10. Locke made the classic attack upon innate ideas in his Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690), ed. A. C. Fraser (2 vols.; Oxford, 1894), I, cxvi and 38 ff.:

[They took men away] from the use of reason and judgement, and put them on believing and taking upon trust, without further examination. . . . Nor is it a small power it gives one man over another to have the authority to be the dictator of principles and teacher of unquestionable truths, and to make a man swallow that for an innate principle which may serve to his purpose who teacheth them [I, 116].

In the article “Finite,” Encyclopédie, VI, 817, d’Alembert ridicules those who claim we must have an innate idea of infinity because we have an innate idea of God, who is infinite. They assert we know God before finite creatures and we know creatures only through the idea we have of God, passing from the infinite to the finite. The absurd notion that we derive our knowledge of the finite from our idea of the infinite d’Alembert feels should alone be enough to upset the system of innate ideas.


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