Reason and Experience

We encounter the world through our senses; but does what we sense affect what we think? Isn’t it possible to conceive some things that I could never confront via sensation? How much do we contribute to the way the world appears to us in experience? Perhaps these guiding principles are not derived from, but known independently of, experience. If these principles are grasped a priori, then do they track the way the world is or just articulate the way the world appears to me?



In covering these issues, students will be expected to demonstrate their understanding of the contrasts and connections between necessary and contingent truths, analytic and synthetic propositions, deductive and inductive arguments, a priori and a posteriori knowledge.

In this module you will study some of the following topics


The Mind | Innate Knowledge | Conceptual Schemes


Click on the above links to be taken to these sections.


The department is aiming to update these topics so that you will be able to access information about your course from this website. If you cannot download something or are having problems using the site, please contact Mr. Winter.

Mind as a tabula rasa

  • The strengths of the concept that all idea are derived from sense experience
  • The weakness of the idea that all ideas come from sense data
  • The strengths of the view that claims about what exists must be grounded in and justified by sense experience
  • The weakness that claims about what exist must be grounded and justified by sense experience.

Innate knowledge

  • To what extent is it logical to say that the mind contains innate knowledge about the way the world is?
  • What is the doctrine of innate ideas?
  • How is it philosophically significant?
  • Can some fundamental claims about what exists be grounded in and justified by a priori intuition and/or demonstration?
  • Is ‘certainty’ confined to introspection and the tautological?

Conceptual schemes

  • Is experience only intelligible as it is, because it presents sensation through a predetermined conceptual scheme or framework?
  • What is the philosophical implications of this view?