Reason and Experience Plans


A Levels Philosophy (Reason and Experience) Note on Reason and Experience Plans, created by rlshindmarsh on 27/04/2013.
Note by rlshindmarsh, updated more than 1 year ago
Created by rlshindmarsh almost 11 years ago

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Explain and illustrate what is meant by the claim that experience is intelligible only because we possess a predetermined conceptual scheme.  Kant said that ‘the world is mind shaped’, without a conceptual schemes our sensory impressions would amount only to ‘unintelligible buzzing’  Causality is an important conceptual schemes without which one cannot distinguish sense impressions, anticipation danger is something this is important for.

Outline and illustrate the view that certainty is confined to introspection and the tautological. Descartes is the main advocate for this rationalist theory, according to his cogito i think therefore i am, we must look inward and not rely on empirical evidence to know anything for certain.  For example, we can know for certain that a bachelor is an unmarried man without any reference to the external world, but i cannot know for certain that Thomas is a bachelor. Maths is another good example of a certainty, 2+2=4 will always be true, where we cannot be certain that the sun will rise tomorrow

Illustrating your answer, explain the difference between analytic and synthetic propositions.  Analytic and synthetic propositions are both propositions concerning truth separated by whether not they are completely self-contained.  A bachelor is an unmarried man, this is an analytic statement as it is certain,  because there can be nothing other derived from it than what is already stated, certainty is guaranteed.  A synthetic proposition is one whose proof is not contained within the proposition itself, for example i can just as easily propose that it will rain tomorrow as I can say that it won’t, in other words, certainty isn't guaranteed.

Explain and illustrate why there is a problem concerning the conclusions reached through inductive arguments. Inductive conclusions are conclusions about the world which are based on empirical evidence, and the problem that this causes is that the conclusion is not self contained, and there for the truth of it is not certain.  For example, i can conclude from seeing the sun rise everyday for my entire life that the sun will rise tomorrow, however, because there is nothing in the arrangement and use of the words ‘sun’ ‘tomorrow’ ‘rise’ and ‘will’ that proves the conclusion tautologically, i cannot be certain of my conclusion.

Illustrating your answer, explain the difference between contingent and necessary truths.  Both contingent and necessary truths may be true in some cases but only necessary truths are true in all possible worlds/situations and it is possible to imagine an alternative to a contingent truth   For example, in all possible worlds it is true that 2+5=7, and we cannot reasonably conceive of situation in which this would not be the case, which means that this must be a necessary truth. However, it is possible for us to imagine a world where there are two suns in the sky instead of one.

Explain what is meant by the claim that the human mind starts as a tabula rasa and give one reason for holding this view. The claim that the mind starts as a tabula rasa is chiefly held by the empiricists Hume and Locke, and it means that when we are born, our minds are completely devoid of knowledge or content of any kind, and as we experience the world the ‘slate’ is filled with knowledge of those sense impressions and we build an understanding of the world around us.  One reason to support this claim is that it is intuitive, as when we are born we have no knowledge or possession of language, the corner stone of all knowledge and its expression for humans, as we not only need it to communicate with each other, but also to think with any substance.

Assess the view that no significant claims about what exists are known a priori (30 marks) JUNE 12Claim of empiricism that the mind begins as a Tabula Rasa which is filled up with knowledge of the world by way of experience. Line of argument: although empiricism suggests that all of our knowledge is gained for experience, certain concepts cannot be directly tied to Sense experience and are applied by our minds to our experience, so the idea of significant a priori knowledge cannot be completely ignored.Pro: prior to experience of the world we seem to have no understanding of certain concepts that, in maturity seem basic, for example a baby cannot walk or talk having just been born, it learns this through experience.Con: However, one could argue that in order to learn these basic skills there must be a pre-existing capacity in our minds to comprehend and categorise sense experience, like causalityPro: we are entirely reliant on our senses to receive information about the world, so it is intuitive that all our knowledge of the world comes from experience via our sensesCon: There are certain concepts which, although we can apply them to the external world, are inherently metaphysical and therefore not based on experience via our senses for example Maths or the concepts of Beauty and Justice.

Assess the view that we have no innate knowledge. (30 marks)  JAN 12 /Assess the claim that all knowledge and ideas derive from sense experience. (30 marks)  JUN 11 /How convincing is the view that sense experience is the source of all knowledge?   (30 marks) JAN 13Innate knowledge is an argument most notably defended by Descartes, Leibniz and Spinoza, and claims that we possess a priori knowledge independent of our sense experiences, ideas which are innate. Line of Argument:Pro: The vast majority of our applicable knowledge does seem to be derived from our past experiences, most importantly the ability to speak, which also informs our clarity of thought, meaning that any truly innate idea would have to be something that can be understood separate from language, a barrier which arguably, concepts like maths can’t transcend./ we seem to be able to trace our ideas back to experience, for example Hume’s golden mountain COUNTER Hume does admit that the exception to the rule is the missing shade of blue.Con: However, concepts such as justice and beauty appear to be innate as they cannot be objectively and universally exemplified within the realm of experience, yet it is not contested that they are real concepts. A counter to this could be Hume’s idea of emotions as inward sense impressions, and that these concepts are a result of our inward sense impressions which are triggered by external sense impressionsPro: another problem with the theory of innate knowledge arises from the contrasting empiricist and rationalist definitions of knowledge. An empiricist would say that anything we gain from pure rational thought can only be considered a ‘know how’ where as empirical evidence can provide us with new information. For example, an analytically true statement such as ‘all bachelors are male tells us nothing knew about the world, all we can do is manipulate the terms of the proposition to come up with variations on the same principle, however a synthetic truth such as ‘it was raining last Tuesday’ tells us practical information about the world, acquired empirically.Con: however, the very nature of the statement as synthetic provides rationalists with a problem: the proposition is not a certain truth, and rationalists argue that only knowledge which is certain can be considered actual knowledge, where everything else is just speculation. For example, Descartes used his method of doubt to attempt to find any certain knowledge, and came up with the cogito, concluding that the only fact one can truly be certain of is their own existence. COUNTER it is not practical to consider only that which is certain knowledge, the nature of day to day existence would be thrown into doubt.

 ‘At birth the mind is a tabula rasa.’ Discuss. (30 marks)  JAN 11Originally put forward by Aristotle, the idea that when we a re born our mind is a ‘blank slate’ which is filled by knowledge gained through sense experience.Pro: we are entirely reliant on our senses to receive information about the world, so it is intuitive that all our knowledge of the world comes from experience via our sensesCon: There are certain concepts which, although we can apply them to the external world, are inherently metaphysical and therefore not based on experience via our senses for example Maths or the concepts of Beauty and Justice.Pro: Hume accounts for this, that these concepts are a reaction to emotions, which are still sense impressions, but that they are inward.Con: Nevertheless, Kant argues that without any predetermined conceptual schemes to interpret our sense impressions, they 

‘Without a predetermined conceptual scheme our sense experiences would be unintelligible.’ Assess the implications of this for empiricism. (30 marks)  JUN 10 the idea of conceptual schemes is Kantian, the world is ‘mind shaped’, Copernican revolutionPro: makes up for empiricism's complete rejection of the idea of innate knowledge by providing an innate function in the form of conceptual schemes to explain our concepts of causality, time, space, value etc. Chomsky, without conceptual schemes with which to process sense data it would amount to unintelligible buzzing. illustrate causality?Pro: makes up for the rationalists trivialization of knowledge via experience, by valuing rational thought as a facility that helps us to understand the world.Agrees that the conceptual schemes must be triggered by experience, and therefor it is possible that different experiences would lead to Con: Kant says that conceptual schemes are universal and therefor trans-cultural, however, Whorf gives the example of the Hopi tribe with such a contrasting conception of time that it is untranslatable into our own.Con: there is debate over exactly which conceptual schemes are actually necessary to coherently interpret sense experience, no way of really testing if they are necessary or sufficient, and we can often conceive of perception without some of them such as causality and space. COUNTER just because we can concieve of something doesn't necessarily mean its true or possible

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