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    Locke's argument against innate ideas

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    I present an overview and structural guideline to book 1 of John Locke's "An Essay Concerning Human Understanding".

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    ARGUMENT OVERVIEW
    JOHN LOCKE'S AN ESSAY CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING

    PRECIS OF CHAPTER 2: ON INNATE IDEAS

    Locke aims to undermine the doctrine of innate ideas [DI]. He doesn't really offer any adequate analysis of what this doctrine amounts to and just who it is that subscribes to it. However, he does present two principles, which are often (he says) alleged to command universal assent, and which have 'the most allowed title to innate' [§4]. These are: [PI] "What is, is" [principle of identity], and [PNC] "It is impossible for the same Thing to be and not to be" [principle of non-contradiction].

    LOCKE'S ARGUMENTS AGAINST DI:

    Locke essentially runs two types of argument against DI.

    [A] The first strategy is to undermine the presumption that universal assent, even if granted, supports DI. In other words, he argues that an argument from universal assent to innate ideas must be invalid. He does this by distinguishing between innate principles and necessary and self-evident truths. He does not deny that some propositions command immediate assent; however, he argues that the status of a proposition as necessary and self-evident is distinct from the genetic question of from whence it comes. Locke is plainly right about the invalidity of an argument from assent to innateness. However, the significance of this is not so clear. For one thing, he suggests that universal assent does not support the doctrine of innate ideas if another explanation of the necessity and self-evidence can be provided [§3]. But this apparently admits that the correct understanding of his opponent's argument is as an inference to the best explanation. This leaves one ...

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    The expert examines Locke's argument against innate ideas.

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