Philosophy Lesson Twelve: Problems With Empiricism

Let’s criticize Empiricists! (it’s not very hard to do)


- The issue of simple and complex ideas
- The issue of skepticism
- The issue of ideas coming from personal experience

Simple and Complex Ideas

Simple ideas are ideas that supposedly can’t be broken down any further… such as crunchy. Crunchy is a description which has no further way to break it down. This theory was developed by a philosopher I’ve mentioned before, named Locke. Hume, another philosopher I’ve mentioned before argues that in order for there to be any conceptual thought, we must first have the sense impression for all of the aspects of our idea.

For example...


In order to understand/think up this photo we need to have a variety of sense impressions. Such as…

1. Color - blue, white, brown, grey, pink, black, red etc.

2. Human beings - We need to know what human beings are.

3. Elderly and youth - We need the sense impression of both elderly humans, and young ones, in order to place things in perspective.

4. Expression - In order to understand the facial expressions being made, we need to understand key concepts such as happiness, sadness etc. and how they relate to our faces.

5. Dimension - In order to understand distance, and relation, we need an understanding of dimension.

6. Texture - In order to be able to understand the feeling of things, we need to understand texture, the texture of the woman’s skirt, the babes skin, the necklace, the glass behind them.


Philosophy Lesson Eleven: Twentieth Century Empiricism

The 1930’s, in Vienna, was a cultural, artistic and Philosophical golden age. During this time, the world was full of positive and negative possibility, and in certain ways, humanity flourished. In this little city, a group which called themselves ‘The Vienna Circle’, created one of our more modern Philosophical theories, known today as ‘logical positivism’.

7236303-L portrait mw109205

The Vienna Circle was composed of many members, including Bertrand Russell, G.E. Moore, and Alfred Ayer. This group would meet and ponder regularly, and came out with many theories and ideas. The logical positivists agreed with Hume that any real fact can be experienced by the senses. If something is can be seen, it is possible. They believe that knowledge comes from observing the world.

They also agree that analytic truths are tautologous, yet do not regret them as worthless, and thus choose to view them as deductions made about the world.

The Verification Principle is the tests The Vienna Circle created, in order to decide if a statement is true or not. Anything true is deemed as meaningful. In order for something to be true, it must be verified by sense experience. Anything you, yourself don’t experience is meaningless…

Meaning god, emotions, and stories are irrelevant to existence.The effects of emotions can be seen tho, but other than that, they are invisible to the world.


Philosophy Lesson Six: Simple and Complex Ideas

Here’s a picture of the great philosopher John Locke: 1632-1704

Simple Ideas- Ideas that are devised from the senses, and based on your first impression of something. They are simple ideas fed to the brain, usually subconsciously. Colors, shapes, textures, sounds, and tastes. Locke is famous for arguing that you can’t break down a simple idea into any smaller of a category. Red is red, and round is round.

Simple ideas…
- Hot
- Salty
- Bright
- Pink
- Soft
- Round

Complex Ideas- Combinations of simple ideas that create a more complex vision. The more complex the idea, the more simple ideas there will

Complex ideas…
- A river
- A rug
- A car
- A harp
- A mermaid
- A kitten
- Sunglasses

Simple ideas are based off of one’s immediate impression of something, in contrast, complex ideas are built from simple ideas, to create the whole picture.

Small activity: Choose three complex items in the room you’re in, and break them down into simple ideas. See how much you can break them down.