminating than the better-Known debate between leibniz and locke, For malebranche's objections to innateideas raise fundamental questions concerning the status of dispositions and the relationship between logic and psychology. The paper shows that in order to meet malebranche's objections, Leibniz adopts a strategy which is doubly reductionist: ideas are (...) reduced to dispositions to think in certain ways, And these dispositions are in turn reduced to unconscious perceptions. It is suggested that malebranche's platonist commitment to the existence of abstract entities forces leibniz to reveal the extent of his nominalism. (shrink)
This paper traces the connections between the assertion or denial of innateideas, and the possibility of the soul being immortal, in the contrasting cases of Descartes and Locke. Descartes and Locke disagree about whether there are innateideas and the nature of the soul, but they agree that the soul is immortal. The issue explored is which theory of the mind, Descartes's or Locke's, is in the best position to contend that we to survive death, (...) and indeed exist immortally. The argument is not as straightforwardly in Descartes's favor, as one might suppose. (shrink)
Does Leibniz really worst Locke in respect of innateideas, as is frequently supposed, or does Locke emerge more or less whole from their epistemological dispute? I shall here argue that Leibniz does far less well than we might like to believe and that his substantive proposals, where not entirely innocuous, contain little that would appeal to anyone interested in a modern form of the innateness thesis.
A careful examination of descartes' works shows that innateideas are not born with the mind, But are generated by (i.E., Born within) the mind. This is descartes' way of talking about empirical concept formation, As well as what the mind can infer from these concepts. Particular examples are examined to provide the material and formal conditions for identifying innateideas. Descartes forces the transition from medieval to very modern epistemology.
I should, I suppose, begin by taking some personal responsibility for this controversy. When my late friend Hossein Ziai and I published our edition and translation of Suhrawardī’s Ḥikmat al-Ishrāq (hereafter Philosophy of Illumination), we chose “innate” as our rendering of fiṭrī. I don’t remember discussing the rendering, and we did not bother to mention it in the glossary. Hossein had used this rendering in his first book, Knowledge and Illumination, stating that “innateideas serve as the (...) grounds for knowledge.”1 Others, however, have rendered the term and its source, fiṭra, as “nature,” “natural spirit,”2 or “innate disposition.”3So what does fiṭra mean? Al-Tahānawī, in his dictionary of Islamic technical .. (shrink)
Empiricism, the philosophical theory that all our ideas and knowledge are derived from experience, has in recent years been the target of radical and persuasive objections. In the seventeenth century, and for long after, rationalism seemed the only alternative to empiricism, but, like Kant, many contemporary philosophers have been convinced that empiricism and rationalism are equally unacceptable, and that both positions, and the conflict between them, are the result of trying to answer confused, misleading, and perhaps senseless questions. Of (...) all the traditional theories in particular, none, I suppose, has looked to modern philosophers less capable of being revived than the rationalist doctrine of innateideas: the doctrine that some at least of our ideas and knowledge of things are not derived from outside the mind, through experience, but are present from birth in the mind itself and thus represent the mind's own contribution to our understanding of reality. What Strawson has called ‘those old and picturesque debates regarding the origin of our ideas’ seemed to have become museum pieces, charming, as antiques can be, but with little relevance to current issues. These complacent attitudes, if that is what they are, have been rudely disturbed by Chomsky and his colleagues. Chomsky has suggested ‘that contemporary research supports a theory of psychological a priori principles that bears a striking resemblance to the classical doctrine of innateideas’. In the prevailing situation, the novelty of this suggestion is twofold. It is not only that the theory of innateideas may be true after all, but also that the support alleged for the ancient doctrine has a distinctively modern look. The research that Chomsky claims supports the doctrine is research in the empirical science of linguistics. The implication is that empiricism is refutable empirically, and more generally that a philosophical dispute such as the dispute between empiricism and rationalism, once it is made clear, can be settled by science. (shrink)
This project provides a detailed examination and critique of current philosophical, linguistic, and cognitive accounts of first language acquisition. In particular, I focus on the concept of "innate" and how it is embraced, marginally utilized, or abandoned altogether in efforts to describe the way that a child comes to be a competent user of a language. A central question that naturally falls out of this general inquiry is therefore what exactly is supposed to be "innate," according to various (...) theories? Philosophically, the theory of innateideas put forth to explain human learning has existed for centuries and hence, this thesis as it relates to language is discussed. The revival of nativism by linguists like Chomsky is thus a central theme of the first chapter. Universal Grammar and the various arguments for it are closely scrutinized, and I close this chapter with what I take to be the commitments of linguistic nativism, how its proponents conceive of "innate," and several possible objections to the arguments they put forth. Just as the theory of innateideas has had its contesters throughout the history of philosophy, so too have linguists and cognitive scientists rejected Universal Grammar and other forms of linguistic nativism. Thus, the second chapter presents several of these alternative explanations of language acquisition. Namely, I divide the chapter into three sections, Usage-Based Linguistics, Emergentism, and Sociolinguistic Acquisition, as it is my suggestion that most of the anti-UG attacks are levied from one of these three fields. In discussing the details of each, two distinctions become of particular concern: first, a large part of the differing conceptions of "innate" seem to hinge on what is meant by "learning" and "acquiring," and therefore second, a fine line between UBL and Emergentism can be drawn, a relationship that is otherwise conflated in the literature. Because chapter two involves a brief account of the way in which connectionist simulations are often utilized to model or represent language acquisition, particularly from an Emergentist perspective, chapter three begins by examining this feature of Emergentism in more detail. Due to its explanatory power, ability to be effectively modeled, and the evidentiary support found in neuroscience, Emergentism would appear to be the most tenable position to maintain regarding language acquisition. This possibility seems further strengthened when we take into account the neuroscientific data often used to bolster anti-nativist claims. Nevertheless, reflecting on the overarching concern of the project, regarding what is really meant by "innate," it is shown that this attack on nativism might stand on shakier ground than was originally assumed. Finally, based on these considerations, a case is made for an intermediary position, a theory of "Minimally InnateIdeas.". (shrink)
Descartes is often accused of lacking a coherent conception of innateideas. I argue that Descartes' remarks on innateideas actually form a unified account. "Innate idea" is triply ambiguous, but its three meanings are interdependent. "Innate idea" can mean an act of perceiving; that which is perceived; or a faculty, capacity, or disposition to have certain ideas. An innate idea qua object of thought is some thing existing objectively , which we (...) have a capacity to perceive, but which we can only actually perceive through meditation. ;Descartes thinks that some innateideas, such as the idea of thought itself, are implicit in the very process of thinking. Because they are relied on in thinking itself, we have implicit awareness of them. We also have implicit knowledge of other ideas contained in them. The actual perception of these innateideas is, for Descartes, a matter of making them explicit, turning the intellect away from sense-perceptions and towards pure thought. ;Some innate truths, Descartes says, are perceived by the "natural light." I argue that such truths are made explicit through attending to how the concepts which those truths are about have been relied on in the process of thinking. I discuss the relationship between the natural light and the will, arguing that other accounts of Descartes' "natural light" in the secondary literature are unsatisfactory. I also explore how Descartes' use of the metaphor of light might have been informed by his scientific views about light. ;The innateideas of corporeal nature and mathematics are also made explicit through attention and reflection, according to Descartes. Though many commentators read Descartes as holding that the innate idea of extension can be known without any use of the senses, I argue that it is discovered through reflection on our sense-perceptions. Once this idea is explicit, Descartes thinks, we can use it to generate explicit awareness of further innateideas, such as ideas of shapes. Reflection on those further innateideas, in turn, makes explicit various innate truths about those shapes. (shrink)
Recent years have seen a renewal of the perennial debate concerning innateideas: Noam Chomsky has argued that much of our knowledge of natural languages is innate; Jerry Fodor has defended the innateness of most concepts. ;Part One concerns the historical controversy over nativism. On the interpretation there developed, nativists have defended two distinct theses. One, based on arguments from the poverty of the stimulus, is a psychological theory postulating special-purpose learning mechanisms. The other, deriving from arguments (...) entailing that learning from experience is impossible, is the meta-psychological view that we can hope for no real explanation of how learning occurs. ;In Part Two, the views of contemporary nativists are discussed against this background. Fodor's claim that our concepts are 'triggered' rather than 'learned' provides no account of concept-acquisition. Instead, it expresses his view that concept-acquisition resists any psychological explanation. But while 'brute-causal' interaction with the world may be necessary to the fixation of reference--and hence to the attainment of concepts--it is insufficient. Mind-world interaction is 'cognitively mediated' and it is in explaining the nature of this mediation that psychology will play a role. ;Chomsky holds that we have a special-purpose faculty for learning language. His 'a posteriori' arguments from the poverty of the stimulus, being based on unsubstantiated empirical claims about the pld and the course of learning, are rejected. Another 'a priori' argument exists, however, involving only the general observation that since the pld contain little information about what is not a sentence, a special mechanism is required to prevent overgeneration. But negative data are lacking in every learning domain. So since it is implausible that all learning requires special faculties, there must be a general-purpose strategy that can skirt the 'negative evidence' problem. Whether it is used for language-learning remains moot. But what really motivates the Chomskian is his awe at what children achieve, namely, 'cognizance' of a grammar. Grammars prove, however, to be 'psychologically real' in such a weak sense that the phenomena of language mastery provides little grist to the nativist's mill. (shrink)
The topic of this dissertation is a discussion of the seventeenth century debate between Descartes and Locke over innateideas. I propose a novel approach to the study of this debate. I argue that their disagreement over innateideas is directly related to their differing views of how the content of ideas is determined and of what counts as having an idea in the mind. Approaching the controversy between Descartes and Locke from this perspective has (...) allowed me to conclude that Descartes' nativist argument prevail over Locke's arguments to the contrary. ;I begin the discussion, in Chapter One, by examining the anti-nativist arguments offered by Locke in Book I of his Essay concerning Human Understanding and by clarifying the nature of Descartes' dispositional nativism. I conclude that since Locke's arguments rely on a principle whose denial is implied by Descartes' Dispositional Nativism, his arguments at best beg the question against Descartes. I suggest then that discussion of the controversy between Descartes and Locke should shift to the arguments they provide, respectively, for and against the awareness principle. ;In Chapter Two, I argue that Locke's argument for the awareness principle is to be found in the empiricism of Book II of his Essay and, hence, that the anti-nativist arguments of Book I are question-begging since they presuppose the very empiricism they aim to prove. ;In Chapters Three and Four, I argue that Descartes' argument for the denial of the awareness principle is to be found in his rationalist theory of idea-individuation according to which the content of ideas is determined by an intellectual and implicitly known presentation of the object. ;In the final chapter, I argue that Descartes' arguments for nativism are a version of what is known in the literature as "Poverty-of-the-Stimulus Arguments" and conclude that, interpreted this way, they have an edge over Locke's anti-nativist arguments. I contend that whereas Locke's argument for the awareness principle depend on an empiricist theory of idea individuation that assumes that principle, Descartes' argument for the denial of the awareness principle depends on a rationalist theory of idea individuation that argues for the denial of that principle. (shrink)
In his essay against Eberhard, Kant denies that there are innate concepts. Several scholars take Kant’s statement at face value. They claim that Kant did not endorse concept innatism, that the categories are not innate concepts, and that Kant’s views on innateness are significantly different from Leibniz’s. This paper takes issue with those claims. It argues that Kant’s views on the origin of the intellectual concepts are remarkably similar to Leibniz’s. Given two widespread notions of innateness, the dispositional (...) notion and the input/output notion, intellectual concepts are innate for Kant no less than for Leibniz. (shrink)
Philosophers have long debated whether any ideas are innate in the human mind and if so, what they might be. The issues here are real and important but it often seems that the discussion of them isn’t. One of the main reasons that these discussions are frequently so frustrating is that the various sides seem to be talking past each other rather than engaging in genuine argument. When this happens, it seems to me that it is usually because (...) the issues they are discussing have not been formulated clearly enough. To avoid that problem and also to motivate what follows, I want to begin with an overview of some philosophical concepts and questions before I get to the historical part of my paper. (shrink)
The cambridge platonists exemplify the fear that newtonian natural philosophy subverts the status of traditional moral and religious beliefs, Which are strongly supported by the innate idea doctrine since it justifies them independently of the senses and the material universe. Isaac barrow, Friend and teacher of newton, Also employs the doctrine approbatively to support his metaphysics as a science of basic principles that constitute the foundation of natural science. Locke's rejection of the doctrine is analyzed and it is suggested (...) that the platonist's treatment of the active role of the mind in sensation could have been developed in eighteenth century britain if locke's polemic had not been so successful. (shrink)
Urban Gottfried Bucher is one of the most surprising authors in early German enlightenment and has been rightly celebrated as a materialist and therefore radical thinker. But he did not teach the same kind of materialism as his contemporary Andreas Rüdiger who leaned toward Locke’s empiricism. Bucher is much closer to Hobbes’ mechanical materialism, to Spinoza’s criticism of free will, and to Tschirnhaus’ extending of the mathematical method to natural science. His explanation of the working of the human soul, while (...) materialistic, is rationalistic and mechanical. The difference between the two kinds of materialism becomes crystal-clear in Bucher’s and Rüdiger’s approach to the Copernican system they both embrace. For Rüdiger, the Copernican hypothesis is seen as a probable truth we can hold on to as long as we don’t obtain competing empirical sensiones and ideas, even if our globe should not really move around the sun. For Bucher though, it is a demonstrated truth that gains additional support by a machin... (shrink)
In a past issue of Philosophy East and West (Aminrazavi 2003), Mehdi Aminrazavi, developing his ideas expressed earlier in Suhrawardi and the School of Illumination (Aminrazavi 1997), attempted to argue “that Ibn Sīnā’s peripatetic orientation and Suhrawardī’s ishrāqī perspective have both maintained and adhered to the same epistemological framework while the philosophical language in which their respective epistemologies are discussed is different” (Aminrazavi 2003, p. 203). I disagree; however, this is not the point I am going to address in (...) this short note. As part of his argument, Aminrazavi tries to show that “both philosophers seem to realize the need for a pre-cognitive ability that is based on a priori .. (shrink)