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DISCUSSION TOPIC
The Blank SLATE
In this discussion, you are comparing two different views on human nature, in particular the controversy as to whether our natures are innate or shaped by our environments.
In his book The Blank Slate, Stephen Pinker argues that “every society must operate with a theory of human nature” and that “our intellectual mainstream is committed” to the notion of the blank slate. (Pinker, 2002). How and why has this preference for the blank slate come about and what social and political factors are involved in its continuing promotion?
An early argument for innate structures in the mind comes from the Plato/Socrates.
In “Phaedo” Plato creates a dialogue, with Socrates as the primary spokesperson, that speaks against the conception of the human mind as initially empty, waiting to be filled only from experiences. The Phaedo argues that when we learn something, we are recollecting the knowledge we gained before we were born. In contrast, John Locke take the position that the human mind is a blank slate (tabula rasa) and that we gain all knowledge through sense experience.
Phaedo recounts the last day of Socrates’ life, specifically a conversation in which Socrates explains to his friends why, as a philosopher, he is not afraid to die. The dialogue covers a lot of material related to the immortality of the soul, which is not directly relevant to this course. Therefore, you will read a selection of the dialogue in which Socrates discusses the nature of knowledge. Socrates argues that when we learn something, what is really happening is that we are reminded of something we learned before we were born. That is, for Socrates, learning is not a matter of information or data being impressed on a blank mind, but rather the knowledge already lies dormant within the person, waiting to be activated. So, learning something is remembering what we once knew (before birth) but forgot. This argument (that knowledge is recollection) fits into the larger dialogue because it is one of four arguments Socrates makes for the immortality of the soul.
Compare and evaluate these two positions by first clearly stating the essential points of the philosophical positions of Plato/Socrates and John Locke, and then explain which theory you find more compelling. Support your evaluation with reason, logic, and evidence. The video clip by Steven Pinker outlines the debate.
Please post a response, and remember to respond to two other people’s postings.
Please Note: Each discussion response must have a minimum of 125 words, spell checked, well written and citing references in support of arguments. Be sure to also respond to at least two classmates later in the week (making for a minimum of three posts total. More are encouraged)
References
Pinker, S. (2002). The blank slate: The modern denial of human nature. New York: Viking Press.
Steven Pinker. (2008). Human nature and the blank slate. TED Talks. [video; 24:08]
FIRST DISCUSSION POST
John Locke philosophical positions on human nature and the blank slate is that, the mind is a tabula rasa or blank sheet until it experience forms of sensation and reflection that provide the basic materials and simple ideas, out of which most of our more complex knowledge is constructed. (Uzgalis, 2022).
On the other hand, Socrates position is that the soul is an immortal being, and having been born again many times, and having seen all things that exist, whether in this world or in the world below, has knowledge of them all. Socrates belief that the soul has learned all things and is able to remember things; that there is no difficulty as all enquiries and all learning are a form of recollection (Sophia Project, 2022).
I found John Locke’s theory more compelling that we gain all knowledge through sense experiences . Yet, on the other hand sometimes it is evident how kids at a young age expresses high level of intelligence, skills, talents etc. that might make one say, “they were born with that”.
Reference
Uzgalis, William, “John Locke”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2022 Edition), Edward N. Zalta & Uri Nodelman (eds.), URL = https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2022/entries/locke/

http://www.sophia-project.org/uploads/1/3/9/5/13955288/plato_meno1.pdf
SECOND DISCUSSION POST
Plato and John Locke had differing views on learning. Plato believed that we had immortal souls, and that anything we learn during our lives is simply just relearned or being reminded of things we have already learned in past lives. John Locke believed that everyone started with a blank slate, or as he called it, the tabula rasa. The only way in which these two positions are similar is that we both have to either learn everything for the first time according to John Locke, or we must remember everything and that we do not actually remember what we learned from our past lives, so it is essentially similar to that of a blank slate. These positions are more different than similar in my opinion, however. One is saying that we are a complete blank and brand new, and the other is arguing that our souls are not blank, only our bodies forget. While on paper it sounds essentially the same, the logic behind both positions are extremely different.
I would have to believe that John Locke’s position is more compelling. While it is nice to believe that the soul is immortal, there are other flaws in Plato’s theories. One is that not everything we learn could be something we knew in a past life. For example, science is advancing every day, and there is no way that people could have known about new discoveries in the past, so new learning must be possible. There is also no evidence at the moment of people having immortal souls, as nice as that may sound to some. It just makes more sense that learning is due to babies being born as a blank slate, and not related to re-remembering things from the past.
References
Steven Pinker. (2008). Human nature and the blank slate. TED Talks. [video; 24:08]
Encyclopædia Britannica, inc. (n.d.). Tabula Rasa. Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved November 3, 2022, from https://www.britannica.com/topic/tabula-rasa
NOTE FROM THE CLIENT
IN THE ORDER I SENT FIRST THE DISCUSSION AND THE DISCUSSION POST 1, DISCUSSION POST 2. PLEASE JUST REPLY TO THE 2 DISCUSSION POSTS SEPARATELY, AND IDENTIFY EACH OF THEM. THANK YOU.

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