The argument of empiricism versus rationalism, in other words one can draw on the thoughts and theories of Locke in opposition to the beliefs of Descartes. The argument between empiricism and rationalism can be broken down to the simple form of Lockeâ€™s imperialism being that all knowledge derives from the senses, against Descartesâ€™ belief that information can be known in advance of experience through innate ideas. .
Locke is considered to be the founder of British empiricism, while Descartes is considered to be the father of modern philosophy. They both have two distinct epistemic systems that all address the idea of knowledge and what it is.
Locke defined knowledge as "the perception of the connection and agreement, or disagreement and repugnancy, of any of our ideas". The ideas are therefore derived from our sensors that act as receptors to a given stimulus. Locke stated that the senses are the most important factor in the learning process and therefore contribute greatly toward knowledge, as the basis of his theory of perception. Unlike Descartes, Locke claimed that innate ideas were practically non-existent. He argued that we (humans) are not constituted so that we can know all, but are born with enough basic knowledge to enable us to avoid pain and seek pleasure. Locke wrote his essay concerning human understanding in 1690 offering the renowned metaphor comparing the mind to lank slate on which experience writes. This statement clearly and concisely describes his belief that human understanding ultimately derives from experiences that are perceived through the senses, not through some kind of predetermined reaction. â€œNo manâ€™s knowledge here can go beyond his experience.â€ Locke felt that the senses, as receptors, first supply us with particular ideas or images from a stimulus, which the mind by degrees becomes familiar with, remembers, and names. Through this process these ideas then become experiences, which are thereafter available to us as memories, which the brain can then consult and use to aid learning and contribute to knowledge.