Locke's Critique of Innatism

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This chapter clarifies the different varieties of dispositional nativism (DN) that John Locke addresses. In the light of this clarification, the chapter then identifies the basic structure of Locke's arguments and assesses their strengths and weaknesses. It points out that Locke's polemic fails to undermine nativism. The chapter analyzes Locke's reasoning for dismissing nativism in its cognitive form. It explains Locke's arguments against the postulation of innate ideas. The chapter examines three problems with Locke's argumentative strategy. In light of the three problems, the chapter concludes that Locke's attack on non-cognitive dispositional nativism (NCDN) fails because it either establishes that nativism and empiricism are indistinguishable but it has the undesired effect of collapsing empiricism into nativism; it fails to establish that empiricism and nativism are indistiguishable and, hence, Locke's polemical strategy is undermined. Consequently, Locke's arguments neither undermine nativism nor shift the burden of proof on the nativists' shoulders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationA Companion to Locke
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9781118328705
ISBN (Print)9781405178150
StatePublished - Oct 21 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Arts and Humanities(all)


  • Dispositional nativism
  • John Locke's critique of innatism
  • Locke's empiricism
  • Non-cognitive dispositional nativism

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    De Rosa, R. (2015). Locke's Critique of Innatism. In A Companion to Locke (pp. 157-174). Wiley-Blackwell. https://doi.org/10.1002/9781118328705.ch8