• Mongrel
    3k
    Do you believe in such a thing as an innate idea? Or are ideas always built up from experience?

    Leibniz believed that principles of math are a clue. Though he granted that knowledge starts with the senses, he didn't believe that's enough. He pointed to the expectation one has that a principle is universally true. Instances of sensory experience can't account for that kind of expectation.
  • Thorongil
    3.2k
    Yes. Kant's categories, though boiled down to time, space, causality, and being an object for a subject.
  • Wosret
    3.2k
    Kant made pains to show that mathematical principles don't pan exactly well onto the world, but only roughly, and thus must be innate, or behind the scenes in some sense.
  • Mongrel
    3k
    So how does that play out in your metaphysics and general take on what you are.. what the universe is.. that sort of thing?
  • Mongrel
    3k
    I didn't know that. That would be an interesting argument. Why roughly?
  • darthbarracuda
    2.9k
    Wittgenstein disproved radical global skepticism by identifying "hinge" beliefs as those which are necessary for reasoning, including the reasoning involved in doubting reason itself. Whether these a priori beliefs are actually true is irrelevant, because we are not able to evaluate them without simultaneously using these beliefs.

    This is similar to Kant's idea of transcendental categories, which are necessary for rationality itself. You can't conceive of something without it being in space or time, or by not considering the quantity, etc.

    In any case, however, these hinge beliefs seem to work pretty well. Hinge beliefs, or beliefs in general, that are horribly off-base would probably not be very conducive to survival and would thus be selected against. But it also seems unlikely that we have 1:1 correspondence in our models of reality; indeed we only experience a fraction of what is actually "out there" in a model composed of an accretion of sensory experience.

    So neither are we born "tabula rasa" and neither do we have that Platonic "memory wipe" described in the Meno, but rather it seems that we have basic "rules" of learning that are required for any sort of inquiry at all.
  • Wosret
    3.2k


    Can't use geometry for carpentry unless you want to do a shit job. Can't infer lengths and widths because things aren't symmetrical.

    Space and time, obviously (Einstein clearly ripped off Kant for relativity of space and time, just externalizing Kant's insights about reason, he also has a suspiciously similar quote, and says that the secret to originality is knowing how to hide your sources... not well enough I fear.)

    Logic is all about timing, and intuition all about space. I can tell by looking at someone which they'll be better and which they'll be worse at. People that have no sense of time dilly dally, are indecisive, take fucking forever to do anything, and talk a lot.

    People that have no sense of space are least viscerally aware of their surroundings, stop right in front of people behind them on the sidewalk, or can't drive for shit and things... yeah... what were we walking about again?
  • Wayfarer
    7.7k
    I think John Locke's 'tabula rasa' is one of the unfortunate dogmas of the age. I have Steve Pinker's book on that topic and, aside from my disagreement with Pinker's materialism, I found it a pretty good book. Besides,what about the capacity for humans to learn languages, to learn how to count, and so on? And what about people born with precocious talent? What about archetypes?
  • Janus
    7.7k


    Insofar as language is learned and all ideas are expressed in learned languages it makes it seem as though all ideas are acquired by experience. I seem to remember that Kant made a distinction (and I think he was following Leibniz' own explicit statements in this) between ideas that are merely acquired by experience but cannot be confirmed or dis-confirmed by particular experiences and yet are self-evident by virtue of the general logic of experience itself, and ideas (in the form of beliefs and judgements) which may be confirmed or dis-confirmed by particular experiences.

    I take this to mean that some ideas are intuitively self-evident to us and so are not dependent on language per se, although they do require a language for their formulation. It is language which allows us to make explicit what would otherwise be merely implicit and would be reflected only in our behavior and dispositions.
  • Wayfarer
    7.7k
    Insofar as language is learned and all ideas are expressed in learned languages it makes it seem as though all ideas are acquired by experience — John

    But humans have an innate ability to learn language. They may not be born with a vocabulary, but unlike other primates, are born with the capacity for one. Is that an 'innate idea'? I don't know if is that, but it is hard to see how one could have ideas without it.

    As far as Kant is concerned, it is more that there are some necessary intuitions and intellectual functions, which are required to make sense of experience at all.

    Kant's crucial insight here is to argue that experience of a world as we have it is only possible if the mind provides a systematic structuring of its representations. This structuring is below the level of, or logically prior to, the mental representations that the Empiricists and Rationalists analyzed. Their epistemological and metaphysical theories could not adequately explain the sort of judgments or experience we have because they only considered the results of the mind's interaction with the world, not the nature of the mind's contribution. 1
  • Wosret
    3.2k
    Kant also knew what delusion does to you, so he wanted to empty the spirit world of content, but retain the mystery/wonder... all he did of course was change the game, rather than end it.
  • Bitter Crank
    7.9k
    How do "innate ideas" get into the brain? Genes? Genes organize the brain and with that organization we can learn language. Likewise certain rules about the world, like when you drop things they fall to the floor -- they don't rise to the ceiling, Babies seems to manifest possession of some of those rules -- let go of a regular balloon, it falls to the floor, baby is amused or curious. Let go of a helium filled balloon, it rises to the ceiling, and the baby is shocked! "What the fuck!" the baby says.

    If we have innate ideas, presumably we would all have them, why don't they just manifest themselves in adulthood? I seem to have to work for whatever ideas I have, they don't just pop up, Ideas occur to the prepared mind.

    John Tuzo Wilson, a geologist, proposed that the Hawaiian Islands were the result of the floor of the Pacific Ocean sliding over a volcanic hot spot (as were other island chains in the Pacific). The idea didn't occur to him out of the blue, like some innate idea suddenly floating to the surface. He and other geologists were trying to explain how earthquakes could slide blocks of landscape hundreds of miles--the way the San Andreas Fault (and other faults) have in California. At the time (in the 1940s) it was still believed that earthquakes only moved land up and down and what powered earthquakes was still a mystery. His theory was initially rejected, then denounced. In the late 1950s the research coming out of the International Geophysical Year (18 months, to be precise) revealed that the ocean floors were expanding, and that the floor moved away from the central rifts out of which new floor was produced.

    In short order, this led to the theory of continental drift (first, in the 1960s) and then plate tectonics in the 1970s. Was plate tectonics an innate idea? No, it was not. It was hard won theory based on a tremendous amount of field work and mapping over decades which eventually provided enough information to make sense of what was in plain site.

    Maybe some "innate kernels of ideas" are present -- like simple fairness, or simple physics -- things fall down, they don't fall up.
  • Janus
    7.7k


    I think Kant would assert that our ideas of space and time and the categories are a priori even if the language we use to formulate them is not. Maybe the logic (grammar) of languages is innate (and hence a priori) and isomorphic with the forms that experience takes or can take. I think for Kant the whole shebang interrelatedly arises out of the transcendental conditions of the 'in itself'.
  • Wayfarer
    7.7k
    People are no more a blank slate than is a new iPhone.

    Yes, I think Kant's critique of empiricism is conclusive.
  • Cavacava
    2.4k


    I think we construct all ideas or concepts. Space is both a concept and not a concept. The baby crawling around constructs its concept of space, which is not to say that it does not perceive objects in space. Space, as I think following Kant, is how we intuit what is around us. It is not on this basis a concept but rather our ability to perceive, and we cannot perceive without this ability. It is not conceptual in that sense, it is necessarily a part of the hardware we born with.

    Language enables us to conceptualize space, enables us to develop rational concepts to deal with what we perceptive in space. I think we are born with a lot of hardware, but none of it is conceptual from the get-go.
  • Harry Hindu
    2.1k
    Do you believe in such a thing as an innate idea? Or are ideas always built up from experience?

    Leibniz believed that principles of math are a clue. Though he granted that knowledge starts with the senses, he didn't believe that's enough. He pointed to the expectation one has that a principle is universally true. Instances of sensory experience can't account for that kind of expectation.
    Mongrel

    What is an idea?

    Every idea is composed of some sensory impression. We think in colors, shapes, sounds (language is just colored shapes and sounds), smells, tastes and tactile sensations. In order to have an idea, you must first had a sensory impression to compose that idea with.
  • wuliheron
    440
    Often when people ask my advice I tell them,

    When in trouble, when in doubt,
    Run in circles, scream and SHOUT!
    If that doesn't work keep trying to figure it out,
    Just laugh at the punch lines and the truth will come out.

    What that represents is the intrinsic memory centric systems logic that the cells of our bodies use to organize themselves. Whether you want to call it an innate "idea" just depends on how you define the word.
  • Barry Etheridge
    349


    And what sensory experience leads you to posit the square root of -1, pray tell!
  • tom
    1.5k
    And what sensory experience leads you to posit the square root of -1, pray tell!Barry Etheridge

    That is a good example, but then you could have picked just about any concept in science or mathematics.
  • Janus
    7.7k
    In order to have an idea, you must first had a sensory impression to compose that idea with.Harry Hindu

    Where did the idea of God come from then?
  • Wayfarer
    7.7k
    Personally I have always found the sensation of mathematics difficult.
  • Thorongil
    3.2k
    Well, it means I'm an enigma to myself, among other things, I suppose. Your question might benefit from greater specificity.
  • Harry Hindu
    2.1k
    And what sensory experience leads you to posit the square root of -1, pray tell!Barry Etheridge

    My sense of vision. Could you do math without visual symbols - like numbers? Math is just another form of language. Notice how you had to put up visual symbols just to declare a math problem. Try solving that problem without ever having seen these symbols, or taught how to solve it.
  • Harry Hindu
    2.1k
    Where did the idea of God come from then?John

    Primarily from our sense of vision. Our sense of vision provides us with the most information about the environment than any of our other senses. We are visual creatures and mostly visual thinkers. How could you ever arrive at the idea of God if you haven't first experienced a world for God to create to then declare that God exists? How does one transmit the idea of God if not through speech or pictures?
  • Harry Hindu
    2.1k
    That is a good example, but then you could have picked just about any concept in science or mathematics.tom
    Try doing either without any senses.
  • Wayfarer
    7.7k
    There have been notable blind mathematicians. In fact last time this came up, I think I discovered some notable deaf-mute mathematicians. But regardless, your depiction of what constitutes knowledge is so simplistic, that it is barely worth debating.
  • Janus
    7.7k


    But God is not visible to the eyes, and the thought of God is not a composite of elements taken from the visible world, so your assertion seems to contradict itself.
  • Harry Hindu
    2.1k
    There have been notable blind mathematicians. In fact last time this came up, I think I discovered some notable deaf-mute mathematicians. But regardless, your depiction of what constitutes knowledge is so simplistic, that it is barely worth debating.Wayfarer
    Are you saying that these blind and deaf mathematicians were born knowing mathematics, or were they taught it? If the latter then how did they learn it - if not by using their available senses? Braille and sign-language are just different forms of language using different symbols for different senses.

    Isn't making things more simple to goal rather than making it more complicated?
  • Harry Hindu
    2.1k
    But God is not visible to the eyes, and the thought of God is not a composite of elements taken from the visible world, so your assertion seems to contradict itself.John
    But the "effects" of God are visible to the eyes. The effect (like your existence) is what needs to be explained and your mind seeks explanations for virtually every thing experienced. Declaring God not to be visible to the eyes is just and assertion made by believers to make their God unassailable by science. I don't understand how anything that you know or think of isn't a composite of elements taken from the senses. If God isn't a composite of elements taken from the senses, then what is it and how do you know it even exists?
  • Wayfarer
    7.7k
    Are you saying that these blind and deaf mathematicians were born knowing mathematics, or were they taught it? — Harry Hindu

    They were taught it, but some of them were mathematical prodigies, i.e. they were able to grasp mathematical ideas with far greater ability than other people. How did they get that ability? Why are some people incredibly good at maths (like the movie, The Man who Knew Infinity about Ramanujan) and some, like me, very poor at it?

    Your idea seems to be: mind as mirror of the world, we have experiences through the senses, that builds up sense impressions which form the basis of ideas and knowledge. Is that about right? Obviously I am putting it very simpistically as this is a Forum and entries have to be reasonably short.

    That is very much like the 'representative realism' of the British empiricisists, like John Locke. So I'm not saying it's baseless. But that kind of empiricist realism is what Kant was criticizing in his great work, Critique of Pure Reason. He showed that whilst the mind is recieving impressions, it is not simply a blank slate or tabula rasa on which sensations leave imprints. The mind itself organises sensations and perceptions according to the whole table of judgements, intuitions, and the other intellectual faculties.

    So does that prove there are innate ideas? It depends on what is meant by an 'idea'. Certainly it doesn't mean we are born with language and theories and other abilities, but we have some innate capacities, which, for instance, other primates don't have.
  • Harry Hindu
    2.1k
    You're conflating the process of organizing sensations with the sensations themselves. You must have something to organize - sensory symbols. You must have some form to your thoughts an ideas that is different than the process itself of thinking - of manipulating those symbols for some purpose.

    I don't believe the mind to be a mirror of the world. Our minds are limited and skewed representations of the world.
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