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A Case for Dispositional Innatism


Hien Bui

Westmont College, US
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In An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, John Locke argues against the claim that there are innate ideas. His arguments consisted in the denial of universal assent, the incoherency of innate ideas, and the formation of principles by inductive means. In this paper, I attempt to show why these arguments do not work in showing that there are no innate ideas and also propose and defend Gottfried Leibniz’s model of dispositional innatism — the claim that we are born with at least innate dispositions or tendencies to have particular beliefs. I use the ordinary conception of memories as a proper analogy for how innate ideas can exist in a mind even without the agent being aware of them, as well as how those ideas may vary in degree of innateness in the context of being dispositions. I then end by defending the claim that we are innately disposed to believe in a mind-independent world, despite there being prima facie contrary evidence from Jean Piaget’s stages of development in his work on child psychology. Consequentially, this will allow for further exploration into what innate dispositions, in general, would entail in the development of minds and belief-forming for human beings.

How to Cite: Bui, H., 2017. A Case for Dispositional Innatism. International Journal of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities, 9(2), pp.11 (81–89). DOI:
Published on 07 Sep 2017.
Peer Reviewed


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