Empiricism Pioneers Hobbes Locke

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  1. Pioneers

  2. Hobbes

  3. Locke

  4. Berkeley

  5. Hume

  6. Mills

  7. Scottish Common Sense

Early Roots

  1. Aristotle

  2. Emphasis on importance of sensory data

  3. However, only by contrast with Plato

  4. Oxford empiricists

  5. Robert Grosseteste (1168-1233)

  6. Duns Scotus (1265-1308)

  7. Roger Bacon (1214-1294)

  8. William of Ockham (1284-1350)

Francis Bacon (1561-1626)

  1. Fought older constraining traditions

  2. Scholastic thought and Aristotlism

  3. What passed for empirical science in Renaissance

  4. Some empirical observation

  5. But guided by ancient traditions

  6. And mysticism (e.g. astrology)

  7. First modern to see clearly that human psychology is part of natural world

  8. Respect for observation

Bacon’s and Idols I

  1. These were sources of error

  2. Idols of the Tribe

  3. Inherent in human nature

  4. Belief is reliability of sense data

  5. Idols of the den

  6. Reference to Plato’s cave

  7. Individual errors dues to theories and experiences

Bacon and Idols II

  1. Idols of the market place

  2. Errors due to social interactions and culture

  3. Language

  4. Idols of the Theater

  5. Due to philosophical systems

  6. Taken to be true

  7. Even though, like plays, fictional

  8. Theology should not be confused with understanding

Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679)

  1. Background

  2. Empiricism and rationalism

  3. Early behaviorist

  4. Hedonism

  5. Social and political theories

  6. Influences

Background of Hobbes

  1. Educated at Oxford

  2. Tried to escape Scholasticism

  3. Exiled in France 1641-1652

  4. Monarchist in civil wars

  5. Contact with more advanced continental thought

  6. Galileo

  7. Euclid and geometry

  8. Secretary to Duke of Devonshire 1660 to death

Methodological Rationalist

  1. Obsessed with issues of certainty

  2. Deductive

  3. Euclid

  4. Deduce from first principles

  5. Reductionism

  6. Geometry (study of motion – Galileo) leads to physics leads to psychology leads to society

  7. Motion is fundamental

  8. And perceptions and ideas are forms of motion

  9. Materialism

Hobbes as Early Behaviorist

  1. Outside world of physics is motion

  2. Excites the sense organ as vibrations

  3. Even memory is a vibration

  4. Dampened down as memories fade

  5. Can only have contiguity as association

  6. Behavior too consists of motions

  7. Motions around heart – endeavors – motives

  8. Emotions either aid or hinder

  9. Nothing in the mind, not first in the outside world

  10. Leans toward no human freedom

Hobbes and Hedonism

  1. Seek please and avoid pain

  2. Seek glory and avoid death, violent death

A summary quote

  1. “And therefore in the first place I put for a general inclination of all mankind, a perpetual and restless desire of power after power that ceasest only in death. And the cause of this, is not always that a man hopes for a more intense delight than he has already attained to; or that he cannot be content with a moderate power; but because he cannot assure the power and means to live well. Which he hath present, without the acquisition of more.”

Social conflict

  1. Power is a zero-sum game and so if everyone wants more conflict is inevitable

  2. All men are equal – important assumption from which much follows

  3. Imagines state of nature

  4. A time before laws and morality

  5. Galileo thought experiment

  6. Real or not?


  1. “Nature hath made men so equal, in the faculties of the body, and mind; as though though there be found one man sometimes manifestly stronger in body, or of quicker mind than another; yet when all is reckoned together, the difference between man and man is not so considerable, as that one man can thereby claim to himself any benefit to which another might not pretend as well.”


  1. Competition

  2. And fear of violent death from one another

  3. And the desire for glory (vain glory) a kind of social capital


  1. “ Again, men have no pleasure, but on the contrary a great deal of grief, in keeping company, where there is no power able to over-awe them all. For every man looketh that his companion should value him at the same rate he sets upon himself’ and…naturally endeavors…to extort a greater value from his contempters by damage and from others by the example”

The result is continual social conflict

  1. “hereby it is manifest that during the time men live without a common power to keep them all in awe, that they are in that condition called war; and such a war, as is of every man against every man”

  2. Indeed the life of man “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short”

The Hobbesian Problem of Order

  1. If we begin with such egoistic human nature how can we have a stable society?

  2. Hobbes: we fear violent death more than we love freedom

  3. Epicurean and Stoic notion that pains are more intense than pleasures

  4. Are willing to give up freedom for security – Freud

  5. Social contract

  6. Create larger power

  7. The state has all power

Hobbes’ Legacy in Psychology is Huge

  1. Began modern tradition of empiricism

  2. And also materialism

  3. But most importantly showed the way to create continuity between the physical and biological worlds

Hobbes’s Political Legacy

  1. Nature takes care of the problem

  2. Mandeville’s Fable of the Bees

  3. Smith and the Invisible Hand of God

  4. Ultimately Darwin’s theory of evolution

  5. Others suggest people are not completely egoistic

  6. The Cambridge Platonists

  7. Shaftesbury (Third Earl, Anthony Ashley Cooper) who sees and important countervailing principle in Stoic philosophy

  8. Sympathy or altruism

  9. Scottish Social theory and Locke-Jefferson

John Locke (1632-1704)

  1. Educated at Oxford where he lived off and on

  2. Hated Aristotelian taught

  3. Medical degree Boyle his mentor

  4. Mechanics

  5. Atomism

  6. Descartes fit well

  7. Personal physician and assistant to Shaftesbury (First Earl)

  8. Exiled in France

  9. Tutored grandson – 3rd Earl (Anthony Ashley Cooper)

John Locke’s work

  1. Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690)

  2. First great empiricist work

  3. Highly psychological

  4. Two Treatises of Civil Government (1688)

  5. Education

  6. Religious Tolerance

John Locke overview

  1. First major empiricist

  2. Emphasis on sensation as origin of ideas

  3. But also rationalism in emphasis on proof and demonstration

  4. Influences

  5. Bacon

  6. Hobbes

  7. Newton

  8. Not a reductionist

  9. No interest in material substratum

  10. Mechanical metaphor of mind

Locke’s theory of knowledge: Basic Ideas

  1. Idea is basic unit – not defined

  2. Two basic sources

  3. Sensation

  4. Reflection

  5. Internal sense that can manipulate and examine ideas

  6. Animated by emotion and affect

Locke’s Theory of Human Knowledge: Associationism

  1. Knowledge is association of ideas

  2. Basic notion of connection and repugnancy derived from Newton

  3. Agreement and disagreement of ideas

  4. Identity

  5. Relations – mere awareness of relations

  6. Coexistence or correlation – exact nature of relationship

  7. Real existence

Degrees of Certainty

  1. Intuition

  2. A rationalist idea

  3. Knowledge of self

  4. Mathematical relationships

  5. Demonstration or logical proof

  6. God’s existence

  7. Mathematics

  8. Sensitive

  9. Most knowledge

  10. But contingent – never entirely certain

Primary vs. Secondary Ideas

  1. From Galileo and Descartes by way of Boyle

  2. Primary are real and exist in bodies – can’t imagine object without them

  3. Solidarity

  4. Extension

  5. Figure

  6. Mobility

  7. Secondary -- not essential -- psychological

  8. Color

  9. Smell

  10. Taste

Criticisms of Primary-Secondary

  1. Substitutes psychological for logical criteria

  2. Extension more likely to be defining than color

  3. Can’t imagine a colorless object as well as one without extension

  4. But an important notion

  5. Some qualities do seem more subjective than others

  6. Color is clearly psychological

  7. Things taste different to different people

  8. But tend not to disagree about shape

Importance of Locke

  1. Aside from Descartes first major philosopher since Aquinas

  2. Transitional beginnings of empiricism

  3. Set out important issues

  4. Subsequent history of empiricism an attempt to deal with the issues he originated

George Berkeley (1685-1753)

  1. Bishop of Anglican church

  2. Taught at University of Dublin

  3. Lived in America 1728-1731

  4. Last great philosopher whose work was animated by religion

  5. Wanted to fight materialism

  6. And a kind of skepticism that might deny existence of God

  7. Sense data were sufficient for truth – granted by God

Berkeley’s Denial of Primary-Secondary Distinction

  1. Ideas exist only in mind

  2. Silly to talk about qualities in objects

  3. All ideas are secondary ideas

  4. Famous idealism

  5. Esse est percipi

  6. Does not mean that perceiving creates objects

  7. Rather that fundamental reality is mind

  8. In that sense reality is the act of being perceived

Berkeley’s Theory of Perception

  1. How size and distance lead to size constancy

  2. Rationalist’s argument

  3. Matter of geometry

  4. Hence mind solves geometry equation

  5. For Berkeley matter of experience

  6. Know correlations that feelings in eyes related to distance

  7. In turn associated with size parameters

  8. Also wrote on integration of various senses

Berkeley’s Theory of Association

  1. No real limits on sources

  2. The standard sources

  3. Contiguity

  4. Similarity

  5. Causality

David Hume (1711-1776)

  1. Scottish and part of Scottish Enlightenment

  2. Edinburgh University at 12

  3. Psychological crisis

  4. Moved to France where he could live cheaply

  5. The back to England where he was a tutor, secretary, and librarian

  6. History of England made him wealthy

Hume’s importance

  1. One of the 5 or so greatest philosophers

  2. Took empiricism to the extreme

  3. Ruthlessly logical

  4. Skepticism

  5. Influence on modern philosophy of science

  6. And linguistic analysis

  7. Influential political philosophy as well as discussion of emotions

Impressions and ideas

  1. This is the primary-secondary distinction

  2. Impressions were sensations

  3. Ideas were memories

  4. Different basis from Locke

  5. Based not on logical analysis of what is important

  6. But rather on strength

  7. So a return to physics but without the materialism of Hobbes

  8. Shows influence of Newton

Hume’s Theory of Knowledge

  1. All knowledge originates with the senses

  2. Comes from combination of simple ideas into complex

Principles of association

  1. Similarity

  2. Contiguity

  3. Causality

  4. Could also decompose complex ideas into simple ones

Problem of Causality

  1. Reality lies in sense data (impressions)

  2. Similarity and contiguity have corresponding impressions

  3. But causality does not

  4. No related sensory experience

  5. Hence causality is merely a belief

  6. And this famous skepticism was extended to others areas

  7. God

  8. Self

Hume Set the Agenda for Subsequent Thinkers

  1. How to rescue God important for religious

  2. But more importantly how to rescue causality

  3. Foundational for modern science

  4. And for everyday life.

  5. What are the limitations of human knowledge?

Thomas Reid’s (1710-1796) response

  1. Bitter opponent of Hume

  2. Offended by skepticism especially about God

  3. We apprehend world directly not through ideas

  4. Argued that we know about God, self, causality because of common sense

  5. Reasoning powers common to all

  6. Intuitions

  7. Derived from Stoics through Shaftesbury

  8. Postulated capacities of mind – faculty psychology

Later Empiricism: James Mill (1773-1836)

  1. Deeply impressed with Newton

  2. Ideas like ideal points

  3. Attraction like gravity

  4. All knowledge from senses

  5. Complex ideas built from simpler ones

  6. Through association – laws of attraction like laws of gravity

  7. Contiguity which is all Newtonian force allows

  8. No similarity

Late Empiricism: John Stuart Mill

  1. One of the great thinkers of all time

  2. Logic and scientific method

  3. Political philosophy

  4. Women’s rights

  5. Impressed with new science of chemistry

  6. Earlier thinkers influenced by physics and meager biology

  7. Chemistry allows new compounds unlike constituents

  8. Association based on mental chemistry

  9. Knowledge comes from association

  10. But with compounds unlike originals

Late Empiricism: The Scottish

  1. In 18th Century produced great thinkers, mostly social

  2. Responded to Hobbes’s challenge

  3. Less authoritarian answers

  4. Also relied on Stoic common sense

  5. And tended to rescue a place for God

  6. Influential in early American psychology

The Scots: Stewart & Brown

  1. Dugald Stewart (1753-1828)

  2. Student of Reid

  3. Kept alive faculty notion which was passed to Gall

  4. Thomas Brown

  5. Student of Stewart

  6. Critic of Reid

  7. Proposed more complex associationism

The Scots: Hamilton & Bain

  1. William Hamilton (1738-1856)

  2. Academic mostly at Edinburgh

  3. Familiar with Kant and Germans

  4. A more sophisticated version of Reid’s common sense

  5. Alexander Bain (1818-1903)

  6. Academic at Aberdeen

  7. Interested in establishing empirical laws

  8. Crossed the divide between philosophy & psychology

  9. Really early psychologist

  10. Although not experimental

Legacy of Empiricism

  1. Knowledge requires little mental activity

  2. Sensation crucial

  3. Passive laws of association

  4. Tended to be reductionists

  5. And non-materialists

  6. Behaviorism

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