Major Differences And Similarities Between John Locke And René Descartes

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Major Differences and Similarities between John Locke and René Descartes


The purpose of this essay is to analyze the major difference between the John Locke and Rene Descartes. The rivalry between rationalism and empiricism lies within Epistemology, the branch of philosophy devoted to studying the nature, sources and limits of knowledge.


René Descartes and John Locke, is a tale of two thinkers. As you will see, this dynamic duo made quite a splash in the waters of history and the ripples can still be seen today. Before I go any further I'm going to have to bore you with a couple of definitions which are rather important to our subject (Martha, 195).

Descartes is an enigma in some ways. Although he had a refreshing distaste for the voodoo logic of his day steeped as it was in the questionable science of the scholastic movement, when push came to shove he was equally capable of skewing his own thinking when confronted with the ingrained dogma of the church.

His philosophy and logic, called Cartesian was important because he substituted mechanical interpretations of physical phenomena for the vague spiritual concepts of previous thinkers (Kleiman, 150). At the same time he ended up with elaborate and convoluted explanations of a number of physical phenomena which were just plain wrong.

For instance, although he had at first been inclined to accept the Copernican theory of the universe with its concept of a system of spinning planets revolving around the sun, he abandoned this theory when it was called a heresy by the Roman Catholic Church (Martha, 195). Instead he came up with a theory of vortices in space, whirling about the sun all bathed in an invisible "fluid" he called ether.

Also despite his mechanistic outlook, he accepted the traditional religious doctrine of the immortality of the soul maintaining that ...
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