Epistemology of British Sensualism
Keywords: sensory data, externalism, associanism, probabilism, coherence
The traditional opponent of the rationalistic approach to knowledge is empiricism (the opinion that all knowledge comes from experience) and especially sensualism, which stresses the priority and necessity of sensory knowledge. The history of sensualism goes back to Democritus and Aristotle. However, probably the most prominent representative of this approach to knowledge was the British sensualism of John Locke, George Berkeley and David Hume.
The subject of epistemology should be examination of sources and origin of our beliefs, opinions and convictions. (Locke 1836, 2). Sensualists believe that the inevitable and main source of knowledge is sensory perception. They bring back to life the peripatetic motto “Nihil est in intellectu quod non prius in sensu” (Aquinas Thomas De veritate, q. 2 a. 3 arg. 19) opposing Descartian rationalists ← 87 | 88 → and Cambridge Platonists. They believe that our intellect is an unwritten table – tabula rasa – at the moment of birth. Locke was convinced that if inborn ideas existed they would have to be in every intelligent individual, which does not seem to be confirmed by experience (Locke 1836, 9). According to Locke, small children, oligophrenics, and primitive nations do not have the ideas of God, “I”, nor laws of logic. Locke documented this by the fact that small children and others do not use the pronoun “I” to refer to themselves from birth, they often contradict themselves, and they do not know logic laws or the idea of God....
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