Do we have innate knowledge?

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Hariex
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I was just reading a brief summary on the works of John Locke earlier today and his defense of empiricism interested me. He contended that we were born as a "tabula rasa", meaning all of our knowledge is obtained through our five senses.

On first examination, this appears to make more sense than rationalism - the idea that we are born with innate knowledge.

My own objection to Locke's contention was inspired by Descartes' idea of the First Certainty. He claimed that we can only be certain of one thing in this reality: the notion that we exist. Surely, the recognition of our existence is knowledge. Does this not count as innate knowledge?

Yes, we might ascertain our existence through our five senses, but these five senses require an existence to "do the sensing."

Are we not born with the innate knowledge that we exist?

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Mr Stacey
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I think that it wouldn't be possible to be born with the innate knowledge that we exist.

Lets say for instance that in order to grasp the knowledge claim, that 'I exist', I must therefore be aware of the concept being 'I', the concept of a self, and the concept of existence.
But the concept of a self and of existence doesn't seem to be innate, well for me at least, so the proposition that I exist cannot be innate if the concepts required to grasp the proposition themselves are not innate.
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ChickenMadness
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eh, you're born with intelligence. Knowledge is acquired. imo.
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username878045
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A good example of philosophy trying to argue its way around a psychological question.

Psychology studies would suggest that we are certainly born with some basic knowledge. Of course, it's often difficult to tell whether this was learnt in the womb or innate. The question is whether this stuff is 'knowledge'. Is knowing to cry when you want something 'knowledge' or merely an unconscious reaction like flinching?
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I am not finite
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(Original post by PythianLegume)
A good example of philosophy trying to argue its way around a psychological question.

Psychology studies would suggest that we are certainly born with some basic knowledge. Of course, it's often difficult to tell whether this was learnt in the womb or innate. The question is whether this stuff is 'knowledge'. Is knowing to cry when you want something 'knowledge' or merely an unconscious reaction like flinching?
I wouldn't class that as knowledge. In fact I don't classify any 'knowing how' as knowledge in the sense that most people imply, 'knowing that' seems to be what Descartes and Locke are talking about which doesn't seem innate, how can anyone possibly know that they exist without having experienced their existence? Also I question intelligence being static... it seems to me that everything in the world is in a constant state of change, and certainly there are things that can cause cognitive decline (so why can't it work the opposite way?).
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Hariex
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(Original post by Mr Stacey)
I think that it wouldn't be possible to be born with the innate knowledge that we exist.

Lets say for instance that in order to grasp the knowledge claim, that 'I exist', I must therefore be aware of the concept being 'I', the concept of a self, and the concept of existence.
But the concept of a self and of existence doesn't seem to be innate, well for me at least, so the proposition that I exist cannot be innate if the concepts required to grasp the proposition themselves are not innate.
But how do we become aware of the concept of "I"? It does not make sense to say that, through our own five senses, we can become aware of our self. What state would we be in prior to being aware of ourselves? A philosophical zombie? Would we be a person who can touch, see, smell, hear and taste but do not know that they exist?

My main problem is how, by sensing something, we can become aware of our existence. Does the process of sense not require an aware existence? The sense of touch, for example, is sometimes considered to be connected with our mind - pain, for instance. By your account, we would inflict pain upon ourselves but, if this was not connected with the mind, the pain would occur in isolation of the mind.

I am finding it quite hard to articulate this, so bear with.
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ahdbadman981
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(Original post by Hariex)
But how do we become aware of the concept of "I"? It does not make sense to say that, through our own five senses, we can become aware of our self. What state would we be in prior to being aware of ourselves? A philosophical zombie? Would we be a person who can touch, see, smell, hear and taste but do not know that they exist?

My main problem is how, by sensing something, we can become aware of our existence. Does the process of sense not require an aware existence? The sense of touch, for example, is sometimes considered to be connected with our mind - pain, for instance. By your account, we would inflict pain upon ourselves but, if this was not connected with the mind, the pain would occur in isolation of the mind.

I am finding it quite hard to articulate this, so bear with.
I think you fall for the trap of thinking reason superior to the senses, experience is antecedent to reason (how can I think without having an experience?), the concept of 'I' i'd say is little more than a bundle of senses, 'I' is the experience i'm having now. 'I' is an abstraction of my senses.
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Hariex
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(Original post by ahdbadman981)
I think you fall for the trap of thinking reason superior to the senses, experience is antecedent to reason (how can I think without having an experience?), the concept of 'I' i'd say is little more than a bundle of senses, 'I' is the experience i'm having now. 'I' is an abstraction of my senses.
Yet in Avicenna's Flying Man thought experiment, if we are suspended in a room without any of our senses, there is still a mind there. But surely, if the concept of "I" is just a bundle of senses, we would not have the "I" concept if we had no senses.

Correct me if I have mistaken you. Am I right in equating the mind to our "I" concept?
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ahdbadman981
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(Original post by Hariex)
Yet in Avicenna's Flying Man thought experiment, if we are suspended in a room without any of our senses, there is still a mind there. But surely, if the concept of "I" is just a bundle of senses, we would not have the "I" concept if we had no senses.

Correct me if I have mistaken you. Am I right in equating the mind to our "I" concept?
I don't agree with Avicenna's thought experiment. It seems incredibly circular and based on no evidence what so ever. You write: 'Am I right in equating the mind to our "I" concept?' but what is the mind? Surely it is just a bundle of sensations and cognitive faculties (memory), we might say it is a distinct substance but this seems to be a category mistake, to be a God of the gaps argument, i.e something must exist for it to explain this because I can't explain it myself. We don't have any impression of 'I'.
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Hariex
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(Original post by ahdbadman981)
I don't agree with Avicenna's thought experiment. It seems incredibly circular and based on no evidence what so ever. You write: 'Am I right in equating the mind to our "I" concept?' but what is the mind? Surely it is just a bundle of sensations and cognitive faculties (memory), we might say it is a distinct substance but this seems to be a category mistake, to be a God of the gaps argument, i.e something must exist for it to explain this because I can't explain it myself. We don't have any impression of 'I'.
Perhaps. Yet you refer to memory - memory in itself is a term for an obscure concept that we know little about. The problem with mind is that its substance evades us. I do not believe the mind is made from any physical substance - the mind does not, for example, have three dimensional properties or any kind of material. What is the mind made of? To prove that the mind is in fact a physical substance, this is a question that should have the capability of being answered.

It is true that Avicenna's thought experiment is not based on any evidence, but I do not think that is the point of thought experiments.

I would not say it is a God of the gaps argument. Whilst I appear to be in the position of "we do not understand x, therefore it is y", your solution follows similar thinking. You are postulating that: "we do not understand the mind, therefore it is science." Or, in other words, it is a science of the gaps argument.
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ahdbadman981
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(Original post by Hariex)
Perhaps. Yet you refer to memory - memory in itself is a term for an obscure concept that we know little about. The problem with mind is that its substance evades us. I do not believe the mind is made from any physical substance - the mind does not, for example, have three dimensional properties or any kind of material. What is the mind made of? To prove that the mind is in fact a physical substance, this is a question that should have the capability of being answered.

It is true that Avicenna's thought experiment is not based on any evidence, but I do not think that is the point of thought experiments.

I would not say it is a God of the gaps argument. Whilst I appear to be in the position of "we do not understand x, therefore it is y", your solution follows similar thinking. You are postulating that: "we do not understand the mind, therefore it is science." Or, in other words, it is a science of the gaps argument.
We know quite a lot about memory as a faculty of the mind. You speak of mind as though it is something that exists distinct from the brain, and yet i've heard of no convincing argument based in experience that would lead to such a conclusion, perhaps through abstract thought one could reach such a conclusion, but a lot of things can be reached through this abstract thought. I have no reason to believe that the mind is in any way immaterial, and given that everything in this world which I have experienced is material, I find it difficult to accept anything else except that conclusion.

You're right about a thought experiment not requiring evidence, but that wasn't really my point, my point was it's not a good idea to use a thought experiment as ones premise when it cannot be shown to be true, surely it is an interesting idea that we may contemplate and even consider what would happen if it were to be true, but to make a judgement based on such seems futile to me.

I do not think my solution follows similiar thinking, you posit the existence of an abstract immaterial substance, I do not make such claims as I do not really need to, I have no reason to believe that the mind is not physical. Indeed if it were, i'd think reason a faculty not capable of knowing such.
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JohnPaul_
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Having the innate intelligence to be able to form the concept of 'I' is just your natural capacity due to your complex brain. Having such an ability is no more innate than the ability to walk, and these capacities are not knowledge.


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hihoho
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I have been thinking about this.. a lot.. and it was due to observing psychopaths that helped me understand the mind.. we don't possess magical knowledge once we're born but we learn without knowing we are doing it.. what happens in such situations is that information rather than being stored in the conscious mind is in the sub-conscious mind. In that sense, we don't know that we know.. that is where that "gut feeling" arises and instinct develops.
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El Salvador
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Yes. For example, all our instincts with evolution. EG the fear of darkness or dirtiness.
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Profesh
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(Original post by Hariex)
I was just reading a brief summary on the works of John Locke earlier today and his defense of empiricism interested me. He contended that we were born as a "tabula rasa", meaning all of our knowledge is obtained through our five senses.

On first examination, this appears to make more sense than rationalism - the idea that we are born with innate knowledge.

My own objection to Locke's contention was inspired by Descartes' idea of the First Certainty. He claimed that we can only be certain of one thing in this reality: the notion that we exist. Surely, the recognition of our existence is knowledge. Does this not count as innate knowledge?

Yes, we might ascertain our existence through our five senses, but these five senses require an existence to "do the sensing."

Are we not born with the innate knowledge that we exist?

Thoughts?
What would happen if you were 'born' without any senses at all? There's your answer.
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ahdbadman981
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(Original post by clh_hilary)
Yes. For example, all our instincts with evolution. EG the fear of darkness or dirtiness.
Many are not scared of either.
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El Salvador
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(Original post by ahdbadman981)
Many are not scared of either.
In general, people do. Not everybody's developed the same way.
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Melancholy
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At a ridiculously reduced level, the signals that thinking sends to our brains is a "sense", but I understand the distinction intended. I think Descartes' argument holds water - but I do think that most of our knowledge is gained through our senses, which our brain uses to make a coherent web of beliefs by which to understand the world. I'm not sure how useful that conclusion is.
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Misovlogos
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In terms of formal knowledge in a philosophical sense (i.e. justified true belief), I have certain epistemic sympathies with Kant here, but in a broad sense of knowledge, one only has to look at Chomsky's linguistic nativism, or the swathes of behavioural psychology flowing out of cognitive science, to confound the notion of tabula rasa​.
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Three Mile Sprint
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Anyone who has ever seen a newborn turn its head to find the teat can tell you yes.
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