Locke or Berkeley Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

Locke v. Berkeley

The philosophers John Locke and George Berkeley offer stark contrasts on the issue of various matters. Locke's whose viewpoint can best be classified as based in relativism. He believed that all knowledge come from the senses. As every man's senses are unique, no two individuals will sense the same experience the same and, therefore, all knowledge is different in each individual. By extension, there is no such thing as better beliefs or true beliefs. Everyone's beliefs are their own and based on their individual experience. George Berkeley's viewpoints offer a sharp contrast to those of Locke. In fact, their individual careers ran concurrently and they spent most of that time being contrasted and possessing viewpoints that were diametrically opposed. Berkeley's was an empiricist but one who also possessed a certain idealist twist. Berkeley viewed experience as the source of most knowledge. According to Berkeley's form of empiricism, objects, regardless of what they are, are only ideas in the minds of those observing them and, as a result, do not exist without being perceived.

Of the two viewpoints, those of Locke seem to have better application. Locke's view that everyone's mind is a blank slate (tabula rasa) at birth and that all knowledge is acquired thereafter through one senses provides a logical explanation for the differences between individuals. As our senses are the source of all knowledge and understanding, it is clearly logical that everyone's sense experiences differ and, therefore, everyone's knowledge is also different. Unlike Berkeley, Locke did not believe that there was anything innate in anyone and that all concepts, ideas, and thoughts were the result of sensory experience. According to Locke, there is no such thing as innate knowledge.

Locke's greatest contribution to the field of philosophy and to generalized knowledge is his development of the idea of relativism. Because he believed that all human knowledge is sensually based there is no thing as perfect knowledge or understanding. Each person's experience is relative and there is no true or perfect knowledge. This is not to say that certain ideas or knowledge are more objectively sound but, unlike the empiricists who would argue that there are absolutes that everyone must obey or believe, Locke would argue that truth and rightness are based upon what has experienced through their senses and not through some form of innate factor.

Locke's ideas and concepts had a profound and lasting influence on the development of the field of behavioral psychology. Psychologists in such field argue strongly that because it is not possible to share the same sense experiences of another individual it is also not possible to understand the nature of their mental state. Although behaviorism does not enjoy the level of popularity that it once did, it continues to be a viable field of psychology and Locke's relativist's views still maintain some application.

Modern science has poked some holes in Locke's arguments. Work in the area of brain physiology and anatomy has established that all humans possess certain abilities that are the same among all individuals and that, therefore, Locke's claim that everyone is born with a blank slate is not accurate. Locke's concept, however, that our senses are the source of most of our knowledge remains viable. More importantly, his view that everyone's experience is different explains how diversity can develop among individuals whose life's sensory experiences are nearly identical. The reality is that no two individual's sensory experience can be classified as being identical and that, therefore, knowledge should have no absolutes.

Locke believes that man is capable of obtaining a great deal of knowledge about the world around him and that there…

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