Everything You Need to Know about John Locke’s Blank State Concept

Have you thought about how we come by to have views and perceptions in our lives? Have you wondered how you were before you started having thoughts, opinions, and perceptions? Well, John Locke, a British philosopher, did and he propounded the blank state concept. Otherwise known as Tabula Rasa, this theory refers to the idea that people are born with a clear mind. That is, they are born without inbuilt intellectual content. Thus, all the knowledge they profess to have or they profess to know comes from experience or perception. Just like other philosophical concepts, this concept has come under attack many times. Critics do not believe or support John Locke’s theory. Nevertheless, his theory has become one that is well studied in schools. If you give us just a few minutes of your time, let us tell summarily tell you everything you need to know about John Locke’s blank state concept.

The origin of Tabula Rasa

Every word has an origin. Most words are derived from other words. In this case, Tabula Rasa is simply a Latin phrase that originated from the Roman tabula they used for notes. This tabula was typically made blank by heating wax and then smoothing it, so the mixture becomes smooth. Because the trend was to translate all things Latin into English, the closest phrase the English people could get for this was “blank slate.” A blank state refers to how empty a slate is before it is written on with chalk. However, you can refresh the slate by erasing the chalk. This is precisely how John Locke’s Tabula Rasa became known as “blank state” concept.

The history of John Locke’s blank state of mind concept

The blank state of mind concept is actually predicated on Aristotle’s writings. Aristotle talked about the notion of the tablet that is not written on at all. Later on, in the years to come, the concept of an unscripted tablet was developed by Ibn Sina, an Islamic philosopher who was known in other parts of the world as “Avicenna.” Ibn Sina took the position that the human brain is like the tabula rasa at birth. It is later than knowledge is gotten through education. Another philosopher Ibn Tufail demonstrated the concept in one of his novels. He narrated how the mind of a child in a blank state develops to adulthood. As you can see, many philosophers were quite aware of the blank state of mind theory before John Locke wrote extensively and postulated his theory about it.

Primary Things You Need to Know about John Locke’s Blank State of Mind Concept

We just had to lecture you briefly on the history of the concept before telling you primary things about John Locke’s theory. After seeing that other philosophers had the idea but didn’t develop it, John Locke decided to. He wrote a book titled “An Essay Concerning Human Understanding.” The essay was divided into four books with the first three laying foundation for the last book. It is in these books that the theory is discussed extensively. Without further ado, here are some essential things you should note:

  • The mind is blank right from birth: Imagine a mind with nothing in it. No thoughts of the present. No thoughts of the future. Simply an empty mind. This is what John Locke stated happens to us right from birth. We simply have no thoughts at all. So, if a wrong is done to us as a baby, how would we know it’s a wrong? We have no yardstick to decide that at all.
  • The mind in unable to process data: Since the mind is blank right from birth, how would it process information? Thus, another thing you should be aware of is the fact that the mind cannot process data whether at birth or any time before information is impressed upon the mind. Once information is impressed upon the mind, it can successfully and adequately handle any data and arrive at any conclusion.
  • Sensory experiences are responsible for how we think: In case you have forgotten, let us refresh your mind briefly on the sense we have as humans. We have the touch, taste, sight, hearing and feeling senses. These senses are what guide us in our daily lives. According to John Locke, the senses are responsible for how we think. For instance, if you witness someone killing, that information is impressed upon you through your sight sense. How you think about the scenario will depend on what your other senses have experienced. Thus, the senses work hand in hand to arrive at an informed decision.
  • Ever individual has the freedom to author their lives: Based on the John Locke’s theory, he postulated that every man or woman has the right to decide the course of their lives. Their decisions are based solely on them alone. No one is responsible for their decisions. Thus, they can choose to make the right choice or the wrong choice. The most important thing is that they have a choice even if it is as a result of what has been impressed on their minds.
  • The blank state of mind concept gave birth to the doctrine of “natural rights”: Most times, philosophical concepts are intertwined. In this case, the idea that everybody is entitled to choose what they believe and how they act gave birth to natural rights. Thus, he believes that there are some peculiar rights everybody has which is not conferred by law or by any deity. Humans just have them merely because they are living beings and the rights are natural.

Bottom Line

John Locke’s blank state concept is a remarkable phenomenon which expands the concept other philosophers briefly mentioned in their thesis. Reading about this idea can open your mind to a lot of things, including how our mental state is from the time of our birth till adulthood. Honestly, it would do you a world of good to do more research about tabula rasa. You might even discover an idea we didn’t know about.

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