It was statesman-philosopher Francis Bacon who, early in the
seventeenth century, first strongly established the claims of
Empiricism - the reliance on the experience of the senses - over
those speculation or deduction in the pursuit of knowledge.
John Locke in his Essay Concerning Human Understanding
restated the importance of the experience of the senses over
speculation and sets out the case that the human mind at birth is
a complete, but receptive, blank slate ( scraped tablet or tabula rasa ) upon which experience imprints
Locke argued that people acquire knowledge
from the information about the objects in the world that our senses bring. People begin with
simple ideas and then combine them into more complex ones.
Let us then suppose the mind to be, as we say, white paper void of all characters, without
any ideas. How comes it to be furnished? Whence comes it by that vast store which the busy and boundless
fancy of man has painted on it with an almost endless variety? Whence has it all the materials of reason and knowledge?
To this I answer, in one word, from EXPERIENCE.
Essay Concerning Human Understanding : Hernnstein & Murray, 1994, p.311
Locke definitely did not believe in powers of
intuition or that the human mind is invested with innate
In his Some Thoughts Concerning Education
(1697), Locke recommended practical learning to prepare people to manage their social, economic,
and political affairs efficiently. He believed that a sound education began in early childhood and
insisted that the teaching of reading, writing, and arithmetic be gradual and cumulative.
In our own times the social and psychological sciences tend to take the view that Human Beings
are 'formed' socially and psychologically by nature as well as by nurture and that there are inherited traits
that society can build on and to some extent modify.