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Critical Review of Tabula Rasa Theory and The Issues It Concerns

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Critical Review of Tabula Rasa Theory and The Issues It Concerns essay
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The seventeenth and eighteenth centuries represented a period in which radical changes took place in society. John Locke’s theory of tabula rasa described how the “mind was like a blank sheet of paper upon which ideas are imprinted”  . In short, his theory rationalized that all ideas are derived from experience by way of sensation and reflection. At the time, his theory had to potential to nullify divine right, the estate system, and any institution that denied liberal rights. Liberal rights include equality, extended franchises, unlimited social mobility, and equality. His theory contributed to many reforms in education, government, and social classes. Before industrialization, the theory of tabula rasa did not influence the peasants because of their lack of education, the role of the church within the peasant estate, and the threat of disorder within the estate system.

With the advent of the Enlightenment countless philosophers introduced many new ideas and theories about the natural world. Unfortunately, “around ninety-seven per cent of the peasant estate were illiterate in 1800” . The high illiteracy rate meant that the peasant estate did not have the education necessary to understand complex theories proposed by John Locke, but the higher educated clergy and aristocracy did. Also, even if the peasant were literate they still did not have enough money to buy the books where these theories were published. Another part of John Locke’s philosophy was that “everyone was born equal and should have equal advantages under natural laws” .

Also, the peasants had no understanding of natural laws. Peasants were bound to their land because of labor availability and limited opportunities. The peasants produced food and transformed raw materials into finished goods for the clergy and nobles during this time period. Moreover, taxes imposed on them allowed the clergy and nobles to live lavish lifestyles and get an education while they lived on the verge of starvation. Moreover, the peasants had no influence over the upper classes because they did not have enough status within the estate system and they did not have enough resources to get an education. Either they worked the land and survived or they starved. Education was the defining feature that upper classes had, and the peasants’ lack of education kept tabula rasa out. The Catholic Church was incorporated into all aspects of the peasant estate. “Religion offered answers to life’s mysteries and gave comfort and courage in the face of sorrow and fear” .

Peasants were very poor, worked long hours for little pay, and were one step ahead of starvation. These factors often led to discontent within the estate so the peasants relied on the church to answer questions about their position in the world. The church responded, “God put you her, and it is your destiny to perform the job that you have in order to receive salvation.” The church told them this because it was vital that the peasants remain with faith in the world to insure the survival of the group. The aristocracy heavily taxed peasants and the taxes were paid with food supplies, which fed the upper classes. It is obvious that the role of the peasants within the estate system is very important, and tabula rasa would definitely disrupt the stability within the estate system. For example, if a peasant came to the church asking about their position within society and the church responded, in Locke’s terms, “everyone is born equal, and should have equal opportunities.” Such an answer would probably compel the peasants to start questioning why the upper classes exploited them, and possibly lead to revolts and civil unrest within the system.

The clergy and the aristocracy believed in tabula rasa, but knew that “gold and education separated the peasant estate from the upper two classes” . The Church had the responsibility to keep stability within the system, and tabula rasa would definitely disrupt this stability. Overall, the peasants did hold respectable roles during this time period because the nobles and clergy deemed their work barbaric and did not want to do it. The church played an important role during this period as well. The church was responsible for appeasing the peasants and preventing uprisings and civil disorder, a main reason why tabula rasa was no introduced. Also, the majority of the peasants were illiterate and lacked funds to further their education and gain status within the system. Therefore, the peasant estate had no access to tabula rasa, even if they did they lacked the education to understand it.

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Critical Review of Tabula Rasa Theory and the Issues it Concerns. (2019, January 28). GradesFixer. Retrieved January 28, 2022, from
“Critical Review of Tabula Rasa Theory and the Issues it Concerns.” GradesFixer, 28 Jan. 2019,
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