John Locke’s Theory of Tabula Rasa

By Katelyn

Episode three in season one holds, what I feel, is one of the most descriptive titles–Tabula Rasa.

This is significant for two reasons–one because of what it means and the other because of who coined the term.  Tabula rasa is a theory by a 17th century philosopher named John Locke (coincidence?  I think not!).

Our modern idea of the theory is mostly attributed to John Locke’s expression of the idea in An Essay Concerning Human Understanding in the 17th century. In Locke’s philosophy, tabula rasa was the theory that the (human) mind is at birth a “blank slate” without rules for processing data, and that data is added and rules for processing are formed solely by one’s sensory experiences. The notion is central to Lockean empiricism. As understood by Locke, tabula rasa meant that the mind of the individual was born “blank”, and it also emphasized the individual’s freedom to author his or her own soul. Each individual was free to define the content of his or her character – but his or her basic identity as a member of the human species cannot be so altered. (source)

In simplest terms tabula rasa means “blank slate.”  It could be said that the crash of Oceanic Flight 815 represents the rebirth of the Losties and now they can all start over and reform their lives.  As the seasons progress it becomes more and more apparent, the Losties are all full of personal problems (drugs, alcohol, ethical, emotional, etc.) so this is just what they need.  Tabula rasa will allow them to right wrongs and become the person they were meant to be.

It is also very curious that there is a character on Lost who shares the same name as the philosopher behind tabula rasa.  John Locke, the Lostie, even shares some of the same views as the philosopher.  With his idea of a “blank slate” in hand, John Locke gives many of the Losties second chances to better their lives.  Two examples of this are when John helps Charlie overcome his addiction and when John finds Vincent for Walt but lets Michael take the credit so he can become the father he never was.


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