Rationalism vs empiricism

Topics: Empiricism, Rationalism, Epistemology Pages: 4 (1208 words) Published: October 30, 2013

The history of philosophy has seen many warring camps fighting battles over major issues. One of the major battles historically has been over the foundations of all our knowledge. What is most basic in any human set of beliefs? What is the foundation in any human set of beliefs? What is our origin for human knowledge? Theories applying to these questions divide into two rival schools of thought, rationalism and empiricism. The conflict between rationalism and empiricism takes place within epistemology, the branch of philosophy devoted to studying the nature, sources and limits of knowledge. The war between rationalists and empiricists primarily emphasizes the uncertainty of how we obtain the concepts of knowledge and if they correspond with our existence. Rationalism argues that one must rely on reason as a purely deductive process to attain justified truths about reality. In contrast, empiricists argue that knowledge is derived from the role of experience and sense data to formulate ideas. The differences between rationalism and empiricism will be discussed, along with closely examining the advantages of each. Problems with both theories will be identified while arguing that reason and experience together generate factual knowledge.

The major difference between rationalism and empiricism concerns their knowledge basis. Rationalists believe that we cannot be sure the world exists. How would we know if, for example, we're really all wired into the matrix? Or an evil demon is deceiving us? Or, more plausibly, that what I see as blue is what you see as blue? Truth, for a rationalist, is based on what we can be sure about because of the rules of logic. Famously Descartes argued that the only thing we can be sure about is our own existence (the good ol' Cogito: I think therefore I am). Rationalist claim that without prior categories and principles supplied by reason, we couldn't organize and interpret our sense experience in any way. They believe we “know”...
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