The mind as a ‘tabula rasa’
This piece of writing was part of a set of short answer questions and is therefore quite short and doesn’t go too deep into the content.
John Locke believed that the elements of thought and understanding all derive from perceptual experience, through sense perception and mental reflection. Ideas and representations of the world are imprinted on the mind through ones experiences and reflection on their inner mental states. It is for this reason that Locke see’s the mind as a ‘tabula rasa’ – the mind begins as a blank sheet, and gains ideas and understanding through life experiences and reflection. Locke argues that if there were innate ideas, we would expect children and the mentally impaired to show a capacity for them without the need of experience and reflection, which Locke claims we do not. This point has been challenged since the incarnation of Locke’s comparison of the mind as a ‘tabula rasa’
If the mind were like a ‘tabula rasa’, one would expect a newborn baby to have basically no thought or understanding without sufficient experience or reflection on inner mental states. Assuming that this is the case, then why is it that modern science has proven that human beings are in fact born with innate thoughts and ideas (face recognition, motor capacities, linguistic capacity) – suggesting that the mind is not like a ‘tabula rasa’, ideas do not need to come from experience or reflection.