After researching Locke’s ideas and how they ultimately derive from experience, as well as examining his account of the origin of the idea of God, it is evident that Descartes’ alternative source of our idea of God challenges and contradicts Locke’s account. Locke states, “Experience is the source of all our ideas” (366b). On the other hand, Descartes says the following about God: ” God a certain substance that is infinite, independent supremely intelligent and superbly powerful… ” (51b).
Following these concrete thoughts by these philosophers, one is able to compare these philosophers’ ideas side by side thus creating an analysis. Locke’s beliefs about the origin of the idea of God are ultimately supported by the idea that humans have their own unique experiences, which ultimately make up who they are, and from these experiences, which forms an individual’s morals, beliefs and opinions humans create their ideas and beliefs about god. Conversely, Descartes believes that the origin of the idea of God is more innate being self-ingrained in thought since the beginning.
Fundamentally, the two philosophers have conflicting views of the origin of the idea of God, as Locke believes experience strongly influences beliefs and ideas while Descartes believes that ideas are innate thus portraying experience as a non-existent factor. Locke defines an idea as “Whatever the mind perceives in itself or is the immediate object of perception thought or understanding, that I call idea” (333a; cf. 318b; 322b). In other words the idea concept is decided by what the mind can become aware of which causes recognition and understanding.
The fact that the mind has to be aware of something shows a strong reliance on perceptions, which can differ between persons showing the variety and complexity of ideas. Basically, Locke believes that no human being can experience everything and therefore, they cannot have all knowledge available. If they do not have certain experiences then they will not gain certain knowledge. These humans gain their ideas and knowledge from their own experiences. Locke also believes there are two main sources of all of human ideas. One of the sources is experience of simple sensation and reflection. “All ideas come from sensation or reflection.
Let us suppose then the mind to be, as we say, white paper [tabula rasa], void of all characters, without any ideas. How does it come to be furnished… To this I answer, in one word, from experience” states Locke (323a; cf 328b, 340b). Ideas come from sensations, which help build experiences by associating ideas with real life situations. Locke’s perception of the origin of our idea of God comes from experience. Locke’s second source of all our ideas is experiences of complex ideaforming operations of the mind: combining, comparing, contrasting, simple or complex ideas to form new complex ideas.
In theory, the second source of how ideas are formed explains how the mind can compare and contrast ideas and begin to form more complex ones. The equipment of reasoning and deduction shows depth that can be signaled to a few species. Locked introducing the fact “But as the mind wholly passive in the reception of all its simple ideas, so it exerts several acts of its simple ideas as the materials and foundations of the rest, the others are framed” (340b). Looking more in depth and within this quote, one can conclude that through intuition ideas surface and frame new ideas through drawing correlations between the two phenomena.
Locke continues to explain his theory for the origin of ideas by saying, “There are no simple ideas that do not arise in the experiences of sensation or in the minds self-observation, and there are no complex ideas that do not arise in the experiences of the mind’s operations” (323a). Interpreting Locke’s Theory of Ideas, the message that one cannot have simple ideas without having had an experience that leads to these ideas is expressed. Additionally, one cannot have any complex ideas unless one has experienced something, formed and idea based on it, and then compared and contrasted a number of ideas in order to reach a complex idea.
It follows modus tollens: if p then q, if not q then not p. Ultimately, in order to understand Locke and his theory about the origin of the idea of God, one needs to have a grasp on his fundamental belief that experience leads to the origin of ideas. This fundamentally idea expands as Locke claims that ideas specifically about God are not innate hence they can be natural. Then one can advance to the complex ideas about things like God based on comparing and contrasting the simple ideas already formed based on a person’s experience. Descartes, strongly disagrees with Locke’s belief that ideas come strictly from experience.
Descartes believes that humans are born with innate ideas. Thus, ideas about the origin of God are innate to human existence and are not later formed. The idea Descartes explains, “All that remains for me is to ask how | received this idea of God. For I did not draw it from the senses… nor was it made by me, for I plainly can subtract anything from it nor add anything to it. Thus she only option remaining is that this idea is innate in me, just as the idea of myself is innate in me” (Meditation 3, MP 53b). This presents two different ideas and explanations for the same subject.
Descartes continues by asking the question: “All that remains for me is to ask how | received this idea. ” After pondering how he has some believes that he cannot explain and concludes, he came to the conclusion that they must be innate, understood and ingrained in his thoughts because he is human. Descartes explains that he did not draw or receive the idea of God through his senses. Descartes also explains that the idea of God was not made for him. The experience of God existing was not made for Descartes but only contributes to the existence of God.
Descartes also states, “I plainly can subtract anything from it nor add anything to it. In theory this means that Descartes has absolutely nothing to do with adding or subtracting elements that can influence the source and the idea of God. Descartes differs with Locke in his idea. Descartes’s thesis is “This idea is innate in me, just as the idea of myself is innate in me” (Meditation 3, MP 53b) is starkly different than Locke’s thesis experience is the source of all our ideas. The two philosophers also strongly differ in their believe of substance, which is vital in explaining and making sense of their beliefs about the origin of ideas about God.
Introducing the idea of substance and how Descartes influences the knowledge of substance, consider this: “However, we cannot initially become aware of a substance merely through its being an existing thing since this alone does not to itself have any effect on us. We can, however easily come to know a substance by one its attributes, in virtue of the common notion that nothingness possesses no attributes, that is to say, no properties or qualities. Thus if we perceive the presence of some [property or quality], we can infer that there must also be present an existing thing or substance to which it may be attributed. (Old Handout, Principles 1/52).
Applying this quote to the idea of the origin of God basically states that we can become aware of God merely through God’s existence but this alone does not have any effect on us. We can also come to grips with God by one of God’s attributes. Descartes theory explains that the presence of a property or quality leads us to realization we can think that these properties or qualities can be present in God. Locke’s idea of substance is complex. The breakdown of his idea substance is something that supports regularly coinciding qualities.
Locke’s second worry is based of what experience do we get the idea of “support” or “inherence”? Locke also responds with sensible experiences of visible objects and relations and then plus abstraction. Apply this to the thought process of God, and Locke basically believes that the experiences that we have with God allow us the ideas and that support the complexity of our ideas. Overall, Locke’s theory of the origin of the idea of God is more defensible because of the idea that experiences are the source of all of our ideas. There are no ideas a person just happens to know. The only way a person can learn and grow is by having experiences.
For example, people who make mistakes in a certain situation often learn because of the mistake and can grow as a person because of it. This idea of learning from your mistakes is congruent to Locke’s idea that people learn things and ideas merely from experience. Descartes idea seems logical because he backs it up with concrete evidence, but it does not seem to accurately describe how people can learn about God and be aware of him and his existence. No man is just born with ideas or beliefs, they have to be taught to him and he must agree or disagree with what people tell him by using his previous knowledge of simple and complex ideas.
Thus Locke’s argument is more sound than Descartes’. People cannot have direct experiences using their visual sense that allows them to experience and see God and thus have an idea about him; therefore Locke’s idea seems invalid. People can use other sensations to gather information from experiences and create their ideas about the origin of God. Additionally, Descartes idea that people just have an innate idea about God does not make much practical sense either. Thus, people must rely on experiences and things they learn from others in order to have the idea of God.