The Acquisition of Knowledge

Essay by NeekitaDesaiUniversity, Bachelor'sA, November 2006

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The use of philosophy allows the individual to answer questions about life that, at first glance, seem too difficult to understand completely. Furthermore, it allows the individual to understand the way in which he gathers knowledge. Two fundamental qualities differentiate humans from other beings: the ability to reason and, thereby, acquire knowledge about the world. There are many conflicting opinions on how we gather knowledge. These two abilities are the result of a process that Rene Descartes and John Locke have attempted to express via theories. In the following paper, I will discuss the ideas of Rene Descartes, a Rationalist, and John Locke, an Empiricist, as they relate to the ideas of rationalization and the acquisition of knowledge

Descartes, an individual who is highly skeptical of the firmness and permanence of his former beliefs, approaches knowledge with a rationalistic view. He believes that truth must always be perceived as truth because the world that we see is, indeed, the real world--not the a world created by representations.

Furthermore, he claims that all beliefs gathered through the senses are subject to change because senses can be deceptive. However, he believes that the idea which arises from, and is based on, the utilization of the mind alone must be acceptable knowledge. He believes that "thought is an attribute that belongs to me; it alone cannot be separated from me. I am. I exist, that is certain." (Descartes 23) Hence, he accepts all rational concepts as knowledge on the basis of mental premises alone.

In his work, Meditations, Descartes describes his 'method of doubt'. Using this method, Descartes begins by distrusting his senses and states that all knowledge gained from sensory perception should be doubted. He feels that he cannot trust the ideas that he perceives to be true, from his...