Human Learning

  • D. W. Hamlyn


The two great classical theories of knowledge — rationalism and empiricism — bring with them not only different conceptions of knowledge, but also different understandings of the acquisition of knowledge. They also involve different philosophies of mind, at any rate to the extent that for empiricism the mind is, as Locke put it, like a great mirror which passively receives reflections from without, while for rationalism the mind is more active, involved in its own operations. Like any characterisation in terms of ‘isms’, what I have said is a caricature of any actual philosopher, but the tendencies are undoubtedly there. If that is so, one would expect similar tendencies in accounts of learning and the acquisition of knowledge based on these theories of knowledge and mind. With the development of psychology as an empirically orientated science, accounts of learning inspired by empiricist ways of thinking have become the accepted thing, as was only to be expected.


Human Learn Innate Idea Generative Grammar Late Learning Gestalt Theory 
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    C. Taylor, The Explanation of Behaviour (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1964), p. 143.Google Scholar
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    cf. e.g. A. E. Seabourne and R. Borger, The Psychology of Learning (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1966) p. 14ff.Google Scholar
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    D. W. Hamlyn, ‘Conditioning and Behaviour’ in R. Borger and F. Cioffi (Eds.), Explanation in the Behavioural Sciences, (Cambridge University Press, 1970) p. 149.Google Scholar
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    D. W. Hamlyn, ‘The Logical and Psychological Aspects of Learning’, in R. S. Peters (Ed.), The Concept of Education (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1967) pp. 24–43.Google Scholar
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    cf. e.g. G. E. M. Anscombe, Intention (Oxford: Blackwell, 1957) p. 67.Google Scholar
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    D. O. Hebb, The Organization of Behavior (New York: Wiley, 1949).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Royal Institute of Philosophy 1974

Authors and Affiliations

  • D. W. Hamlyn

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