Search Results for Locke
John Locke (1632-1704) was a British philosopher who had a profound influence on the school of empiricism.
Locke believed the human infant enters the world with a tabula rasa (i.e. a blank slate). Accordingly, we inherit nothing more than physical characteristics and a basic sense of goodness. This makes the mind free and equal among different individuals.
Although this may seem somewhat speculative today, Locke, himself, argued against abstract speculation in favor of recognizing the limits of knowledge through direct experience.
For Locke, we can only know about an object’s “primary qualities” of size, shape and motion. These qualities exist independently of perception. We can never know anything about an object’s “secondary qualities” of color, taste, smell, warmth, texture and sound because these are products of the object’s interaction with our senses–i.e. qualities that don’t inhere to the object itself.
Locke’s pragmatism didn’t close him off to the possibility of God’s existence. In his Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690) he argued for the “reasonableness” of the idea of God.
- Lévi-Strauss, Claude (earthpages.wordpress.com)
- New ‘Lost’ Promo Photo Turns Locke Into Jesus (buddytv.com)
- Lost WTF Moment of the Week: Where You Goin’, John Locke? [Clips] (gawker.com)
- ‘Lost’ Recap: Locke Recruits a New Jacob (buddytv.com)
- Semiotics (kosmix.com)
- Paul Vallely: The referees’ strike? I blame John Locke (independent.co.uk)
- The Voice Mails of Charles Habermann, the Man Accused of Threatening to Kill Congressman Jim McDermott (slog.thestranger.com)
- Threats to the north (ridenbaugh.com)
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- How GOP Fascism Screwed Texas (current.com)
George Berkeley (1685-1753) was the Anglican Dean of Derry (1724), bishop of Cloyne (1734) and an important philosopher belonging to the school of idealism. Born in Ireland, Berkeley moved to Oxford in 1752 and became one of the so-called British empiricists.
Berkeley believed that the material world exists as an idea created in our minds, ultimately by God. In his New theory of Vision (1709), he argued that our sense of distance isn’t directly perceived but inferred from the repeated association of visual and tactile cues. All of existence, itself, is a group of interacting minds, connecting with archetypes, which themselves derive from God.
He uttered the famous line, perhaps adapted from Shakespeare,
To be is to be perceived or a perceiver.
This means that existence is either a mind or stimuli in a mind.
One way that Berkeley tried to support his view was to note that the idea of heat – what the philosopher John Locke called a “secondary quality” – is somewhat relative. If one of our hands is cold and the other hot, and we place them into warm water, the one hand feels hot and the other cold. Anyone can do this little experiment and see that it’s true. However, Berkeley added that Locke’s so-called “primary qualities” (e.g. shape, quantity) were also dependent on a perceiving mind. Berkeley, in fact, challenged the entire distinction between primary and secondary qualities, as elaborated upon at Wikipedia:
Berkeley maintains that the ideas created by sensations are all that people can know for sure. As a result, what is perceived as real consists only of ideas in the mind. The crux of his argument is that once an object is stripped of all its secondary qualities, it becomes very problematic to assign any acceptable meaning to the idea that there is some object. Not that we can’t picture to ourselves (in our minds) that some object exists apart from any perceiver—we clearly think we can do this—but rather, can we give any content to this idea in any particular case?¹
A slightly different take on the belief that the material world doesn’t exist independent of the mind has been popularized in many books reporting recent discoveries in sub-atomic physics, such as Gary Zukav’s The Dancing Wu Li Masters and Fritzoff Capra’s The Turning Point.
- Influential Figures in My Life: Locke, Berkeley and Hume (jonathanhockey.wordpress.com)
- A View From Here (o50328b.wordpress.com)
- Behaviorism (earthpages.wordpress.com)
- The Mess of Me at the Moment (brittavalentin.wordpress.com)
- Part 9: Beyond Atheism – A History of Western Philosophy (coppellpianoshop.wordpress.com)
- Matter and Mind (middlepane.com)
- Rewrite Your Life (barbarasreality.wordpress.com)
Behaviorism is a psychological theory that sees mankind as operating more like a machine than as a free agent. Its modern form arose in reaction to so-called armchair philosophers, depth psychologists and alleged mystics who tried to understand human motivation in terms of what went on inside the mind or soul. For behaviorists, what really counts is what we can directly observe—in a word, behavior.
This approach is traceable to thinkers like Thomas Hobbes, John Locke David Hume, George Berkeley and David Hartley. Hobbes viewed man as a natural and social creature, while the others stressed the importance of the association of ideas.
In 1739, the so-called British empiricist philosopher David Hume wrote in A Treatise of Human Nature:
The qualities, from which…association arises, and by which the mind is after this manner conveyed from one idea to another, are three, viz. resemblance, contiguity in time or place, and cause and effect.¹
Most will say that the scientific study of behaviorism begins with the Russian, Ivan Pavlov (1849-1936), who conditioned dogs to salivate not just at the sight of food but also at the sound of a bell that preceded feeding.
The American psychologist J. B. Watson (1878-1958) generalized these findings to human beings, emphasizing the importance of recency and frequency. This means that if we’ve smiled every time we’ve seen a child for the past ten years, we’re very likely to smile if we see a child today. The American B. F. Skinner (1904-1990) extended this system to include the idea of positive and negative reinforcement.
Pavlov’s type of learning is usually called classical conditioning, while Skinner’s is called operant conditioning. Skinner soon became the most popular advocate of behaviorism. He argues that past reinforcements determine behavior. We learn to repeat or decline behaviors based on their consequences. This is called the Stimulus-Response-Reinforcement (S-R-R) model.
Skinner also formulated the idea of shaping. By controlling the environmental rewards and punishments for behaviors, one is able to shape behavior. Psychologist also call this behavior modification.
Critics of behaviorism say it depicts a soulless, mechanistic view of mankind. Instead of resembling a pleasure-seeking machine, critics say that human beings are uniquely free, replete with emotional, intuitive, intellectual and spiritual concerns extending well beyond the narrow confines of reward and punishment.
Daniel Dennett contends that human beings are Skinnerian, Popperian and also Darwinian creatures. This means that we learn from stimulus, response and reinforcement but we also have the inner ability to test our hypotheses prior to enacting them in the real world.
This challenges Skinner’s anti-mentalism, as does Dennett’s Darwinian component. According to Dennett we act partially in accord with ancestrally acquired knowledge. A good example of this can be found in our capacity for language. Because of our language skills, many believe that human beings are hard-wired to learn languages. And we do, in fact, learn language if we’re raised in the right kind of environment, whereas a child parented by wolves in the wild won’t learn how to speak a language.²
¹ David Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature London: Collins, 1962 , p. 54.
² Wittgenstein’s notion of a private language might seem to challenge this idea. But Wittgenstein, himself, argues that any kind of representation that isn’t socially shared cannot truly be language. More recently, the postmodern notion of connotation complicates this claim. Some postmoderns ask: If everyone understands signs differently, are we really communicating?
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- Ep 191: What Was B. F. Skinner Really Like? (thepsychfiles.com)
- Positive Reinforcement and the General Public (ayahska.wordpress.com)
- New Textbook! Behavior Analysis and Learning, 5th Edition (psypress.com)
- 4 Fantastic Thinkers Who Helped to Shape Psychology (whatispsychology.biz)
- David Hume: Reason is Dead(ness) (pathtothepossible.wordpress.com)
- Artificial Artificial Intelligence (smashingboxes.com)
- “Networked Minds” Require A Fundamentally New Kind of Economics (videolectures.net)
- B.F. Skinner: The Man Who Taught Pigeons to Play Ping-Pong and Rats to Pull Levers (blogs.smithsonianmag.com)
- Behaviorism 101 (ronnekafrasergreen.wordpress.com)
Deism is the belief, as exemplified by John Locke, in the reasonableness of Christianity. This belief arose in defense of the idea of God in the face of Newtonian physics.
Deism believes in a creator God while also accepting the importance of natural laws and dismissing the need for organized religion. Also, Deism downplays the element of the miraculous and the idea of divine intervention through grace and spiritual powers within God’s orderly creation.
The theological term “Deist” (a believer in God but not in institutionalized religion) emerged in 17th and 18th century England and France, and is also known as ‘natural religion.’ Most consider the writer Voltaire to be a Deist. And he encyclopedist Diderot characteristically said a Deist is someone who has not lived long enough to become an atheist.
- Pagan Deism: Three Views (the-pagan-perspective.com)
- Deism. Is It Just Polite Atheism? (academyhaven.com)
- The Dangerous Fallacy of Ceremonial Deism (americanhumanist.org)
- Contesting the meaning of moralistic therapeutic deism (johnmeunier.wordpress.com)
- American History–The Hidden Faith Of The Founding Fathers–Deism and Freemasonry–Video (raymondpronk.wordpress.com)
- Mala Corbin on Ceremonial Deism and the Reasonable Religious Outsider (lawprofessors.typepad.com)
In the Buddhist sense enlightenment means achieving absolute spiritual realization through loss of the ego and, ultimately, one’s individuality. Once enlightened the Buddhist believes they’re no longer reborn and, and through the annihilation of any kind of individuality, even spiritual individuality, they apparently free themselves from suffering.
A spiritual meaning for the word enlightenment is not restricted to Buddhism, however. The Oxford English Dictionary tells us that, as far back as 1621, enlightenment has been used in Christianity to refer to the idea that God illuminates individual souls and that such souls are powerless to illuminate themselves with divine grace and understanding.
1621 R. Aylett Song of Songs i. iv. iv. 83 The Word, without the Spirits enlightenment, Is as good Seede sowne on vntilled ground.¹
In the historical sense the period of “The Enlightenment” refers to an 18th-century philosophical movement emerging out of the 17th-century Scientific Revolution, to include the works of Adam Smith, Locke, Hume and Newton. It advocated reason and education over what was regarded as superstition, blind faith and historically laden dogmas. So in this context, the word enlightenment has a totally different meaning than the quotation above.
1836 N. Amer. Rev. July 176 When he [sc. Tieck] made his first appearance, it was, under the banner of Nicolai, as one of the Berlin advocates of enlightenment and reason, and enemies of superstition and mysticism.²
The Enlightenment championed the idea of “progress” as a challenge to entrenched forms of Christianity; however the idea of progress, and all the unspoken connotations that go with it, is now questioned by many. In France the Enlightenment produced the first great encyclopedias of Diderot and d’Alembert, with contributions from leading figures like Voltaire, Montesquieu, Condorcet and Rousseau.
In the Western contemporary sense enlightenment means a novel thought, a new way of looking at things, insight or the dispelling of ignorance.
¹ OED third edition, November 2010; online version March 2012. <http://www.oed.com.ezproxy.torontopubliclibrary.ca/view/Entry/62448>; accessed 01 May 2012. An entry for this word was first included in New English Dictionary, 1891.
In psychoanalysis, isolation is a defense mechanism developed by Sigmund Freud (and later by Anna Freud) in which a painful or traumatic memory and its associations are separated from the rest of conscious experience.
With isolation, memory is not repressed but the emotive content and associated feeling tones are severed or weakened almost to the point of non-existence. Related thinking, feeling and outward activity are essentially blocked for a period after having recalled the painful event.
This artificial stripping of the affective component from memory could occur, for instance, with victims of sexual abuse, rape or natural catastrophes.
- Psychoanalysis Encyclopedia: Isolation (enotes.com)
- Sigmund Freud (iiteeeestudents.wordpress.com)
- Sigmund Freud Timeline Important Dates in the Life and Career of Sigmund Freud (iiteeeestudents.wordpress.com)
- Id (earthpages.wordpress.com)
- Kabbalah: The Mystical Origin of Psychoanalysis (blogcritics.org)
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- Introjection (earthpages.wordpress.com)
- First Mention: Sigmund Freud, 1909 (nytimes.com)
- What is the specialized of sigmund freud (wiki.answers.com)
- Sabina’s Saga (Part 1) (drvitelli.typepad.com)
Claude Lévi-Strauss (1908- ) was a Brussels-born French social anthropologist who was influenced by the pioneering sociologist, Emile Durkheim.
Levi-Strauss studied the kinship, ritual and myths of so-called primitive societies from the perspective of structuralism. He observed that the human mind uses language to classify cultural objects. And he believed that it does this in a series of binary classifications (e.g. black vs. white, hot vs. cold, raw vs. cooked, dead vs. alive).
All objects are understood in relation to other objects. For Lévi-Strauss this way of understanding outer reality mirrors fundamental structures within the the human mind.
Lévi-Strauss generalized a theory, one originally based on specific groups, to try to explain universal cultural patterns. This theory suggested that the so-called savage and civilized mind were essentially the same.
During his intellectual development he also asked whether the tendency to structure the environment came from inside (i.e. inherited brain structures) or outside (i.e. arbitrary social and cultural structures).
In contrast to John Locke’s tabula rasa, Lévi-Strauss came to see the external environment as an object classified according to innate mental structures. Lévi-Strauss believed that Freud’s theories contributed to a structuralist perspective because Freud tried to explain human history and psychology according to underlying laws.
In The Raw and the Cooked (1966) Lévi-Strauss suggests that music behaves like a mythology because both “appeal to mental structures that the different listeners have in common.”
His Mythologiques (1964-72) forwards the notion that a systematic order lies behind all forms of cultural expression. He has been critiqued for generalizing his own way of structuring data onto others. Also, contemporary psychiatry notes that individuals brains can differ significantly by the degree of differentiation for a given area or areas of the brain. Einstein, for instance, apparently had an unusually high degree of differentiation in the areas associated with abstract thinking.
So although Lévi-Strauss’ structuralist theories may be attractive to some who wish to simplify our complex world to simple binary oppositions, they’re really yesterday’s news, at best.
- Claude Lévi-Strauss by Patrick Wilcken – review (guardian.co.uk)
- Claude Lévi-Strauss: The Poet in the Laboratory, By Patrick Wilcken (independent.co.uk)
- The Structuralist (3quarksdaily.com)
- “This thing of dorkness” (jennydavidson.blogspot.com)
- Claude Lévi-Strauss: the Poet in the Laboratory (newstatesman.com)
- Lévi-Bruhl, Lucien (earthpages.wordpress.com)
- The Innovation Totem (paul.kedrosky.com)
- the elements of human (3quarksdaily.com)
- This is not an object (doorsofperception.com)
- Myth (earthpages.wordpress.com)
The so-called “particle-wave duality” refers to the apparent contradiction that arises when we try to understand the nature of light.
Light may be understood as a wave phenomenon (i.e. energy) or as matter (i.e. a particle), depending on the experimental conditions under which we observe it.
Philosophers of science say the duality is bound up in the way we use language. And the conflict might be reconciled if we consider what language is and does.
Language, they say, not only describes but also informs our understanding of things spoken and written about. In short, our descriptions of the world around (and within) us shape our worldview.
Consider the moon, for instance. To an Apollo astronaut it might be taken as something to walk on. For an ancient Roman citizen believing in the state religion of old Rome, the moon might be seen as a somewhat mysterious place where the goddess Luna resides.
In ancient Iran, the moon was believed to be “The Great Man” who incarnates on Earth from time to time. And in the fairly recent past, the moon was whimsically said to be made of blue cheese.
In each of these cases, the words and the semantic context within which they’re placed shape the understanding of the thing described.
Although we might overcome the particle-wave duality by maintaining that it’s informed by current modes of describing and categorizing reality, this still doesn’t tell us much about the actual essence of light, energy and matter–or even if these observable phenomena have a ‘true essence.’
At some point language becomes inadequate. And many believe that sciences which use a symbol system, such as mathematics and physics, are equally as imperfect and incomplete to the task of describing reality.
Along these lines, the holistic thinker Peter Russell suggests that we should not confuse the map (i.e. scientific concepts and theories) with the thing mapped (i.e. supposed fundamental aspects of the universe).
The debate around describing and the described gets complicated, however. Some maintain that language is, in fact, adequate and is an integral part of reality. But this argument falls short when we consider how meanings have changed and continue to change throughout human history.
In Scandinavian myth, Ragnarok is a terrible final battle in which gods, mankind and all creation perish.
According to the story, Ragnarok will be preceded by a period of lawless anarchy and followed by the descendents of Lif and Lifthrasir, the only two survivors of the catastrophic war.
The tale is found in two main sources. The Poetic Edda was written in the 13th century, being a compilation of existing poetry. Also in the 13th century the noted historian, writer and statesman Snorri Sturluson wrote a Prose Edda, which makes frequent reference to the Poetic Edda.
The story is by no means a dead one, locked in the past. It’s been influential to contemporary video games, film and Marvel comics has repeatedly adapted the Ragnarok cycle in The Mighty Thor¹ and subsequent Thor comics.
1970s channeler who wrote the popular Seth Books and several less commercially successful fiction novels before the idea of channeling became a New Age publishing sensation.
Roberts allegedly went into a trance and channeled a spirit entity called ‘Seth’ while her husband Robert Butts transcribed the sessions.
At times Roberts, herself, wondered whether it was just her unconscious speaking but most of the time she writes as if Seth were a separate entity.
Regardless of Seth’s true nature, the worldview advanced by the Seth character is noteworthy.
Seth’s cosmology (i.e. map of the universe) has intersecting parallel universes connecting among themselves backwards and forwards through time. The past and future of all parallel universes – to include our supposed parallel selves – interact with and have an effect on the present as perceived now.
As with other mystical traditions, Seth suggests that part of the self is located in the flesh while other aspects of mind and soul exist beyond the material plane.
The Seth model differs from the belief in reincarnation in three ways:
- Reincarnation stresses the effects of past lives on our present life, largely ignoring the possible influence of future selves on the present
- Seth advances the idea of interactive selves existing in parallel universes
- Not unlike Shakti Gawain, Seth highlights the importance of life in the present, whereas reincarnational theories tend to emphasize an escape from Samsara (the wheel of worldly rebirth)
Similarly, respected theorists like C. G. Jung view time, if perhaps not parallel universes, within a holistic framework. And the idea of parallel universes has gained some academic scrutiny through figures like Stephen Hawking and Michio Kaku.
As a final note, the belief in an interactive past, present and future is not necessarily equivalent to the theological idea that God knows the past, present and future. Many traditional theologians become uncomfortable with the idea, for instance, that the future could be seeping into or impinging on the present. They prefer to stick to the old idea that the future just doesn’t exist yet.
This traditional perspective, however, is challenged by the modern physics worldview that space and time are not absolute but rather, relative, multiple and interactive positions.
Perhaps it’s just too challenging for some people to think that far out of the box, and adhering to their cherished old religious and philosophical ideas gives them psychological comfort, much like a baby needs a breast or a bottle before it grows up enough to learn how to walk to the store to buy some milk.