Rene Descartes was a Philosopher, writer, mathematician whose origin was France. He is often referred to as the father of modern philosophy because of the major works he has done in the field. His works are still respected in the field of philosophy because of their relevance in the modern world and philosophy. John Locke was a physician and a respected English Philosopher who is still regarded as one of the enlightenment thinkers that ever existed. Both of these philosophers held varying ideas in relation to the origin of ideas. Therefore, they propounded different theories that would help individuals gain an in depth understanding on the origin of ideas. Descartes asserts that the key origin of ideas is nature while Locke held that ideas mainly originate from an individual’s own experiences. The two viewpoints on the origin of ideas have attracted different reactions among individuals trying to establish the exact origin.
This paper explicates Descartes and Locke’s accounts on the origin of ideas and gives the better accounts of the two viewpoints.
According to Rene Descartes, ideas originate from one’s interaction with nature. He asserts that ideas come naturally in one’s life as he relates with nature in everyday activities. Descartes asserted that,” my understanding of what a thing is seems to derive solely from nature.” This means that all the ideas that one has emanate from his interaction with other individuals and other objects that constitute nature. According to his account, ideas originate from the surrounding noises, sirens or seeing the happenings of nature. Thus, human beings acquire ideas by observing and interacting with the daily happenings in nature. They gain a wider scope of the earth and their beings from the natural occurrences that happen each day. He then continued by defining ideas as “whatever is perceived by the mind.” This means that, in the course of interacting with nature, individuals come up with different thoughts pertaining to different things, which constitute ideas. The images of things that one sees in his interaction with nature constitute ideas. According to Descartes’ account on the origin of ideas, individuals come up with different perceptions that constitute ideas in their minds. These ideas would be useful in forming different opinions in relation to different things in nature. More so, individuals are able to reason and think in line with these ideas. Nature is the key forces in the formation of ideas among individuals. This is further reinforced through Descartes’ assertion that most of our ideas are adventitious, which originate from the interaction with nature.
On the other hand, John Locke held that ideas originate from an individual’s daily experiences. According to his account, individuals are exposed to different experiences in their lives, which facilitate the development of ideas. These ideas originate from both the worst and best happenings in an individual’s life. Ideas could also be positive or negative depending on the common experiences that one is exposed to. According to Locke,” all the materials of reason and knowledge emanate from our daily experiences.” This means that experiences have the potential of affecting the reasonability of an individual in society. This view also asserts that ideas can never be innate but must be influenced by one’s daily experiences. He asserted that experiences are inevitable in the lives of individuals as they are exposed to different situations in life each day. In addition, he asserted that experiences are of two origins that include sensational and reflections. Sensational experiences are those that originate from an individual’s different senses. These senses could be a sense of touch, sense of smell, sense of hearing, sense of sight, and sense of taste. These senses activate the development of ideas among individuals and are vital in enhancing the reasonability of an individual. Locke asserts that, “it is the mind that operates and exerts these ideas.” This is to mean that the senses of individuals are connected to the mind hence leading to the development of different ideas. The positivity or negativity of ideas depends on the nature of the type of experience that one is exposed to.
Locke’s account continues with the assertion that these ideas could be simple or complex depending on the experience and their impact. Simple ideas could originate singly from our senses or reflections while complex ideas originate from the combination of both. Complex and simple ideas could be used in different contexts. Simple ideas are vital in helping individuals cope with the simple happenings in life while complex ideas apply to difficult ideas in life. To reinforce his position, he asserted that, “knowledge is founded on the happening of particular things.” This emphasizes the notion that ideas originate from an individual’s happenings that constitute experiences.
Locke gives a better account of the origin of ideas. His assertion that idea originate from an individual’s daily experiences provides a tangible argument for the origin of ideas. According to Locke, ideas originate from an individual’s happenings in life that catalyze the mind. This is a better account for the origin of ideas because it provides a clear proof of how ideas come up in an individual’s mind. In addition, the account is better compared to that of Descartes because it goes ahead to identify the different types of ideas that are present in an individual’s mind. The account could be relied upon as experiences have played an instrumental role in guiding the formation of ideas among individuals.
Strength and Weakness of Descartes’ Position
The strength of Descartes’ position on the origin of ideas is the use of nature as the principal origin of ideas. It is true that individuals interact with nature as they go about their daily lives. Nature constitutes most of the vital parts of an individual’s life as it helps in sustaining his life. The use of nature in Descartes’ position about the origin of ideas is logical because individuals are always in continuous interactions with their surroundings. This position helps individuals understand the nexus between life and nature. It enables one understand how nature contributes to the development of ideas among individuals hence providing a better understanding of nature.
The weakness of his position is that it does not directly explain how nature contributes to the origin of ideas. The theory only asserts that individuals interact with nature but does not provide a tangible explanation of how nature contributes to the origin of such ideas. Nature has only been mentioned as the key place for the origin of ideas, but no substantial grounds to prove this have been established. This makes it difficult for individuals to understand the nexus between nature and the brain. The brain is instrumental for the development of ideas, but its position has not been clearly established in the origin of ideas according to this account.
Strength and Weakness of Locke’s Position
The strength of Locke’s position is that it gives a clear relationship between ideas and individual’s experiences. It should be noted that a theory would be tangible in case it offers the relationship between the course of an event and the event itself. Locke’s position is strong as it asserts that an individual’s experiences are vital in contributing to the origin of ideas. This is because experiences are inevitable in the life of an individual and are vital in contributing to the emergence of different ideas. The theory goes further to explain the different types of experiences that could lead to the formation of either complex or simple ideas.
The weakness of Locke’s position is that it does not explain the process of idea formation in the minds of individuals. It would have been vital for the theory to provide clear steps of how these ideas come into existence in the minds of individuals. This would have provided a better understanding of how these ideas come into existence and how they are manipulated.
In conclusion, Rene Descartes position on the origin of ideas was that ideas solely originate from an individual’s interaction with nature. This means the individual’s reasonability and knowledge originate from their interactions with nature in their lives. On the other hand, Locke held that the ideas of individuals originate from daily experiences. He also indicated that there are different types of ideas, complex and simple ideas that are used for different functions.