Skip to main content

Tabula Rasa: A Logical Refutation

by Hiram R. Diaz III

Under the assumption of materialism, many suppose that infants are epistemological blank-slates, receiving sensory impressions from the material world every time they open their eyes and cry or soil themselves or shiver when their naked bottoms are exposed during a diaper change. This assumption of materialism is largely taken for granted, even by Christians, sadly, without them knowing where it comes from. Considering how far the tentacles of materialism stretch in our society, however, it is easy to see why so many take the materialist view of infants for granted. 

The following observations are meant to correct my brethren, and, yes, insult the materialists and their irrational notions. Hopefully, my Christian brethren will think more clearly about the assumption that infants are epistemological blank slates and learn to pick apart culturally bequeathed non-Christian and anti-Christian philosophical presuppositions.

Empirico-Materialist Problemata Considered

1: The Mind, Under Materialism & Empiricism,
is Never Blank

If sensory experience is the foundation of all knowledge, and if all we are is an ambulatory meat sculpture equipped with sensory tools, and if the entirety of our lives is nothing more than a series of sensory experiences, then there is never a point at which any human being is a so-called blank slate.

2: Judgments About Infant Thought-Life Are Not Based on Observation

The infant’s inability to articulate his internal life (i.e. thought-life) is no proof of his mind being a blank slate, even on the materialist’s view. For if he is a sensing-being, then he is, from the moment of his conception, being equipped with the necessary raw data from which, under empiricism, subsequent "abstract" concepts are deduced, constructed, analyzed, and so on.

If the internal life of an infant is unobservable, and observation is the only means of acquiring data available to man, then the judgment that infant minds are an epistemological blank slate is an a priori - i.e. evidence-less -  judgment that must be rejected by the materialist.

3: Supervenience Does Not Rest Upon Observation but a Category Error

Additionally, if observation is the only available means of data and knowledge acquisition for men, then the belief that the mind is supervenient upon brain states must also be rejected, for supervenience would constitute an unobservable phenomena. Mental states are not material states, by definition; ergo, the claim that mental states are observable is inherently self-contradictory. 

Furthermore, the claim that mental states are demonstrably supervenient upon brain states is an example of a category confusion, for mental states are, by definition, unobservable and are not, therefore, provable by the same means as are observable phenomena like brain states.

Tabula Rasa Refuted

A. The Mind is Never Blank

I. Man is Always a Sensing/Experiencing Being

i. The foundation of all knowledge is sensory experience.

ii. Sensory experience is always present in man.

iii. The foundation of all knowledge is always present in man.

II. Man is Always Equipped & Being Equipped With Mental/Conceptual Data

i. Sensory experiences constantly produce raw (i.e. unorganized) conceptual data.

ii. Raw (i.e. unorganized) conceptual data are mind-dependent entities.

iii. Therefore, sensory experiences constantly produce raw (i.e. unorganized) conceptual data.

III. The Mind is Never Blank

i. If the mind is always populated with raw conceptual data, then it is never blank.

ii. The mind is always populated with raw conceptual data.

iii. Therefore, the mind is never blank.

B. Blank Minds Posited on the Basis 
of Non-Empirical & Non-Materialist Assumptions

I. Mental States are Non-Material, Non-Empirical, & Unobservable

i. Mental states are non-material phenomena.

ii. Non-material phenomena are empirically unverifiable phenomena.

iii. Therefore, mental states are empirically unverifiable phenomena.

II. Infant Mental States are Empirically Unverifiable Phenomena

i. Mental states are empirically unverifiable phenomena.

ii. Infant mental states are a species of mental states.

iii. Therefore, infant mental states are empirically unverifiable phenomena.

III. Given Empiricism, Empirically Unverifiable Phenomena Are False

i. Given empiricism, if empirical data are needed to obtain knowledge about any given phenomenon,

ii. and empirically unobservable phenomena do not yield empirical data,

iii. then it follows that one cannot obtain knowledge about empirically unobservable phenomena.

IV. Given that III Obtains, Judgments About Infant Mental States Do Not Constitute Knowledge

i. Given empiricism, judgments about empirically unobservable phenomena do not constitute knowledge.

ii. Infant mental states are empirically unobservable phenomena.

iii. Therefore, judgments about infant mental states do not constitute knowledge.

V. Conclusion

i. The assertion that non-knowledge judgments are knowledge is plainly false.

ii. The tabula rasa doctrine implicitly asserts that a species of non-knowledge (i.e. judgments about infant mental states) is knowledge.

iii Therefore, the tabula rasa doctrine is plainly false.