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Rationalism – Wikipedia

Philosophical view that reason should be the chief source of knowledge

In philosophy, rationalism is the epistemological view that “regards reason as the chief source and test of knowledge”[3] or “any view appealing to reason as a source of knowledge or justification”.[4] More formally, rationalism is defined as a methodology or a theory “in which the criterion of the truth is not sensory but intellectual and deductive”.[5]

In an old controversy, rationalism was opposed to empiricism, where the rationalists believed that reality has an intrinsically logical structure. Because of this, the rationalists argued that certain truths exist and that the intellect can directly grasp these truths. That is to say, rationalists asserted that certain rational principles exist in logic, mathematics, ethics, and metaphysics that are so fundamentally true that denying them causes one to fall into contradiction. The rationalists had such a high confidence in reason that empirical proof and physical evidence were regarded as unnecessary to ascertain certain truths in other words, “there are significant ways in which our concepts and knowledge are gained independently of sense experience”.[6]

Different degrees of emphasis on this method or theory lead to a range of rationalist standpoints, from the moderate position “that reason has precedence over other ways of acquiring knowledge” to the more extreme position that reason is “the unique path to knowledge”.[7] Given a pre-modern understanding of reason, rationalism is identical to philosophy, the Socratic life of inquiry, or the zetetic (skeptical) clear interpretation of authority (open to the underlying or essential cause of things as they appear to our sense of certainty). In recent decades, Leo Strauss sought to revive “Classical Political Rationalism” as a discipline that understands the task of reasoning, not as foundational, but as maieutic.

In politics, rationalism, since the Enlightenment, historically emphasized a “politics of reason” centered upon rational choice, utilitarianism, secularism, and irreligion[8] the latter aspect’s antitheism was later softened by the adoption of pluralistic methods practicable regardless of religious or irreligious ideology.[9]

In this regard, the philosopher John Cottingham[10] noted how rationalism, a methodology, became socially conflated with atheism, a worldview:

In the past, particularly in the 17th and 18th centuries, the term ‘rationalist’ was often used to refer to free thinkers of an anti-clerical and anti-religious outlook, and for a time the word acquired a distinctly pejorative force (thus in 1670 Sanderson spoke disparagingly of ‘a mere rationalist, that is to say in plain English an atheist of the late edition…’). The use of the label ‘rationalist’ to characterize a world outlook which has no place for the supernatural is becoming less popular today; terms like ‘humanist’ or ‘materialist’ seem largely to have taken its place. But the old usage still survives.

Rationalism is often contrasted with empiricism. Taken very broadly these views are not mutually exclusive, since a philosopher can be both rationalist and empiricist.[4] Taken to extremes, the empiricist view holds that all ideas come to us a posteriori, that is to say, through experience; either through the external senses or through such inner sensations as pain and gratification. The empiricist essentially believes that knowledge is based on or derived directly from experience. The rationalist believes we come to knowledge a priori through the use of logic and is thus independent of sensory experience. In other words, as Galen Strawson once wrote, “you can see that it is true just lying on your couch. You don’t have to get up off your couch and go outside and examine the way things are in the physical world. You don’t have to do any science.”[11] Between both philosophies, the issue at hand is the fundamental source of human knowledge and the proper techniques for verifying what we think we know. Whereas both philosophies are under the umbrella of epistemology, their argument lies in the understanding of the warrant, which is under the wider epistemic umbrella of the theory of justification.

The theory of justification is the part of epistemology that attempts to understand the justification of propositions and beliefs. Epistemologists are concerned with various epistemic features of belief, which include the ideas of justification, warrant, rationality, and probability. Of these four terms, the term that has been most widely used and discussed by the early 21st century is “warrant”. Loosely speaking, justification is the reason that someone (probably) holds a belief.

If “A” makes a claim, and “B” then casts doubt on it, “A”‘s next move would normally be to provide justification. The precise method one uses to provide justification is where the lines are drawn between rationalism and empiricism (among other philosophical views). Much of the debate in these fields are focused on analyzing the nature of knowledge and how it relates to connected notions such as truth, belief, and justification.

At its core, rationalism consists of three basic claims. For one to consider themselves a rationalist, they must adopt at least one of these three claims: The Intuition/Deduction Thesis, The Innate Knowledge Thesis, or The Innate Concept Thesis. In addition, rationalists can choose to adopt the claims of Indispensability of Reason and or the Superiority of Reason although one can be a rationalist without adopting either thesis.

Rationale: “Some propositions in a particular subject area, S, are knowable by us by intuition alone; still others are knowable by being deduced from intuited propositions.”[12]

Generally speaking, intuition is a priori knowledge or experiential belief characterized by its immediacy; a form of rational insight. We simply “see” something in such a way as to give us a warranted belief. Beyond that, the nature of intuition is hotly debated.

In the same way, generally speaking, deduction is the process of reasoning from one or more general premises to reach a logically certain conclusion. Using valid arguments, we can deduce from intuited premises.

For example, when we combine both concepts, we can intuit that the number three is prime and that it is greater than two. We then deduce from this knowledge that there is a prime number greater than two. Thus, it can be said that intuition and deduction combined to provide us with a priori knowledge we gained this knowledge independently of sense experience.

Empiricists such as David Hume have been willing to accept this thesis for describing the relationships among our own concepts.[12] In this sense, empiricists argue that we are allowed to intuit and deduce truths from knowledge that has been obtained a posteriori.

By injecting different subjects into the Intuition/Deduction thesis, we are able to generate different arguments. Most rationalists agree mathematics is knowable by applying the intuition and deduction. Some go further to include ethical truths into the category of things knowable by intuition and deduction. Furthermore, some rationalists also claim metaphysics is knowable in this thesis.

In addition to different subjects, rationalists sometimes vary the strength of their claims by adjusting their understanding of the warrant. Some rationalists understand warranted beliefs to be beyond even the slightest doubt; others are more conservative and understand the warrant to be belief beyond a reasonable doubt.

Rationalists also have different understanding and claims involving the connection between intuition and truth. Some rationalists claim that intuition is infallible and that anything we intuit to be true is as such. More contemporary rationalists accept that intuition is not always a source of certain knowledge thus allowing for the possibility of a deceiver who might cause the rationalist to intuit a false proposition in the same way a third party could cause the rationalist to have perceptions of nonexistent objects.

Naturally, the more subjects the rationalists claim to be knowable by the Intuition/Deduction thesis, the more certain they are of their warranted beliefs, and the more strictly they adhere to the infallibility of intuition, the more controversial their truths or claims and the more radical their rationalism.[12]

To argue in favor of this thesis, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, a prominent German philosopher, says, “The senses, although they are necessary for all our actual knowledge, are not sufficient to give us the whole of it, since the senses never give anything but instances, that is to say particular or individual truths. Now all the instances which confirm a general truth, however numerous they may be, are not sufficient to establish the universal necessity of this same truth, for it does not follow that what happened before will happen in the same way again. From which it appears that necessary truths, such as we find in pure mathematics, and particularly in arithmetic and geometry, must have principles whose proof does not depend on instances, nor consequently on the testimony of the senses, although without the senses it would never have occurred to us to think of them”[13]

Rationale: “We have knowledge of some truths in a particular subject area, S, as part of our rational nature.”[14]

The Innate Knowledge thesis is similar to the Intuition/Deduction thesis in the regard that both theses claim knowledge is gained a priori. The two theses go their separate ways when describing how that knowledge is gained. As the name, and the rationale, suggests, the Innate Knowledge thesis claims knowledge is simply part of our rational nature. Experiences can trigger a process that allows this knowledge to come into our consciousness, but the experiences don’t provide us with the knowledge itself. The knowledge has been with us since the beginning and the experience simply brought into focus, in the same way a photographer can bring the background of a picture into focus by changing the aperture of the lens. The background was always there, just not in focus.

This thesis targets a problem with the nature of inquiry originally postulated by Plato in Meno. Here, Plato asks about inquiry; how do we gain knowledge of a theorem in geometry? We inquire into the matter. Yet, knowledge by inquiry seems impossible.[15] In other words, “If we already have the knowledge, there is no place for inquiry. If we lack the knowledge, we don’t know what we are seeking and cannot recognize it when we find it. Either way we cannot gain knowledge of the theorem by inquiry. Yet, we do know some theorems.”[14] The Innate Knowledge thesis offers a solution to this paradox. By claiming that knowledge is already with us, either consciously or unconsciously, a rationalist claims we don’t really “learn” things in the traditional usage of the word, but rather that we simply bring to light what we already know.

Rationale: “We have some of the concepts we employ in a particular subject area, S, as part of our rational nature.”[16]

Similar to the Innate Knowledge thesis, the Innate Concept thesis suggests that some concepts are simply part of our rational nature. These concepts are a priori in nature and sense experience is irrelevant to determining the nature of these concepts (though, sense experience can help bring the concepts to our conscious mind).

Some philosophers, such as John Locke (who is considered one of the most influential thinkers of the Enlightenment and an empiricist) argue that the Innate Knowledge thesis and the Innate Concept thesis are the same.[17] Other philosophers, such as Peter Carruthers, argue that the two theses are distinct from one another. As with the other theses covered under the umbrella of rationalism, the more types and greater number of concepts a philosopher claims to be innate, the more controversial and radical their position; “the more a concept seems removed from experience and the mental operations we can perform on experience the more plausibly it may be claimed to be innate. Since we do not experience perfect triangles but do experience pains, our concept of the former is a more promising candidate for being innate than our concept of the latter.[16]

In his book, Meditations on First Philosophy,[18] Ren Descartes postulates three classifications for our ideas when he says, “Among my ideas, some appear to be innate, some to be adventitious, and others to have been invented by me. My understanding of what a thing is, what truth is, and what thought is, seems to derive simply from my own nature. But my hearing a noise, as I do now, or seeing the sun, or feeling the fire, comes from things which are located outside me, or so I have hitherto judged. Lastly, sirens, hippogriffs and the like are my own invention.”[19]

Adventitious ideas are those concepts that we gain through sense experiences, ideas such as the sensation of heat, because they originate from outside sources; transmitting their own likeness rather than something else and something you simply cannot will away. Ideas invented by us, such as those found in mythology, legends, and fairy tales are created by us from other ideas we possess. Lastly, innate ideas, such as our ideas of perfection, are those ideas we have as a result of mental processes that are beyond what experience can directly or indirectly provide.

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz defends the idea of innate concepts by suggesting the mind plays a role in determining the nature of concepts, to explain this, he likens the mind to a block of marble in the New Essays on Human Understanding, “This is why I have taken as an illustration a block of veined marble, rather than a wholly uniform block or blank tablets, that is to say what is called tabula rasa in the language of the philosophers. For if the soul were like those blank tablets, truths would be in us in the same way as the figure of Hercules is in a block of marble, when the marble is completely indifferent whether it receives this or some other figure. But if there were veins in the stone which marked out the figure of Hercules rather than other figures, this stone would be more determined thereto, and Hercules would be as it were in some manner innate in it, although labour would be needed to uncover the veins, and to clear them by polishing, and by cutting away what prevents them from appearing. It is in this way that ideas and truths are innate in us, like natural inclinations and dispositions, natural habits or potentialities, and not like activities, although these potentialities are always accompanied by some activities which correspond to them, though they are often imperceptible.”[20]

The three aforementioned theses of Intuition/Deduction, Innate Knowledge, and Innate Concept are the cornerstones of rationalism. To be considered a rationalist, one must adopt at least one of those three claims. The following two theses are traditionally adopted by rationalists, but they aren’t essential to the rationalist’s position.

The Indispensability of Reason Thesis has the following rationale, “The knowledge we gain in subject area, S, by intuition and deduction, as well as the ideas and instances of knowledge in S that are innate to us, could not have been gained by us through sense experience.”[3] In short, this thesis claims that experience cannot provide what we gain from reason.

The Superiority of Reason Thesis has the following rationale, ‘”The knowledge we gain in subject area S by intuition and deduction or have innately is superior to any knowledge gained by sense experience”.[3] In other words, this thesis claims reason is superior to experience as a source for knowledge.

In addition to the following claims, rationalists often adopt similar stances on other aspects of philosophy. Most rationalists reject skepticism for the areas of knowledge they claim are knowable a priori. Naturally, when you claim some truths are innately known to us, one must reject skepticism in relation to those truths. Especially for rationalists who adopt the Intuition/Deduction thesis, the idea of epistemic foundationalism tends to crop up. This is the view that we know some truths without basing our belief in them on any others and that we then use this foundational knowledge to know more truths.[3]

Rationalism – as an appeal to human reason as a way of obtaining knowledge – has a philosophical history dating from antiquity. The analytical nature of much of philosophical enquiry, the awareness of apparently a priori domains of knowledge such as mathematics, combined with the emphasis of obtaining knowledge through the use of rational faculties (commonly rejecting, for example, direct revelation) have made rationalist themes very prevalent in the history of philosophy.

Since the Enlightenment, rationalism is usually associated with the introduction of mathematical methods into philosophy as seen in the works of Descartes, Leibniz, and Spinoza.[5] This is commonly called continental rationalism, because it was predominant in the continental schools of Europe, whereas in Britain empiricism dominated.

Even then, the distinction between rationalists and empiricists was drawn at a later period and would not have been recognized by the philosophers involved. Also, the distinction between the two philosophies is not as clear-cut as is sometimes suggested; for example, Descartes and Locke have similar views about the nature of human ideas.[6]

Proponents of some varieties of rationalism argue that, starting with foundational basic principles, like the axioms of geometry, one could deductively derive the rest of all possible knowledge. The philosophers who held this view most clearly were Baruch Spinoza and Gottfried Leibniz, whose attempts to grapple with the epistemological and metaphysical problems raised by Descartes led to a development of the fundamental approach of rationalism. Both Spinoza and Leibniz asserted that, in principle, all knowledge, including scientific knowledge, could be gained through the use of reason alone, though they both observed that this was not possible in practice for human beings except in specific areas such as mathematics. On the other hand, Leibniz admitted in his book Monadology that “we are all mere Empirics in three fourths of our actions.”[7]

Although rationalism in its modern form post-dates antiquity, philosophers from this time laid down the foundations of rationalism.[citation needed] In particular, the understanding that we may be aware of knowledge available only through the use of rational thought.[citation needed]

Ajita Kesakambali was an ancient Indian philosopher in the 6th century BCE. He is considered to be the first known proponent of Indian materialism, and forerunner to the Charvaka school of Indian thought, which holds direct perception, empiricism, and conditional inference as proper sources of knowledge, embraces philosophical skepticism and rejects Vedas, Vedic ritualism, and supernaturalism.[21]

Pythagoras was one of the first Western philosophers to stress rationalist insight.[22] He is often revered as a great mathematician, mystic and scientist, but he is best known for the Pythagorean theorem, which bears his name, and for discovering the mathematical relationship between the length of strings on lute and the pitches of the notes. Pythagoras “believed these harmonies reflected the ultimate nature of reality. He summed up the implied metaphysical rationalism in the words “All is number”. It is probable that he had caught the rationalist’s vision, later seen by Galileo (15641642), of a world governed throughout by mathematically formulable laws”.[22] It has been said that he was the first man to call himself a philosopher, or lover of wisdom.[23]

Plato held rational insight to a very high standard, as is seen in his works such as Meno and The Republic. He taught on the Theory of Forms (or the Theory of Ideas)[24][25][26] which asserts that the highest and most fundamental kind of reality is not the material world of change known to us through sensation, but rather the abstract, non-material (but substantial) world of forms (or ideas).[27] For Plato, these forms were accessible only to reason and not to sense.[22] In fact, it is said that Plato admired reason, especially in geometry, so highly that he had the phrase “Let no one ignorant of geometry enter” inscribed over the door to his academy.[28]

Aristotle’s main contribution to rationalist thinking was the use of syllogistic logic and its use in argument. Aristotle defines syllogism as “a discourse in which certain (specific) things having been supposed, something different from the things supposed results of necessity because these things are so.”[29] Despite this very general definition, Aristotle limits himself to categorical syllogisms which consist of three categorical propositions in his work Prior Analytics.[30] These included categorical modal syllogisms.[31]

Although the three great Greek philosophers disagreed with one another on specific points, they all agreed that rational thought could bring to light knowledge that was self-evident information that humans otherwise couldn’t know without the use of reason. After Aristotle’s death, Western rationalistic thought was generally characterized by its application to theology, such as in the works of Augustine, the Islamic philosopher Avicenna and Jewish philosopher and theologian Maimonides. One notable event in the Western timeline was the philosophy of Thomas Aquinas who attempted to merge Greek rationalism and Christian revelation in the thirteenth-century.[22]

Early modern rationalism has its roots in the 17th-century Dutch Republic,[32] with some notable intellectual representatives like Hugo Grotius,[33] Ren Descartes, and Baruch Spinoza.

Descartes was the first of the modern rationalists and has been dubbed the ‘Father of Modern Philosophy.’ Much subsequent Western philosophy is a response to his writings,[34][35][36] which are studied closely to this day.

Descartes thought that only knowledge of eternal truths including the truths of mathematics, and the epistemological and metaphysical foundations of the sciences could be attained by reason alone; other knowledge, the knowledge of physics, required experience of the world, aided by the scientific method. He also argued that although dreams appear as real as sense experience, these dreams cannot provide persons with knowledge. Also, since conscious sense experience can be the cause of illusions, then sense experience itself can be doubtable. As a result, Descartes deduced that a rational pursuit of truth should doubt every belief about sensory reality. He elaborated these beliefs in such works as Discourse on Method, Meditations on First Philosophy, and Principles of Philosophy. Descartes developed a method to attain truths according to which nothing that cannot be recognised by the intellect (or reason) can be classified as knowledge. These truths are gained “without any sensory experience,” according to Descartes. Truths that are attained by reason are broken down into elements that intuition can grasp, which, through a purely deductive process, will result in clear truths about reality.

Descartes therefore argued, as a result of his method, that reason alone determined knowledge, and that this could be done independently of the senses. For instance, his famous dictum, cogito ergo sum or “I think, therefore I am”, is a conclusion reached a priori i.e., prior to any kind of experience on the matter. The simple meaning is that doubting one’s existence, in and of itself, proves that an “I” exists to do the thinking. In other words, doubting one’s own doubting is absurd.[37] This was, for Descartes, an irrefutable principle upon which to ground all forms of other knowledge. Descartes posited a metaphysical dualism, distinguishing between the substances of the human body (“res extensa”) and the mind or soul (“res cogitans”). This crucial distinction would be left unresolved and lead to what is known as the mind-body problem, since the two substances in the Cartesian system are independent of each other and irreducible.

The philosophy of Baruch Spinoza is a systematic, logical, rational philosophy developed in seventeenth-century Europe.[38][39][40] Spinoza’s philosophy is a system of ideas constructed upon basic building blocks with an internal consistency with which he tried to answer life’s major questions and in which he proposed that “God exists only philosophically.”[40][41] He was heavily influenced by Descartes,[42] Euclid[41] and Thomas Hobbes,[42] as well as theologians in the Jewish philosophical tradition such as Maimonides.[42] But his work was in many respects a departure from the Judeo-Christian tradition. Many of Spinoza’s ideas continue to vex thinkers today and many of his principles, particularly regarding the emotions, have implications for modern approaches to psychology. To this day, many important thinkers have found Spinoza’s “geometrical method”[40] difficult to comprehend: Goethe admitted that he found this concept confusing[citation needed]. His magnum opus, Ethics, contains unresolved obscurities and has a forbidding mathematical structure modeled on Euclid’s geometry.[41] Spinoza’s philosophy attracted believers such as Albert Einstein[43] and much intellectual attention.[44][45][46][47][48]

Leibniz was the last of the great Rationalists who contributed heavily to other fields such as metaphysics, epistemology, logic, mathematics, physics, jurisprudence, and the philosophy of religion; he is also considered to be one of the last “universal geniuses”.[49] He did not develop his system, however, independently of these advances. Leibniz rejected Cartesian dualism and denied the existence of a material world. In Leibniz’s view there are infinitely many simple substances, which he called “monads” (possibly taking the term from the work of Anne Conway).

Leibniz developed his theory of monads in response to both Descartes and Spinoza, because the rejection of their visions forced him to arrive at his own solution. Monads are the fundamental unit of reality, according to Leibniz, constituting both inanimate and animate objects. These units of reality represent the universe, though they are not subject to the laws of causality or space (which he called “well-founded phenomena”). Leibniz, therefore, introduced his principle of pre-established harmony to account for apparent causality in the world.

Kant is one of the central figures of modern philosophy, and set the terms by which all subsequent thinkers have had to grapple. He argued that human perception structures natural laws, and that reason is the source of morality. His thought continues to hold a major influence in contemporary thought, especially in fields such as metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, political philosophy, and aesthetics.[50]

Kant named his brand of epistemology “Transcendental Idealism”, and he first laid out these views in his famous work The Critique of Pure Reason. In it he argued that there were fundamental problems with both rationalist and empiricist dogma. To the rationalists he argued, broadly, that pure reason is flawed when it goes beyond its limits and claims to know those things that are necessarily beyond the realm of all possible experience: the existence of God, free will, and the immortality of the human soul. Kant referred to these objects as “The Thing in Itself” and goes on to argue that their status as objects beyond all possible experience by definition means we cannot know them. To the empiricist he argued that while it is correct that experience is fundamentally necessary for human knowledge, reason is necessary for processing that experience into coherent thought. He therefore concludes that both reason and experience are necessary for human knowledge. In the same way, Kant also argued that it was wrong to regard thought as mere analysis. “In Kant’s views, a priori concepts do exist, but if they are to lead to the amplification of knowledge, they must be brought into relation with empirical data”.[51]

Rationalism has become a rarer label tout court of philosophers today; rather many different kinds of specialised rationalisms are identified. For example, Robert Brandom has appropriated the terms rationalist expressivism and rationalist pragmatism as labels for aspects of his programme in Articulating Reasons, and identified linguistic rationalism, the claim that the content of propositions “are essentially what can serve as both premises and conclusions of inferences”, as a key thesis of Wilfred Sellars.[52]

Rationalism was criticized by William James for being out of touch with reality. James also criticized rationalism for representing the universe as a closed system, which contrasts to his view that the universe is an open system.[53]

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Rationalism – Wikipedia

Rationalism | Britannica.com

Rationalism, in Western philosophy, the view that regards reason as the chief source and test of knowledge. Holding that reality itself has an inherently logical structure, the rationalist asserts that a class of truths exists that the intellect can grasp directly. There are, according to the rationalists, certain rational principlesespecially in logic and mathematics, and even in ethics and metaphysicsthat are so fundamental that to deny them is to fall into contradiction. The rationalists confidence in reason and proof tends, therefore, to detract from their respect for other ways of knowing.

Rationalism has long been the rival of empiricism, the doctrine that all knowledge comes from, and must be tested by, sense experience. As against this doctrine, rationalism holds reason to be a faculty that can lay hold of truths beyond the reach of sense perception, both in certainty and generality. In stressing the existence of a natural light, rationalism has also been the rival of systems claiming esoteric knowledge, whether from mystical experience, revelation, or intuition, and has been opposed to various irrationalisms that tend to stress the biological, the emotional or volitional, the unconscious, or the existential at the expense of the rational.

Rationalism has somewhat different meanings in different fields, depending upon the kind of theory to which it is opposed.

In the psychology of perception, for example, rationalism is in a sense opposed to the genetic psychology of the Swiss scholar Jean Piaget (18961980), who, exploring the development of thought and behaviour in the infant, argued that the categories of the mind develop only through the infants experience in concourse with the world. Similarly, rationalism is opposed to transactionalism, a point of view in psychology according to which human perceptual skills are achievements, accomplished through actions performed in response to an active environment. On this view, the experimental claim is made that perception is conditioned by probability judgments formed on the basis of earlier actions performed in similar situations. As a corrective to these sweeping claims, the rationalist defends a nativism, which holds that certain perceptual and conceptual capacities are innateas suggested in the case of depth perception by experiments with the visual cliff, which, though platformed over with firm glass, the infant perceives as hazardousthough these native capacities may at times lie dormant until the appropriate conditions for their emergence arise.

In the comparative study of languages, a similar nativism was developed in the 1950s by the innovating syntactician Noam Chomsky, who, acknowledging a debt to Ren Descartes (15961650), explicitly accepted the rationalistic doctrine of innate ideas. Though the thousands of languages spoken in the world differ greatly in sounds and symbols, they sufficiently resemble each other in syntax to suggest that there is a schema of universal grammar determined by innate presettings in the human mind itself. These presettings, which have their basis in the brain, set the pattern for all experience, fix the rules for the formation of meaningful sentences, and explain why languages are readily translatable into one another. It should be added that what rationalists have held about innate ideas is not that some ideas are full-fledged at birth but only that the grasp of certain connections and self-evident principles, when it comes, is due to inborn powers of insight rather than to learning by experience.

Common to all forms of speculative rationalism is the belief that the world is a rationally ordered whole, the parts of which are linked by logical necessity and the structure of which is therefore intelligible. Thus, in metaphysics it is opposed to the view that reality is a disjointed aggregate of incoherent bits and is thus opaque to reason. In particular, it is opposed to the logical atomisms of such thinkers as David Hume (171176) and the early Ludwig Wittgenstein (18891951), who held that facts are so disconnected that any fact might well have been different from what it is without entailing a change in any other fact. Rationalists have differed, however, with regard to the closeness and completeness with which the facts are bound together. At the lowest level, they have all believed that the law of contradiction A and not-A cannot coexist holds for the real world, which means that every truth is consistent with every other; at the highest level, they have held that all facts go beyond consistency to a positive coherence; i.e., they are so bound up with each other that none could be different without all being different.

In the field where its claims are clearestin epistemology, or theory of knowledgerationalism holds that at least some human knowledge is gained through a priori (prior to experience), or rational, insight as distinct from sense experience, which too often provides a confused and merely tentative approach. In the debate between empiricism and rationalism, empiricists hold the simpler and more sweeping position, the Humean claim that all knowledge of fact stems from perception. Rationalists, on the contrary, urge that some, though not all, knowledge arises through direct apprehension by the intellect. What the intellectual faculty apprehends is objects that transcend sense experienceuniversals and their relations. A universal is an abstraction, a characteristic that may reappear in various instances: the number three, for example, or the triangularity that all triangles have in common. Though these cannot be seen, heard, or felt, rationalists point out that humans can plainly think about them and about their relations. This kind of knowledge, which includes the whole of logic and mathematics as well as fragmentary insights in many other fields, is, in the rationalist view, the most important and certain knowledge that the mind can achieve. Such a priori knowledge is both necessary (i.e., it cannot be conceived as otherwise) and universal, in the sense that it admits of no exceptions. In the critical philosophy of Immanuel Kant (17241804), epistemological rationalism finds expression in the claim that the mind imposes its own inherent categories or forms upon incipient experience (see below Epistemological rationalism in modern philosophies).

In ethics, rationalism holds the position that reason, rather than feeling, custom, or authority, is the ultimate court of appeal in judging good and bad, right and wrong. Among major thinkers, the most notable representative of rational ethics is Kant, who held that the way to judge an act is to check its self-consistency as apprehended by the intellect: to note, first, what it is essentially, or in principlea lie, for example, or a theftand then to ask if one can consistently will that the principle be made universal. Is theft, then, right? The answer must be No, because, if theft were generally approved, peoples property would not be their own as opposed to anyone elses, and theft would then become meaningless; the notion, if universalized, would thus destroy itself, as reason by itself is sufficient to show.

In religion, rationalism commonly means that all human knowledge comes through the use of natural faculties, without the aid of supernatural revelation. Reason is here used in a broader sense, referring to human cognitive powers generally, as opposed to supernatural grace or faiththough it is also in sharp contrast to so-called existential approaches to truth. Reason, for the rationalist, thus stands opposed to many of the religions of the world, including Christianity, which have held that the divine has revealed itself through inspired persons or writings and which have required, at times, that its claims be accepted as infallible, even when they do not accord with natural knowledge. Religious rationalists hold, on the other hand, that if the clear insights of human reason must be set aside in favour of alleged revelation, then human thought is everywhere rendered suspecteven in the reasonings of the theologians themselves. There cannot be two ultimately different ways of warranting truth, they assert; hence rationalism urges that reason, with its standard of consistency, must be the final court of appeal. Religious rationalism can reflect either a traditional piety, when endeavouring to display the alleged sweet reasonableness of religion, or an antiauthoritarian temper, when aiming to supplant religion with the goddess of reason.

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Rationalism – definition of rationalism by The Free Dictionary

I, for instance, would not be in the least surprised if all of a sudden, a propos of nothing, in the midst of general prosperity a gentleman with an ignoble, or rather with a reactionary and ironical, countenance were to arise and, putting his arms akimbo, say to us all: “I say, gentleman, hadn’t we better kick over the whole show and scatter rationalism to the winds, simply to send these logarithms to the devil, and to enable us to live once more at our own sweet foolish willHis ‘History of Rationalism in Europe,’ for example, is a very fine monument of the most thorough research and most effective statement; but to a mature mind its interest is equally conspicuous.Simon’s rationalism, I still affirm that Becker was only partly present.Karl Popper and Literary Theory: Critical Rationalism as a Philosophy of LiteratureTogether they provide a compelling record of the author’s longstanding concerns, most important among these the precise meaning of Leibniz’s rationalism–in what sense he maybe called a rationalist, and how his rationalism informs all of his other philosophical commitments.The first reductio shows that, from supposing that Weak Modal Rationalism is true, it follows that conceivability both is and is not conclusive evidence for possibility.To the waves of democratic expansion, social unrest, political revolutions, economic debacle, geopolitical uncertainty, and war, important intellectual elites of the Victorian Age responded with a deep and sweeping new approach to law: a “Great Alliance” between historicism, (4) rationalism, (5) and popular will.First collected in Rationalism in Politics and Other Essays (1962), the most influential were written in the postwar decade when Britain was debating the terms of her return to normality.Bennett, Words, Space, and the Audience: The Theatrical Tension Between Empiricism and Rationalism (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), Pages 179.Callahan argues quite convincingly that Oakeshott’s analysis of the errors of modern rationalism is both acute and accurate and that the American constitutional tradition has been informed by a highly rationalistic rhetorical style from the beginning.His topics include the Qur’anic background of rationalism in early Islam, the encounter of Islamic rationalism with Greek culture, the autonomy of philosophy in Islam, the assimilation of Islamic philosophical thought and dissociation in the Latin Middle Ages, and the manifestation of Islamic thought in an intertwined world.As the editors acknowledge, steps have been taken of late to explore more contextual, more varied approaches to philosophy in the early modern period and in particular to that strand in early modern philosophy known as rationalism.

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Rationalism – definition of rationalism by The Free Dictionary

Rationalism (philosophy) – definition of Rationalism …

(redirected from Rationalism (philosophy))Also found in: Thesaurus, Medical, Legal, Encyclopedia.rationalism (rsh-n-lzm)n.

1. Reliance on reason as the best guide for belief and action.

2. Philosophy The theory that the exercise of reason, rather than experience, authority, or spiritual revelation, provides the primary basis for knowledge.

rationalist n.

rationalistic adj.

rationalistically adv.

1. reliance on reason rather than intuition to justify one’s beliefs or actions

a. the doctrine that knowledge about reality can be obtained by reason alone without recourse to experience

b. the doctrine that human knowledge can all be encompassed within a single, usually deductive, system

c. the school of philosophy initiated by Descartes which held both the above doctrines

3. the belief that knowledge and truth are ascertained by rational thought and not by divine or supernatural revelation

rationalist n

rationalistic adj

rationalistically adv

n.

1. the principle or habit of accepting reason as the supreme authority in matters of opinion, belief, or conduct.

a. a philosophic doctrine that reason alone is a source of knowledge and is independent of experience.

b. a doctrine that all knowledge is expressible in self-evident propositions or their consequences.

3. a doctrine that human reason, unaided by divine revelation, is an adequate or the sole guide to all attainable religious truth.

[17901800]

rationalist, n.

1. the doctrine that knowledge is gained only through the reason, a faculty independent of experience.2. the doctrine that all knowledge is expressible in self-evident propositions or their consequences. rationalist, n. rationalistic, adj.

ThesaurusAntonymsRelated WordsSynonymsLegend:

Translations

racionalismus

racionalizam

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Rationalism (philosophy) – definition of Rationalism …

Rationalism – RationalWiki

Not to be confused with Rationality, which simply refers to the process of being reasonable.

Rationalism is a philosophy in which a high regard is given to reason (specifically logic) and to empirical observation.

From the strict philosophical standpoint, rationalism is the view that all or most truth is deductive and a priori, deriving logically from a set of axioms gained by intuition or inherent knowledge (and not from studying the world around us empirically).[1] However, the term is not very often used so strictly, so this form of rationalism is generally known in English-speaking philosophy as continental rationalism or Cartesian rationalism, as its original proponents, such as Ren Descartes, were largely situated in continental Europe.[2]

The term is more commonly used to refer to a synthesis of continental rationalism with its former rival philosophy, empiricism. This looser rationalism holds that empirical observation is more useful than intuition for gaining one’s starting axioms, but one can use deductive reasoning from these axioms just as well. The best embodiment of this way of gaining knowledge is the scientific method; hence, rationalists tend to give high regard to science, designating it as the primary or sole proper source of truth.

RationalWiki is devoted to this sort of rational analysis of empirical evidence to form conclusions; most RationalWiki editors are very skeptical of other ways of knowing.

The idea of being “rational” is distinct and broader than the philosophy of rationalism. To be “rational” is synonymous with a “sane” or “functional” way of thinking. If one is “rational,” then in common parlance this means that one can think clearly and is capable of intelligently assessing new ideas when presented.

The opposite term, “irrational,” is used to signify someone who cannot or will not think clearly. If a thought or action is irrational, it signifies something that is not just incorrect, but perverse, insane, or beneath consideration.

Rationalism was first formulated in classical times by philosophers such as Socrates and Plato. Many of the Socratic dialogues would use a conversational process to work out logical inconsistencies in ideas that were held by contemporaries to be “common sense,” such as the definition of “the good.” In this historical sense Rationalism was distinct and separate from Empiricism (see below), as these early Rationalists didn’t deem it necessary to use observation – in the modern use, Rationalists who would combine both the logical reasoning of Rationalism with the observational checks of Empiricism.

But at the time, virtually everyone even the great philosophers believed that various things were known by people inherently. Aside from a few schools of thought which suggested that nothing could ever be known as true (pyrrhonism), few thought to discard a priori beliefs and start from scratch with only that which was known to be true. Thus, at this point historical Rationalism closely resembled the way philosophers still define the philosophy.

The 16th century philosopher Descartes, however, attempted to create a whole philosophy through pure reason in his Discourse on Method and its succeeding works: he began with the only thing of which he thought he could be certain, that there was an “I” that was thinking – often rendered in the Latin of cogito ergo sum (“I think, therefore I am.”). His process ushered in a new era in rationalism, concurrent with the greater Enlightenment. At that time the philosophy began to resemble modern empiricism more than its own ancient ancestor, especially during the era of Romanticism when Enlightenment ideas were challenged and sensory perception was given more of a hearing.

Loose use in the time since has led to the fuzzy state of the term today, particularly when combined with the similar but much broader notion of being rational.

Rationalism is a term of art in psychology referring to the school of thought that sees certain elements of cognition as innate. (For this reason, it is sometimes used synonymously with the terms “innatism” or “nativism.”) Rationalism in psychology is identified with the philosophical tradition of the same name. During the 20th century, Noam Chomsky became associated with rationalism due to his positing the concept of an innate “language acquisition device.”[3]

Rationalism, or “economic rationalism,” is also a term of art in economics. It is generally used today in Australia to refer to the local brand of neoliberal economic and political policy, though it was also used by scholars such as Max Weber in reference to the Protestant work ethic.[4]

Rationalism is also used as a self-descriptor by followers of Eliezer Yudkowsky, and the community that has grown up around him (in particular the website LessWrong).[5] Scott Alexander argues that, in this context, it refers less to a particular set of beliefs (an ideology), but more to the social community those beliefs support, a “tribe”.[5]

Another straightforward conception of rationality is that an individual acts rationally if they act in the way that, on reflection, they believe best suits achievement of their aims. This conception, naturally, gives rise to the common conception when on reflection it is believed that the aim of truth can best be achieved through factual analysis and the scientific method.

This approach, however, is problematic, as it denies the existence of any sort of objective logic independent of human perception. Many, on reflection, believe that astrology, Scientology, homeopathy and other ridiculous nonsense best suits achievement of their aims. If these people are to be held to be irrational, a new criterion must be put in the place of on reflection. Usually the criterion is modified such that the rational person must reasonably believe they have a methodology to achieve their aims, leaving question of what it means to reasonably believe that a methodology will achieve certain aims.[6]

Alvin Plantinga’s concept of rationalism neatly distinguishes reason from “raving madness” by conceiving of reason as “not raving mad”.[7] Of course Plantinga has to give us a good idea of what is not “raving mad”, which he does with his concept of “proper function”. Just as a clock, functioning properly, is a reliable indicator of the time, human senses, functioning properly, are reliable indicators of the world. Acting in accordance with the proper function of our faculties is rational.

The problem of what constitutes function, and proper function at that, is more than a question of what our faculties do (a fast clock tells the incorrect time, but this is not its function). Both function and proper function have an element of what things should be doing. As should is a difficult concept to introduce in a mechanistic description of how things happen to be, Plantinga sources the “should”, the “purpose” of our faculties in a concept of God.

Critical rationalism ( Karl Popper) differentiates from the above conceptions of rationality by rejecting any positive content in reason. Reason, critical rationalism holds, does not provide ‘reasons’: it does not give positive recommendations about what beliefs should be held. Reason operates negatively, restricting the beliefs that can be held. It does this through criticism, subjecting pre-adopted beliefs to tests in an effort to refute them.

The dispute between rationalism and empiricism concerns the extent to which we are dependent upon sense experience in our effort to gain knowledge. Rationalists claim that there are significant ways in which our concepts and knowledge are gained independently of sense experience. Empiricists claim that sense experience is the ultimate source of all our concepts and knowledge.

Rationalists generally develop their view in two ways. First, they argue that there are cases where the content of our concepts or knowledge outstrips the information that sense experience can provide. Second, they construct accounts of how reason in some form or other provides that additional information about the world. Empiricists present complementary lines of thought. First, they develop accounts of how experience provides the information that rationalists cite, insofar as we have it in the first place. (Empiricists will at times opt for skepticism as an alternative to rationalism: if experience cannot provide the concepts or knowledge the rationalists cite, then we don’t have them.) Second, empiricists attack the rationalists’ accounts of how reason is a source of concepts or knowledge.

A serious problem for the Innate Knowledge thesis remains, however. We know a proposition only if it is true, we believe it and our belief is warranted. Rationalists who assert the existence of innate knowledge are not just claiming that, as a matter of human evolution, God’s design or some other factor, at a particular point in our development, certain sorts of experiences trigger our belief in particular propositions in a way that does not involve our learning them from the experiences. Their claim is even bolder: In at least some of these cases, our empirically triggered, but not empirically warranted, belief is nonetheless warranted and so known. How can these beliefs be warranted if they do not gain their warrant from the experiences that cause us to have them or from intuition and deduction?

Some rationalists think that a reliabilist account of warrant provides the answer. According to Reliabilism, beliefs are warranted if they are formed by a process that generally produces true beliefs rather than false ones. The true beliefs that constitute our innate knowledge are warranted, then, because they are formed as the result of a reliable belief-forming process. Carruthers maintains that Innate beliefs will count as known provided that the process through which they come to be innate is a reliable one (provided, that is, that the process tends to generate beliefs that are true) (1992, p. 77). He argues that natural selection results in the formation of some beliefs and is a truth-reliable process.

An appeal to Reliabilism, or a similar causal theory of warrant, may well be the best way for rationalists to develop the Innate Knowledge thesis. They have a difficult row to hoe, however. First, such accounts of warrant are themselves quite controversial. Second, rationalists must give an account of innate knowledge that maintains and explains the distinction between innate knowledge and a posteriori knowledge, and it is not clear that they will be able to do so within such an account of warrant. Suppose for the sake of argument that we have innate knowledge of some proposition, P. What makes our knowledge that P innate? To sharpen the question, what difference between our knowledge that P and a clear case of a posteriori knowledge, say our knowledge that something is red based on our current visual experience of a red table, makes the former innate and the latter not innate? In each case, we have a true, warranted belief. In each case, presumably, our belief gains its warrant from the fact that it meets a particular causal condition, e.g., it is produced by a reliable process. In each case, the causal process is one in which an experience causes us to believe the proposition at hand (that P; that something is red), for, as defenders of innate knowledge admit, our belief that P is triggered by an experience, as is our belief that something is red. The insight behind the Innate Knowledge thesis seems to be that the difference between our innate and a posteriori knowledge lies in the relation between our experience and our belief in each case. The experience that causes our belief that P does not contain the information that P, while our visual experience of a red table does contain the information that something is red. Yet, exactly what is the nature of this containment relation between our experiences, on the one hand, and what we believe, on the other, that is missing in the one case but present in the other? The nature of the experience-belief relation seems quite similar in each. The causal relation between the experience that triggers our belief that P and our belief that P is contingent, as is the fact that the belief-forming process is reliable. The same is true of our experience of a red table and our belief that something is red. The causal relation between the experience and our belief is again contingent. We might have been so constructed that the experience we describe as being appeared to redly caused us to believe, not that something is red, but that something is hot. The process that takes us from the experience to our belief is also only contingently reliable. Moreover, if our experience of a red table contains the information that something is red, then that fact, not the existence of a reliable belief-forming process between the two, should be the reason why the experience warrants our belief. By appealing to Reliablism, or some other causal theory of warrant, rationalists may obtain a way to explain how innate knowledge can be warranted. They still need to show how their explanation supports an account of the difference between innate knowledge and a posteriori knowledge.

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Rationalism – RationalWiki

Rationalism: Examples and Definition | Philosophy Terms

I. Definition

Rationalism is the philosophy that knowledge comes from logic and a certain kind of intuitionwhen we immediately know something to be true without deduction, such as I am conscious. Rationalists hold that the best way to arrive at certain knowledge is using the minds rational abilities. The opposite of rationalism is empiricism, or the view that knowledge comes from observing the outside world. However, in practice almost all philosophers and scientists use a combination of empiricism and rationalism.

Rationalism is an idea about where knowledge comes from, and is therefore part of the philosophical sub-field of epistemology.

Math provides a good illustration of rationalism: to a rationalist, you dont have to observe the world or have experiences in order to know that 1+1=2. You just have to understand the concepts one and addition, and then you can know that its true. Empiricists, on the other hand, argue that this is not true; they point out that we can only rely on mathematical equations based on some experience of the world, for example having one cookie, being given another, and then having two.

Rationalism and empiricism both play a role in science, though they correspond to different branches of science. Rationalism corresponds to mathematical analysis, whereas empiricism corresponds to experiments and observation.

Of course, the best route to knowledge combines rational contemplation and empirical observation. Rationalists and empiricists agree on that; they just disagree on which one is more important or primary.

Constructivism is an effort to combine empiricism and rationalism. According to constructivists, we can observe the world around us and gain a lot of knowledge this way (thats the empiricist part), but in order to understand or explain what we know, we have to fit it into an existing structure. That is, we have to construct a rational set of ideas that can make sense of the empirical data (thats the rationalist part). Constructivism is a popular idea among teachers, who find it helpful in structuring lessons: constructivist teaching involves presenting new information in a way designed to fit in with what the student already knows, so that they can gradually build up an understanding of the world for themselves.

Many people think that the progress of the human race is based on experiences of an empirical, critical nature, but I say that true knowledge is to be had only through a philosophy of deduction . . . Intuition makes us look at unrelated facts and then think about them until they can all be brought under one law. (Albert Einstein)

Many people think of science as an inherently empirical discipline after all, its based mainly on observation and experiments, right? But theres also a rationalist side to science as seen in this quote from Einstein. Einstein was not big on experiments or peering through telescopes. Instead, he took data that other people had collected and tried to understand it rationally (i.e. mathematically). His brilliant theories of special and general relativity were not the results of new experiments, but rather the result of applying a keen rational eyeand intuitionto existing data.

Music has always been inseparable from religious expression, since, like religion at its best, music marks the limits of reason. Because a territory is defined by its extremities, it follows that music must be definitively rational. (Karen Armstrong)

Many rationalist philosophers are fascinated by music, for exactly the reasons that Karen Armstrong points out in this quote. Music is intensely rational in some ways (you can analyze its structures and frequencies and find all sorts of mathematical patterns there), but its also extremely emotional and seems to short-circuit our rational brains. Thus, music exists right on the boundary between rational and anti-rational. Armstrong also makes the more controversial, but no less interesting, claim that religion works in a similar way, operating at the boundaries between rational thought and non-rational emotions.

Rationalism has deep historical roots; you might even say that its discovery defines the birth of philosophy in various cultures. The ancient Greeks are probably the most famous example: ancient philosophers such as Plato and Pythagoras argued that reality is characterized by some basic abstract logical principles, and that if we know these principles, then we can derive further truths about reality. (Thats the same Pythagoras who invented the famous Pythagorean Theorem more evidence of the connection between rationalism and math.)

However, other Greeks disagreed. Aristotle, for example, based much of his philosophy on observation. He was fascinated by the natural world and spent much of his time gathering samples of plants and animals; in some ways he was the first modern biologist. This method is, of course, based on observation and therefore is a kind of empiricism.

Rationalism really took off in the Medieval Islamic world, where Muslim philosophers looked to Plato for inspiration. Platos rationalism proved to be extremely important to medieval Islam, which was an intensely rationalistic religion based on logical deduction. Its first principle was tawheed, or the Unity of God, and all other truths were thought to be logical consequences of that single revelation.

Both rationalism and empiricism played a major role in the Scientific Revolution. Empiricists did experiments and made observations by, for example, looking through telescopes. But many of the most important discoveries were made by rational analysis, not empirical observation. And of course, the experiments were also partially inspired by reason and intuition.

Isaac Newton developed his theory of gravity by working out the mathematical relationship between falling objects and orbiting planets. (Sometimes people say that Newton discovered gravity, but really its more accurate to say that he explained gravity.)

The debate between rationalists and empiricists was resolved to some extent by Immanuel Kant, one of the most influential philosophers who ever lived. Kants theory was that empiricism and rationalism were both true in their own ways: he agreed with the empiricists when he said that all human knowledge comes from observation. This, he said, is in fact the way that people learn about the world. But our observations are also based on certain innate ways of reasoning; our brains are hard-wired to make certain conclusions from observation and reason further in certain ways. So, he also agreed with the rationalists that knowledge is determined by rationality. As you might expect, many constructivists can trace their lineage back to Kant.

In Civilization V, one of the social policy options is Rationalism. This social policy improves science output for your civilization and allows you to produce more Great Scientists. This makes sense since rationalism was so important in the early scientific revolution. However, the game illustrates rationalism with a picture of a scientist looking through a prism, presumably as part of an experiment. So the picture would fit better under the heading of empiricism rather than rationalism!

Vulcanians do not speculate. I speak from pure logic. (Spock, Star Trek)

Spock is the perfect rationalist. His powerful brain can compute logical probabilities faster than any human being, and he is not distracted by pesky emotions or personal biases (at least most of the time; he is half-human, after all). He is capable of incredible feats of logic, such as playing three-dimensional chess.

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Rationalism: Examples and Definition | Philosophy Terms

What is CR? – critical rationalism blogcritical …

I like to think of CR (critical rationalism) as a kind of evolving philosophical tradition concerning how we should approach knowledge. It is the Socratic method only with a little bit of modern awareness. While most philosophical traditions regard knowledge as something that has to be certain and justified, CR takes the view that we dont have ultimate answers, but knowledge is nevertheless possible. Truth is an endless quest.

The modern founder of critical rationalism was Karl Popper. Popper pointed out we can never justify anything, we merely criticize and weed out bad ideas and work with whats left. Poppers initial emphasis was on empirical science, where he solved the problem of induction, something that had been haunting philosophers and scientists for centuries. The problem of induction is this. No matter how many times weve seen an apple fall to the ground after weve dropped it, do we have any way to prove the same thing will happen next time we drop it. The answer is no. What Popper pointed out is that you can never justify any scientific theory, but you can falsify it. If I were to claim that all swans were white, one black swan would falsify my theory. In this way, science moves forward by weeding out bad theories, so to speak.

Popper said that science moves forward through a method of conjecture and refutation. While Popper was primarily interested in science, he often commented on political problems as well. Popper liked to emphasize the need for an open society, a society where people can speak out and criticize. After all, if science progresses through refutations, criticizing becomes essential. We need to speak out and therefore we need the freedom to do so. Popper was against any form of government that didnt give people the chance to speak out. Poppers thinking could probably best be summed up in this quote, I may be wrong and you may be right, and by an effort, we may get nearer to the truth.

Popper worked hard to expand his ideas, and so have several other people. CR should not be viewed as one mans philosophy, but as a growing philosophical tradition. One in which several people have contributed and are still contributing. One notable person was William Warren Bartley, III. Bartley worked towards expanding the idea of critical rationalism to cover all areas of knowledge, not just empirical science. Bartley felt that while in almost all areas of knowledge we seek justification, we should instead seek criticism. While nothing can ever be justified in any ultimate sense, certainly we can see error and weed it out. This is true whether we are dealing with empirical science and perhaps even knowledge of what is ethical. An important part of Bartleys thinking could probably best be summed up in this quote, How can our intellectual life and institutions, our tradition, and even our etiquette, sensibility, manners and customs, and behavior patterns, be arranged so as to expose our beliefs, conjectures, ideologies, policies, positions, programs, sources of ideas, traditions, and the like, to optimum criticism, so as at once to counteract and eliminate as much intellectual error as possible, and also so as to contribute to and insure the fertility of the intellectual econiche: to create an environment in which not only negative criticism but also positive creation of ideas, and the development of rationality, are truly inspired.

Neither Bartley or Popper have exhaustively explored the full potential of the CR philosophical tradition. Indeed, there are unlimited possibilities. While CR often emphasizes criticism, it also encourages new approaches and creative thinking. We need to come up with as many new ideas as we can, then let the process of criticism weed out the less workable ones. As CR accepts that the truth is out there and we are working towards it, it is actually a very optimistic philosophical tradition. Perhaps the most optimistic among the big three philosophical traditions. What are the big three traditions. Let me give you a quick summary.

One, dogmatism. Decide that you are privy to ultimate truth and then just follow that truth no matter what. Does such an attitude contribute to fanaticism? Perhaps.

Two, pessimism. Decide that truth is impossible, relative, random, meaningless. Just do whatever you want because nothing matters anyway. Does such an attitude contribute to random violence? Perhaps.

Three, critical rationalism, the truth is out there, but no one has a monopoly on it, so lets work together to try and get a little closer to it. Does such an attitude contribute to progress and mutual respect? More than likely.

If youd like more details than this then thats what this blog is for, please look around and explore.

Matt Dioguardi, blog administrator

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What is CR? – critical rationalism blogcritical …

critical rationalism blog – An exploration of critical …

Rafe Championand Brian Gladish, Independent Scholars

The Austrian-born philosopher Karl Popper charted new direction in the philosophy of science in the 1930s with Logik der Forschung (The Logic of Scientific Discovery 1959). His ideas can be recruited to support the little-known Austrian school of economics, to improve the quality of scientific research and to indicate how a unit on critical thinking can be a core subject in liberal education. If Poppers ideas are robust then the main features of his thinking should be the common property of all educated people. Some would say the same applies to Austrian economics.

The paper begins with a summary of the key features of Poppers critical rationalism followed by an introduction to Austrian economics and the way that some of his ideas can elevate the profile of the Austrian school. The paper then turns to the rising tide of concern about the quality and reliability of the scientific research that is published in some fields. Finally there is a proposal for short course to introduce various forms of critical appraisal of ideas that could be a core component of liberal education to promote imaginative problem-solving and lateral thinking.

POPPERS CRITICAL RATIONALISM

In his introduction to Poppers philosophy Mark Notturno wrote Popper was an outspoken champion of rationalism and a constant critic of subjectivist and authoritarian tendencies in science and society. (Notturno, 2003, Preface). His philosophy can be described as critical rationalism with a historical and evolutionary approach. He liked to sum it up in two nutshells. One is the critical rationalist credo I may be wrong and you may be right, and by an effort we may get nearer to the truth. The other is the four-stage problem solving scheme that is described below.

Wade Hands demonstrated the difference that it makes to perceive Popper as a critical rationalist rather than the more usual falsificationist, a label that implies that his ideas are merely a variation on the theme of logical empiricism. Hands is a leading contributor to the literature on the philosophy and methodology of economics and for many years he was a critic of Poppers views until he radically changed his perception. He wrote that Popper is best depicted as a critical rationalist and he concluded that critical rationalism fits both the practice of mainstream economics and Poppers specific contribution to social studies Situational Analysis and the Rationality Principle.

If Poppers real message is critical rationalism, rather than falsificationist rules, then the method of SA seems to be quite fine. Popper explains in detail how to modify a particular SA explanation when it seems to be in conflict with the empirical data, internally inconsistent, or in conflict with more corroborated theories if there are many paths to effective criticism, then preserving the RP and modifying the rest of the SA could be a perfectly reasonable response. The critical rationalist reading of Poppers philosophy thus relaxes the tension between scientific rationality and SA social science and it does so within a framework that is both more contemporary than, and devoid of many of the problems of, strict falsificationism. (Hands, 2001).

Popper (1902-1994) was born in Vienna, the son of a prominent liberal lawyer with scholarly interests. He dropped out of high school and attended lectures at the university as an unmatriculated student, trained as a cabinet-maker and eventually matriculated. In 1928 he qualified to teach high school science and mathematics after a course that included a doctoral thesis on habit formation in children. He worked on the philosophy of science in his spare time and in 1935 he published Logik der Forschung that appeared many years later in English (Popper 1959).

He criticized the traditional idea that scientific theories are developed by collecting observations followed by confirmation of the theories with more observations. He argued that the creation of theories is a matter of inspiration and guesswork because new ideas arise as conjectures or speculations and the really vital function of observations is to act as tests or attempted falsifications of theories.

In the 1960s biological themes became more prominent in his work and he contributed to the revival of evolutionary epistemology by exploring the principle of natural selection in relation to the development of scientific theories and other forms of knowledge. Evolutionary epistemology is concerned with problem-solving and error-elimination under various forms of selective pressure unlike theories of knowledge that focus on the justification of beliefs and the numerical probability of theories.

Popper started with the old idea that knowledge grows by trial and error or in more learned terms by conjecture and refutation. He postulated that every organism from the amoeba to Einstein can be described as constantly engaged in problem solving (not necessarily consciously of course). Innovations in the plant and animal world arise from mutations which generate new reactions, new organs, new forms of life. For humans the most important innovations are new ideas. Living organisms confront selective pressures exerted by the biological environment and competing forms of life. Ideas meet the competition of alternative theories, critical arguments and experimental tests.

The central motif of Poppers evolutionary epistemology is a cyclic four-step problem-solving schema:

P1 > TS > EE > P2, P3, P4 etc

The starting point is a problem situation. In response the organism generates tentative solutions. These are subjected to the process of error elimination by various selective pressures. Humans can make the process of error elimination conscious and systematic by critical discussion and experimental testing. In the course of these activities new problems emerge.

This approach to scientific knowledge has at least two important consequences; (1) it resolves conflicting ideas about the various processes and activities which are involved in creative thinking and problem-solving and (2) it highlights the importance of finding unresolved issues (problems) and the willingness to recognize them, even to create them!

On the first point the evolutionary schema can be used to challenge views about science that can tend to promote antagonism between the rational (scientific) and the imaginative (literary) frames of mind. For example Peter Medawar in his book Plutos Republic described the tension between the romantic and the rational views of science; the romantic points to the poetic inspiration involved in creating new theories while in contrast the rationalist makes much of data collection, experimentation and logical analysis. This conflict has broad cultural implications. The triumph of Newtonian mechanics was widely perceived as the full flowering of the so-called inductive method to find the truth by accumulating observations. This achievement provoked a revolt by romantics and poets who could not stomach a view of human activity that had no place for the imagination. Nor could they accept the mechanical universe. The result of this collision has been a kind of cultural clash with imagination set against reason, the organic set against the mechanical, the inspiration of the poet set against the empiricism of the scientist.

Poppers theory offers a cure for this cultural conflict by harmonising the relationship between the various elements of the situation for both scientists and artists and indeed for anyone. These elements include traditional beliefs, criticism, logic, imagination and experimental trials. These elements each have a role to play and so there is no need for the tensions and antagonisms that flow from partial and narrow views of problem-solving and creativity, whether in science, art, technology or daily life. A helpful selection of Poppers thoughts can be found in David Millers A Pocket Popper (Miller, 1983) and in a collection of Cliffs Notes for Poppers first five books Champion (2016).

On the second point the schema brings out the importance of recognizing problems and working on them in a critical and imaginative spirit. In this schema a problem functions as an ecological niche to be colonised by tentative solutions. Problems are welcomed as a challenge, not an impediment to science because they are the growing point or perhaps a habitat for new species of ideas. This provides a theory of discovery, based on the creative function of criticism. To grasp the full power of evolutionary epistemology it is necessary to understand this creative function of criticism in generating problems that can be seen as spaces for new ideas Problems are the habitat where new ideas grow and criticism has two functions, which are about equally valuable: (1) to eliminate error and (2) to reveal new problems, i.e. new habitats. Thus Poppers theory brings out both the error elimination and the creative function of criticism and we need to maximise the play of criticism to get the best out of both its functions.

Watson and Crick systematically used the critical approach in their pursuit of the double helix structure of DNA. As Crick described it:

Our other advantage was that we had evolved unstated but fruitful methods of collaboration, something that was lacking in the London group. If either of us suggested a new idea the other, while taking it seriously, would attempt to demolish it in a candid but non hostile manner. This turned out to be quite crucial. In solving scientific problems of this type, it is almost impossible to avoid falling into errorNow, to obtain the correct solution of a [complex] problem usually requires a sequence of logical steps. If one of these is a mistake, the answer is often hidden, since the error usually puts one on completely the wrong track. It is therefore extremely important not to be trapped by ones own mistakes. (Crick, 1988, 70) [my emphasis].

In an interview he stated Its getting rid of false ideas which is the most important thing in developing the good ones You should not get bogged down with experimental details. You should make some sort of bold assumptions, and try them out (Wolpert and Richards, 1989, 94-5). Richard Feynman was an exemplary critical rationalist. He famously said science is organized skepticism in the reliability of expert opinion and he introduced his students to scientific discovery as guessing followed by the deduction and computation of results from the guess to check with experimental observations (Feynman, 2013). This is what Popper called conjecture and refutation. It seems that Feynman never encountered Poppers ideas and his impatience with philosophy and the soft social sciences was legendary (Feynman 1985).

Poppers student Bartley described four forms of criticism: (1) experience; (2) theories; (3) problems; and (4) logic (Bartley, 1982, section xiii onward). The criticism by test or experience is closely related to the main concern of theories of knowledge which are based on observations. The crucial difference is that for critical rationalists the observations are designed to test ideas, not to verify or confirm them. Of course good theories will pass a lot of tests but that is not the end of the matter because even the best theories have rivals and also internal problems which call for more work. The second form of criticism by theories consists of comparing the assumptions and implications of the theory under consideration with other well-tested theories. Criticism by problems or check on the problem means assessing how effectively the theory (or the policy proposal) addresses the problems that it was formulated to solve.

As for the process of forming critical preferences among rival theories, Popper suggested several criteria rather than one over-riding principle which leaves open the possibility that some theories will have different performances on the different criteria. This is consistent with Poppers support for theoretical pluralism and the desirability of competing research programs. His first proposal applies to major breakthrough developments.

The new theory should proceed from some simple, new, and powerful unifying idea about some connection or relation (such as gravitational attraction) between hitherto unconnected things (such as apples and planets) or facts (such as inertial and gravitational mass) or new theoretical entities (such as field and particles). (Popper, 1963, 241)

Other features of the preferable theory are: it makes more precise predictions and these stand up to more precise tests; it explains more facts; it describes or explains the facts in more detail; it has passed tests where the rival failed; it has suggested new experimental tests and passed them.

POPPER AND THE AUSTRIAN ECONOMISTS

The argument in this section is that some features of Poppers ideas can improve the image of the Austrian school which currently makes up only about 2% of American economists. The Austrians have suffered from the perception that their methods do not meet the standards which have been taught in the philosophy of science since it became professionalised and specialised as an academic discipline under the influence of the logical empiricists led by Rudolf Carnap (1891-1970) and Karl Hempel (1905-1997).

Austrian economics is not widely taught and some background information will be helpful for most readers. It is pursued by a confederation of scholars who trace their intellectual ancestry to the founding father Carl Menger (1840-1921) and his colleagues Eugene Bohm Bawerk and Friedrich Weiser. Other significant early figures were John Bates Clark, Frank Fetter and Herbert J. Davenport in the US, Philip Wicksteed in England and Knut Wicksell in Sweden (Salerno 2010). Prominent Austrians in the next generation were Ludwig von Mises (1881-1973), Friedrich Hayek (1898-1992) and Lionel Robbins (1898-1984) in the first part of his career.

Until the 1930s the members of the school were concentrated in Austria with scattered supporters around the world. Now most of the Austrians are in the United States with two prominent hives of activity, one at the George Mason University in Virginia and another at the Mises Institute in Alabama. There are doctoral programs at George Mason University, Texas Tech, Texas Baylor and Virginia. The Austrians are closely affiliated with the Virginia school of public choice theory (Coase, Buchanan, Tullock) and the Ostrom/Bloomington school of public administration.

In the early 20th century the Austrian ideas appeared to be firmly planted in the mainstream of the economics profession but the impact of Keynes in the 1930s and the rise of mathematics in the 1940s transformed the situation. The Austrians rejected the Keynesian revolution and they also object to much of the mathematical analysis that rapidly became standard in the profession after the war. They insisted that mathematical analysis can be misleading if it is not handled with care and insight into the economic issues as well as the mathematical formalism. Consequently the Austrians were widely perceived to be out of date and amidst the mushrooming postwar growth of the profession they became practically invisible until the movement staged a revival during the 1970s (Vaughn 1990, Boettke 2015). Another adverse influence from the 1930s was the rise of the philosophy of science known as logical positivism in Vienna and logical empiricism in the United States.

Mises did not live long enough to see the Austrian revival although he did more than anyone to keep the ideas alive. Prominent in the revival were Hayek, Ludwig Lachmann (1906-1990), Murray Rothbard (1926-1995) and Israel Kirzner (1930 ) . The numbers have increased rapidly in recent years and it is hazardous to mention the names of contemporaries because any short list will give offence to many worthy scholars who are left out! For a concise and masterly account of the progress of the school from Menger to the present day see Boettke (2015).

In the aftermath of the Great Financial Crisis 2008 the Austrians emerged with a deal of credit for the insights they provided into the mechanism of the collapse (Thornton, 2009).

Several high profile investment advisers and financial commentators have employed the Austrian Business Cycle Theory in their interpretation of the crisis. They have been inspired to revisit this theory as a result of the manifest failure of mainstream macroeconomists to foresee or explain the subprime mortgage crisis and its subsequent metamorphosis into a pandemic financial meltdowna number of economists and journalists associated with the modern Austrian school had warned of an emerging housing bubble during the Greenspan era when the conventional wisdom was that the Federal Reserve System had matters well in hand (Salerno, 2012).

The leading emphases of the school include the salience of dynamic competition and entrepreneurial innovation in the marketplace, the origin of social institutions as the unintended consequences of human action, the subjective theory of value, recognition of the time factor in social and economic processes, and the uncertainty of human knowledge. Those ideas are not unique to the Austrians although they been especially diligent in drawing out their implications. They have distinctive ideas regarding the boom and bust business cycle (as described by Salerno), capital theory and especially the methodology and philosophy of research.

The Austrian approach can be described as the situational analysis of human action, combining the language of von Mises, Talcott Parsons and Karl Popper. A central resource for Austrians is Human Action by von Mises, first published in 1949. A similar framework of analysis can be found in The Structure of Human Action published by Talcott Parsons in 1937 (summarized in Devereaux, 1964) and in The Open Society and Its Enemies and The Poverty of Historicism (Popper, 1945, 1957). The common features of the schemes of Parsons, von Mises and Popper are summarised in Champion (2010). The analysis starts with the human actor making plans and taking action to achieve his or her objectives. The actors take account of the various elements in the situation as they are subjectively perceived. These include the resources and capacities of the actors, the opportunities and constraints offered by the physical environment, the institutional framework of laws and regulations, and the social/cultural framework of written and unwritten mores, traditions, values and belief systems.

Some of the elements can change rapidly but many can only be changed slowly and the individual actor has very limited capacity to change the major elements of the situation. The outcome of actions are mediated (limited) by natural laws whether the actors are aware of them or not. The situation offers problems and opportunities for the actor/entrepreneur and Parsons in particular emphasised the element of individual choice and he thought of his approach as a voluntarist theory of human action (Devereaux, 1964).

Economists focus on the economic system, prices and production and the like but the framework is sufficiently expansive to take account of the impact of other factors and to coordinate the work in many areas of the social sciences and humanities. The framework drafted by the gang of three in the 1930s could have been used to maintain sociology and economics as an integrated discipline and to sponsor partnerships between economists and all students of social institutions law, politics, literature, religion and cultural studies at large. There was a window of opportunity for these three leading figures in their respective fields to form a united front across the disciplines of sociology, economics and philosophy to promote the ideas that they shared and to debate the issues where they disagreed. This did not happen; there was no united front, no dialogue to resolve differences and the defective ideas that all three identified in the 1930s became embedded in the rapidly growing community of academics and researchers after the war. Consequently the kind of research programs which were implicit in the situational analysis of human action were blindsided by the dominance of logical empiricism, Keynesianism and mathematical formalism. This is not to decry the use of mathematics but the efficacy of numerical analysis has to be decided on a case by case basis by people who are understand both the mathematics and the economics.

The Achilles heel of the Austrian school in the eyes of the modern mainstream is the claim that the basic principles of economics can be established by logical analysis in advance of evidence (apriori) and they cannot and need not be empirically tested. Not surprisingly this position raised eyebrows after the rise of logical positivism/empiricism and Poppers ideas in the philosophy of science created a demand for empirical verification or at least testing of scientific theories. Living in Vienna von Mises saw this coming because he was alert to the activities of the famous Vienna Circle of logical positivists and he wrote a long criticism of positivism in his master work (von Mises 1949).

The strong form of apriorism is apparent in his comparison of monetary theory with geometry where all of the theorems are implied in the axioms. The quantity theory does not add to our knowledge anything that is which is not virtually contained in the concept of money (von Mises, 1966, 38). The starting point of praxeology is not a choice of axioms and a decision about methods of procedure, but reflection about the essence of action (ibid, 39). Rothbard took the same strong position. The fundamental axiom that individual human beings act, that is, on the primordial fact that individuals engage in conscious action towards chosen goals [in contrast with reflex or knee-jerk behavior], furthermore, since praxeology begins with a true axiom, A, all the propositions that can be deduced from this axiom must also be true. For if A implies B, and A is true, then B must also be true. (Rothbard, 1976). He asserted that these propositions are justified because they are deduced from the axiom of purposeful action. Apart from the fact that these conclusions cannot be tested by historical or statistical means, there is no need to test them since their truth has already been established. (ibid).

In view of those arguments Mark Blaug wrote Mises made important contributions to monetary economics, business cycle theory and of course socialist economics, but his later writings on the foundations of economic science are so cranky and idiosyncratic that we can only wonder that they have been taken seriously by anyone (Blaug, 1992, 81). He quoted Samuelsons famous rejoinder to the Austrians. Well, in connection with the exaggerated claims that used to be made in economics for the power of deduction and a priori reasoningI tremble for the reputation of my subject.

Poppers approach offers a corrective to the methodological rhetoric of the Austrians and simultaneously a rejoinder to Blaug and Samuelson. For Popper the test of evidence applies to the explanations and predictions generated by a scientific research program. The program itself is a system of ideas including philosophical and metaphysical framework assumptions and methodological procedures and principles that generate explanations and predictions. Not all of these parts are amenable to empirical testing and this applies to the natural sciences as much as the human sciences.

Hence it is not a departure from standard scientific practice to make use of untestable propositions. The critical rationalist does not insist that all the premises and presuppositions in scientific discourse should be verified, merely that they stand up to criticism as well or better than other options (Hands, 2001, 301). Recall the four forms of criticism: empirical tests are a particular kind of criticism but they are not appropriate for all assumption, especially those of methodology and the philosophical framework assumptions of the program. They prove themselves at one step removed by the power of the explanatory theories and the research programs that they generate.

The basic principles of Austrian economics such as the axiom of action can be regarded as working assumptions in the form of indispensable methodological procedures and assumptions which are required in all sciences. The axiom is often described as self-evidently true but it is better to describe as a methodological assumption that contributes to explanatory theories which are tested by their capacity to account for the phenomena under investigation, such as money, the Great Depression, unemployment, inflation and trade cycles including the Great Financial Crisis.

Popper made two other relevant contributions. One is the framework of Situational Analysis and the Rationality Principle which is functionally equivalent to the Austrian approach using the axiom of human action (Popper 1994). The second is to introduce students to the critical/creative problem-solving approach of the scientist who operates like an entrepreneur in a world of intellectual problems and opportunities, generating conjectures which are tested and criticised in the laboratory and the marketplace of ideas. Students who bring this approach to a course on Austrian economics will have less to unlearn than students who have encountered the philosophy of science in the more usual mode of collecting data and attempting to confirm theories. Harper explicitly drew on Poppers evolutionary epistemology in his work on entrepreneurial activities (Harper, 1996 and 2003).

THE QUALITY OF SCIENCE

There is a rapidly-growing literature on problems in the quality of published research. The editor in chief of Lancet wrote The case against science is straightforward: much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may be simply untrueScience has taken a turn towards darkness with reference to small sample sizes, invalid analyses, conflicts of interest and obsession with fashionable trends (Horton, 2015). There is concern about the increasing incidence of retractions and the higher rate of retractions in high impact journals (Fang et al., 2011) and the dangerous liaison of science and politics (Butos and McQuade, 2006). Less than 12% of articles in 2004 in The Journal of Economic Theory passed three tests stating a theory, explaining why it mattered and testing it (Klein and Romero, 2007). There are problems of replication of results and politicization in some fields. Another concern is the declining publication of negative results (Fanelli, 2012).

Popper provided two ways to approach this complex of issues. One is the social or institutional analysis of scientific and industrial progress which he proposed in The Poverty of Historicism. The other is the approach of critical rationalism and multi-faceted criticism to offset tendencies to confirmation bias that are built into the courses in the philosophy of science which focus on confirmation and the quest for inductive probabilities.

In The Poverty of Historicism Popper confronted Comte and Mill who adopted a psychological approach and regarded progress as inevitable due to the progressive tendencies in the human mind. Popper noted that there are other tendencies in the human mind such as forgetfulness, laziness and dogmatism. Instead of the psychological approach he urged a search for the conditions of progress using a situational approach to imagine ways that progress could be stopped. This is a very counterintuitive approach and it is presented in a few highly compressed paragraphs, summarized below.

Popper did not pursue these early thoughts in depth and others made important contributions. The art historian Ernst Gombrich applied Poppers ideas to a wide range of issues including the drift of linguistic usage, architecture, the popularity of modern art and trends in music and fashion including hemlines (Gombrich 1974). Ian Jarvie published a major work to explain what he called Poppers social turn to institutional analysis almost a decade after Popper died (Jarvie, 2001). He previously applied the situational approach in sociology (Jarvie, 1972). Roger James applied critical rationalism to some episodes of central planning in Britain (James, 1980) and Tyrell Burgess used Poppers approach in education planning and administration in Britain (Burgess, 1985). Paul Knepper explained the work that has been done on situational crime prevention inspired by both Popper and the Austrian economists (Knepper 2007).

As for stopping progress in science, Popper proposed that this might be achieved in various ways.

By closing down or controlling laboratories for research, by suppressing or controlling scientific periodicals and other means of discussion, by suppressing scientific congresses and conferences, by suppressing Universities and other schools, by suppressing books, the printing press, writing, and, in the end, speaking. All these things which indeed might be suppressed (or controlled) are social institutionsScientific method itself has social aspects. Science, and more especially scientific progress, are the results not of isolated efforts but of the free competition of thought. For science needs ever more competition between hypotheses and ever more rigorous tests. And the competing hypotheses need personal representation, as it were: they need advocates, they need a jury, and even a public. This personal representation must be institutionally organized if we wish to ensure that it works. (Popper, 1961, 154-5)

Popper also used the social approach to suggest how science can achieve a degree of objectivity through cooperative criticism of the kind practiced by Watson and Crick. When he wrote about this in the 1930s and 1940s the sociology of knowledge was becoming popular under the influence of Marxists and others such as Karl Mannheim. This approach aimed to explain our personal beliefs as a reflection of the social and political climate of ideas around us.

Popper did not challenge the importance of intellectual influences. However he turned the sociology of knowledge on its head to argue that it is a mistake focus on the formation of subjective beliefs because this does not engage with the proper object of inquiry, namely knowledge as a public or inter-subjective social product. In other words we are students and critics of spoken and written propositions and arguments, not subjective beliefs or states of mind. Thus it follows that the objectivity of science, such as it is, does not arise from the a lack of prejudices among scientists or their unique impartiality. Instead it depends on a process of more or less free criticism in the scientific community.

It may be said that what we call scientific objectivity is not a product of the individual scientists impartiality, but a product of the social or public character of scientific method; and the individual scientists impartiality is, so far as it exists, not the source but rather the result of this socially or institutionally organized objectivity of science. (Popper, 1966, 217).

It is important to note that criticism may be more or less free and this raises some issues about free speech and the factors which limit criticism. Following Poppers line of thought to promote scientific objectivity it seems that we need such things as diversity of ideas (points of view and theoretical pluralism), clear formulation of the problems that the theories are supposed to solve, and access to journals, seminars and conferences to facilitate critical discussion. Some of these requirements have to be provided by individual scientists, especially new ideas and imaginative criticism while others are social and institutional.

Turning to the contribution of the philosophy of science to the quality of scientific work and especially the declining publication of negative results, it may be that the function of criticism is underplayed in teaching the philosophy of science compared with the effort devoted to confirmation theory and the technical aspects of assigning inductive probabilities to theories. In addition much of this work proceeds in isolation from live problems in science. Mulligan and associates deplored this tendency in philosophy at large (Mulligan, Simons and Smith, 2006) and a recent example is a contribution to The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Science (Sprenger, 2016).

Sprenger posed two problems of induction; first whether inferences beyond the evidence are justified and second, assuming a positive answer to the first, to assess the various methods used to justify inferences about the future performance of general scientific theories. Regarding the first problem he briefly noted Poppers critical approach and work by Deborah Mayo on testing in some specific scientific situations. That could have led to a survey of work by philosophers in relation to substantive scientific problems, such as Alan Chalmers on the contribution of philosophy to the development of atomic theory in chemistry (Chalmers, 2009). This could arouse the interest of working scientists. However almost all of the paper addressed the latest developments in probability theory without seriously engaging with any contemporary scientific issues. There is an impression of a mighty engine of philosophical thought which is not transmitting any power to the wheels of science.

AN INTRODUCTION TO PHILOSOPHY AND CRITICAL THINKING

Critical thinking is an important part of philosophy and this section suggests how a short course on critical thinking could be part of a Philosophy major or indeed a part of any liberal education curriculum. The idea is to introduce the four types of criticism suggested by Bartley (above); the test of experience; the test of comparison with other theories; the check on the problem; and the test of logical consistency. This could be pursued at school, it could be used for an introduction to university courses in philosophy, it could be a core subject for all tertiary students. The students would explore the implications and applications of the four methods of criticism applied to some theories or beliefs which interest the class. The topics should have some scientific or practical relevance but it would be unhelpful to select the most pressing issues of the day if these generate too much polarization of opinion to permit a civil discussion.

Explaining the test of evidence and experience could lead into the philosophy of science, the logic of experimental design and hypothesis-testing, to a study of rules of evidence in law, to the use of diagnostic tests by doctors, motor mechanics or plumbers, and to the use of clues by detectives and archaeologists. The test of comparison with other theories would raise questions about the weight and authority to be assigned to assumptions imported into arguments from other domains. For example the psychological theories assumed by literary critics, the physical theories assumed by geologists, the sociological theories assumed by engineers, the economic theories assumed by politicians. This part of the course should open students eyes to the interdependence of the disciplines and the artificial nature of boundaries between subjects. At the same time students may learn how to use readily available resources, including other students and staff to pursue problems from one discipline to another (for example by walking from the Philosophy Department to Physics or Life Sciences).

The check on the problem can lead in particularly interesting directions. This part of the course could indicate how a revised formulation of a problem may be decisive, how background theories can unconsciously direct how problems are identified and formulated, how fashions, fads and funding can influence the direction of research. It would lead to a study of the history of ideas, showing that problems have histories, that philosophical problems usually have their roots elsewhere, in science, or religion or in social and moral dilemmas, that powerful themes can leak from one discipline to another and preoccupations often run in parallel in more than one field.

The section on logic would call for study of both the formal and informal methods of argument. Formal logic concerns rules of inference and the way that logical steps can be used to draw out the consequences of an argument or of a scientific theory, perhaps for testing or for technological application. Informal logic encompasses the tricks of debate that may be used to cover up logical and factual defects in a position. Discourse by politicians, creation scientists and advertisers would furnish material for critical study.

If this approach is used for philosophy students it could be followed by exploratory reading of the Great Philosophers, though preferably not until the students have a firm sense of their own interests and problems. In this mood they might be less deferential to the greats, more critical and at the same time more willing to learn. This would contrast with the common situation where the young student is confronted with the soaring abstractions and profound arguments produced by the titans of the past. The novice is likely to be overwhelmed (who am I to criticise the great?) or else clings to a critique provided by the teacher. The result is likely to be either a student who is inducted into a system of thought or a graduate who is highly skilled in certain methods and techniques which are not necessarily connected to issues outside philosophy.

It is important to note that this approach is very different from most of the literature on critical thinking surveyed by Miller (2005). He discovered that there was a great deal of effort dedicated to critical thinking in recent times, citing an annotated bibliography of material on critical thinking with 903 books and papers published between 1980 and 1991 (Cassell and Congleton, 1993). Scanning the literature he found that practically all of it defined the purpose of arguments in terms of justification of beliefs and persuading other people to come to the same point of view. He quoted a typical example from the preface of a book on the philosophy of argument. Argument is a social practice, arguable part of the core of any culturethe finding of reasons to justify beliefs and the response to disagreement by rational persuasion. (Blair, 1999).

The purpose of the course proposed here is very different from justification and persuasion because it is focussed on the criticism of arguments and it can be explained in the language of used by Stuart Firestein in his book Ignorance: How it Drives Science (Firestein, 2012). More precisely, discovering ignorance (unsolved problems) drives science. Criticism a la Watson and Crick uncovers ignorance especially false assumptions and that drives the quest for better assumptions and new ideas. According to Firestein the great Italian physicist Enrico Fermi told his students that an experiment that successfully proves a hypothesis is a measurement and one that doesnt is a discovery an uncovering of new ignorance (Firestein, 2012, 57). Firesteins book could be the text for the course.

CONCLUSION

Popper has a low profile these days judging from the negligible references to his work in The Oxford Handbook of Contemporary Philosophy (Jackson and Smith, 2005) and The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Science (Humphries, 2016). He enjoyed a high profile during the philosophy of science wars in the 1960s and 1970s but he became classified as a transitional figure between the logical empiricists and the new waves generated by Kuhn, Lakatos and Feyerabend. It seems that he went out of fashion before the full implications of his critical rationalism and evolutionary epistemology were explored (Champion, 2011). In the philosophy and methodology of economics that view is strongly supported by Hands (2001). This paper argues that there is still plenty of mileage in Poppers work including a potentially fruitful partnership with Austrian economics, a contribution to improve the quality of science and ideas to promote critical and imaginative thinking.

REFERENCES

Bartley, W. W. (1982). The Philosophy of Karl Popper: Part III. Rationality, Criticism and Logic. Philosophia, 12. 121-221.

Blair, J. A. (1999). Preface in T. Govier, The Philosophy of Argument. Newport News, VA: Vale Press. vii-x.

Blaug, M. (1992). The Methodology of Economics: Or How Economists Explain. Second edition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Boettke, P. (2015). The Methodology of Austrian Economics as a Sophisticated, Rather Than Nave, Philosophy of Economics. Journal of the History of Economic Thought, 37, (1). 79-85.

Butos W. N. & McQuade T. (2006). Government and Science: A Dangerous Liaison? The Independent Review, 11(2): 177208.

Burgess, T. (1985). Applying Popper to Social Problems: Practical Solutions to Practical Problems. ETC Fall. 299-309.

Cassell, J. F. & Congleton, R. J. (1993). Critical Thinking: An Annotated Bibliography. London: The Scarecrow Press.

Chalmers, A. (2009). The Scientists Atom and the Philosophers Stone: How Science Succeeded and Philosophy Failed to Gain Knowledge of Atoms. Springer.

Champion, R. (2010). The Common Ground of Parsons, Mises and Popper in the 1930s: The Action Frame of Reference, Praxeology and Situational Analysis. Retrieved from http://www.the-rathouse.com/EvenMoreAustrianProgram/Convergence.html

Champion, R. (2011). In Defence of Fallible Apriorism and The Aristotelian Program for Economics. Nuova civilt delle macchine, Vol. 1-2. 69-88.

Champion, R. (2016). Popper: The Champion Guides. Amazon https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=rafe+champion

Crick, F. (1988). What Mad Pursuit: A Personal View of Scientific Discovery. New York: Basic Books.

Deveraux, E. C. (1961). Parsons Social Theory. In M. Black (Ed) The Social Theories of Talcott Parsons. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall. 1-63.

Fang, F. C., Casadevall, A. & Morrison, R. P. (2011). Retracted Science and the retraction index. Infect. Immunol. 78, (10) 3855-3859. http://iai.asm.org/content/79/10/3855.

Fanelli, D. (2012). Negative results are disappearing from most disciplines and countries. Sociometrics, 90, (3). 891904.

Feynman, R. (1985). Surely Youre Joking, Mr Feynman: The Adventures of a Curious Character. New York: W.W. Norton.

Feynman, R. (2013). The Scientific Method Richard Feynman. Youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OL6-x0modwY

Firestein, S. (2012). Ignorance: How it Drives Science. New York: Oxford University Press.

Gombrich, E . H. (1974). The Logic of Vanity Fair: Alternatives to Historicism in the Study of Fashions, Style and Taste. In P. A. Schilpp (Ed) The Philosophy of Karl Popper, La Salle: Open Court. 925-960.

Hands, D. W. 2001. Reflection Without Rules: Economic Methodology and Contemporary Science Theory. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Harper, D. (1996). Entrepreneurship and the Market Process: An Enquiry into the Growth of Knowledge. London: Routledge.

Harper, D. (2003). Foundations of Entrepreneurship and Economic Development. New York: Routledge.

Horton, R. (2015). What is medicines 5 sigma? http://www.thelancet.com Vol. 385 April 11.

Humphreys, P. (2016). The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Science. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Jackson, F. & Smith, M (2005). The Oxford Handbook of Contemporary Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

James, R. (1980) Return to Reason: Karl Poppers Thought in Public Life. Wells, Somerset: Open Books Publishing Co.

Jarvie, I. C. (1972). Concepts and Society. Routledge: London.

Jarvie, I. C. (2001). The Republic of Science: The Emergence of Poppers Social View of Science 1935-1945. Amsterdam: Ripodi.

Klein, D. B. & Romero, P. P. (2007). Model Building versus Theorizing: The Paucity of Theory in the Journal of Economic Theory. Econ Journal Watch, 45, (2). 241-271.

Medawar, P. B. (1982). Plutos Republic. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Knepper, P. (2007). Situational Logic in Social Science Inquiry: From Economics to Criminology. Review of Austrian Economics 20. 25-41.

Miller, D. (1983). A Pocket Popper. Fontana Pocket Readers. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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critical rationalism blog – An exploration of critical …

Rationalism – Wikipedia

In philosophy, rationalism is the epistemological view that “regards reason as the chief source and test of knowledge”[3] or “any view appealing to reason as a source of knowledge or justification”.[4] More formally, rationalism is defined as a methodology or a theory “in which the criterion of the truth is not sensory but intellectual and deductive”.[5]

In an old controversy, rationalism was opposed to empiricism, where the rationalists believed that reality has an intrinsically logical structure. Because of this, the rationalists argued that certain truths exist and that the intellect can directly grasp these truths. That is to say, rationalists asserted that certain rational principles exist in logic, mathematics, ethics, and metaphysics that are so fundamentally true that denying them causes one to fall into contradiction. The rationalists had such a high confidence in reason that empirical proof and physical evidence were regarded as unnecessary to ascertain certain truths in other words, “there are significant ways in which our concepts and knowledge are gained independently of sense experience”.[6]

Different degrees of emphasis on this method or theory lead to a range of rationalist standpoints, from the moderate position “that reason has precedence over other ways of acquiring knowledge” to the more extreme position that reason is “the unique path to knowledge”.[7] Given a pre-modern understanding of reason, rationalism is identical to philosophy, the Socratic life of inquiry, or the zetetic (skeptical) clear interpretation of authority (open to the underlying or essential cause of things as they appear to our sense of certainty). In recent decades, Leo Strauss sought to revive “Classical Political Rationalism” as a discipline that understands the task of reasoning, not as foundational, but as maieutic.

In politics, rationalism, since the Enlightenment, historically emphasized a “politics of reason” centered upon rational choice, utilitarianism, secularism, and irreligion[8] the latter aspect’s antitheism was later softened by the adoption of pluralistic methods practicable regardless of religious or irreligious ideology.[9]

In this regard, the philosopher John Cottingham[10] noted how rationalism, a methodology, became socially conflated with atheism, a worldview:

In the past, particularly in the 17th and 18th centuries, the term ‘rationalist’ was often used to refer to free thinkers of an anti-clerical and anti-religious outlook, and for a time the word acquired a distinctly pejorative force (thus in 1670 Sanderson spoke disparagingly of ‘a mere rationalist, that is to say in plain English an atheist of the late edition…’). The use of the label ‘rationalist’ to characterize a world outlook which has no place for the supernatural is becoming less popular today; terms like ‘humanist’ or ‘materialist’ seem largely to have taken its place. But the old usage still survives.

Rationalism is often contrasted with empiricism. Taken very broadly these views are not mutually exclusive, since a philosopher can be both rationalist and empiricist.[4] Taken to extremes, the empiricist view holds that all ideas come to us a posteriori, that is to say, through experience; either through the external senses or through such inner sensations as pain and gratification. The empiricist essentially believes that knowledge is based on or derived directly from experience. The rationalist believes we come to knowledge a priori through the use of logic and is thus independent of sensory experience. In other words, as Galen Strawson once wrote, “you can see that it is true just lying on your couch. You don’t have to get up off your couch and go outside and examine the way things are in the physical world. You don’t have to do any science.”[11] Between both philosophies, the issue at hand is the fundamental source of human knowledge and the proper techniques for verifying what we think we know. Whereas both philosophies are under the umbrella of epistemology, their argument lies in the understanding of the warrant, which is under the wider epistemic umbrella of the theory of justification.

The theory of justification is the part of epistemology that attempts to understand the justification of propositions and beliefs. Epistemologists are concerned with various epistemic features of belief, which include the ideas of justification, warrant, rationality, and probability. Of these four terms, the term that has been most widely used and discussed by the early 21st century is “warrant”. Loosely speaking, justification is the reason that someone (probably) holds a belief.

If “A” makes a claim, and “B” then casts doubt on it, “A”‘s next move would normally be to provide justification. The precise method one uses to provide justification is where the lines are drawn between rationalism and empiricism (among other philosophical views). Much of the debate in these fields are focused on analyzing the nature of knowledge and how it relates to connected notions such as truth, belief, and justification.

At its core, rationalism consists of three basic claims. For one to consider themselves a rationalist, they must adopt at least one of these three claims: The Intuition/Deduction Thesis, The Innate Knowledge Thesis, or The Innate Concept Thesis. In addition, rationalists can choose to adopt the claims of Indispensability of Reason and or the Superiority of Reason although one can be a rationalist without adopting either thesis.

Rationale: “Some propositions in a particular subject area, S, are knowable by us by intuition alone; still others are knowable by being deduced from intuited propositions.”[12]

Generally speaking, intuition is a priori knowledge or experiential belief characterized by its immediacy; a form of rational insight. We simply “see” something in such a way as to give us a warranted belief. Beyond that, the nature of intuition is hotly debated.

In the same way, generally speaking, deduction is the process of reasoning from one or more general premises to reach a logically certain conclusion. Using valid arguments, we can deduce from intuited premises.

For example, when we combine both concepts, we can intuit that the number three is prime and that it is greater than two. We then deduce from this knowledge that there is a prime number greater than two. Thus, it can be said that intuition and deduction combined to provide us with a priori knowledge we gained this knowledge independently of sense experience.

Empiricists such as David Hume have been willing to accept this thesis for describing the relationships among our own concepts.[12] In this sense, empiricists argue that we are allowed to intuit and deduce truths from knowledge that has been obtained a posteriori.

By injecting different subjects into the Intuition/Deduction thesis, we are able to generate different arguments. Most rationalists agree mathematics is knowable by applying the intuition and deduction. Some go further to include ethical truths into the category of things knowable by intuition and deduction. Furthermore, some rationalists also claim metaphysics is knowable in this thesis.

In addition to different subjects, rationalists sometimes vary the strength of their claims by adjusting their understanding of the warrant. Some rationalists understand warranted beliefs to be beyond even the slightest doubt; others are more conservative and understand the warrant to be belief beyond a reasonable doubt.

Rationalists also have different understanding and claims involving the connection between intuition and truth. Some rationalists claim that intuition is infallible and that anything we intuit to be true is as such. More contemporary rationalists accept that intuition is not always a source of certain knowledge thus allowing for the possibility of a deceiver who might cause the rationalist to intuit a false proposition in the same way a third party could cause the rationalist to have perceptions of nonexistent objects.

Naturally, the more subjects the rationalists claim to be knowable by the Intuition/Deduction thesis, the more certain they are of their warranted beliefs, and the more strictly they adhere to the infallibility of intuition, the more controversial their truths or claims and the more radical their rationalism.[12]

To argue in favor of this thesis, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, a prominent German philosopher, says, “The senses, although they are necessary for all our actual knowledge, are not sufficient to give us the whole of it, since the senses never give anything but instances, that is to say particular or individual truths. Now all the instances which confirm a general truth, however numerous they may be, are not sufficient to establish the universal necessity of this same truth, for it does not follow that what happened before will happen in the same way again. From which it appears that necessary truths, such as we find in pure mathematics, and particularly in arithmetic and geometry, must have principles whose proof does not depend on instances, nor consequently on the testimony of the senses, although without the senses it would never have occurred to us to think of them”[13]

Rationale: “We have knowledge of some truths in a particular subject area, S, as part of our rational nature.”[14]

The Innate Knowledge thesis is similar to the Intuition/Deduction thesis in the regard that both theses claim knowledge is gained a priori. The two theses go their separate ways when describing how that knowledge is gained. As the name, and the rationale, suggests, the Innate Knowledge thesis claims knowledge is simply part of our rational nature. Experiences can trigger a process that allows this knowledge to come into our consciousness, but the experiences don’t provide us with the knowledge itself. The knowledge has been with us since the beginning and the experience simply brought into focus, in the same way a photographer can bring the background of a picture into focus by changing the aperture of the lens. The background was always there, just not in focus.

This thesis targets a problem with the nature of inquiry originally postulated by Plato in Meno. Here, Plato asks about inquiry; how do we gain knowledge of a theorem in geometry? We inquire into the matter. Yet, knowledge by inquiry seems impossible.[15] In other words, “If we already have the knowledge, there is no place for inquiry. If we lack the knowledge, we don’t know what we are seeking and cannot recognize it when we find it. Either way we cannot gain knowledge of the theorem by inquiry. Yet, we do know some theorems.”[14] The Innate Knowledge thesis offers a solution to this paradox. By claiming that knowledge is already with us, either consciously or unconsciously, a rationalist claims we don’t really “learn” things in the traditional usage of the word, but rather that we simply bring to light what we already know.

Rationale: “We have some of the concepts we employ in a particular subject area, S, as part of our rational nature.”[16]

Similar to the Innate Knowledge thesis, the Innate Concept thesis suggests that some concepts are simply part of our rational nature. These concepts are a priori in nature and sense experience is irrelevant to determining the nature of these concepts (though, sense experience can help bring the concepts to our conscious mind).

Some philosophers, such as John Locke (who is considered one of the most influential thinkers of the Enlightenment and an empiricist) argue that the Innate Knowledge thesis and the Innate Concept thesis are the same.[17] Other philosophers, such as Peter Carruthers, argue that the two theses are distinct from one another. As with the other theses covered under the umbrella of rationalism, the more types and greater number of concepts a philosopher claims to be innate, the more controversial and radical their position; “the more a concept seems removed from experience and the mental operations we can perform on experience the more plausibly it may be claimed to be innate. Since we do not experience perfect triangles but do experience pains, our concept of the former is a more promising candidate for being innate than our concept of the latter.[16]

In his book, Meditations on First Philosophy,[18] Ren Descartes postulates three classifications for our ideas when he says, “Among my ideas, some appear to be innate, some to be adventitious, and others to have been invented by me. My understanding of what a thing is, what truth is, and what thought is, seems to derive simply from my own nature. But my hearing a noise, as I do now, or seeing the sun, or feeling the fire, comes from things which are located outside me, or so I have hitherto judged. Lastly, sirens, hippogriffs and the like are my own invention.”[19]

Adventitious ideas are those concepts that we gain through sense experiences, ideas such as the sensation of heat, because they originate from outside sources; transmitting their own likeness rather than something else and something you simply cannot will away. Ideas invented by us, such as those found in mythology, legends, and fairy tales are created by us from other ideas we possess. Lastly, innate ideas, such as our ideas of perfection, are those ideas we have as a result of mental processes that are beyond what experience can directly or indirectly provide.

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz defends the idea of innate concepts by suggesting the mind plays a role in determining the nature of concepts, to explain this, he likens the mind to a block of marble in the New Essays on Human Understanding, “This is why I have taken as an illustration a block of veined marble, rather than a wholly uniform block or blank tablets, that is to say what is called tabula rasa in the language of the philosophers. For if the soul were like those blank tablets, truths would be in us in the same way as the figure of Hercules is in a block of marble, when the marble is completely indifferent whether it receives this or some other figure. But if there were veins in the stone which marked out the figure of Hercules rather than other figures, this stone would be more determined thereto, and Hercules would be as it were in some manner innate in it, although labour would be needed to uncover the veins, and to clear them by polishing, and by cutting away what prevents them from appearing. It is in this way that ideas and truths are innate in us, like natural inclinations and dispositions, natural habits or potentialities, and not like activities, although these potentialities are always accompanied by some activities which correspond to them, though they are often imperceptible.”[20]

The three aforementioned theses of Intuition/Deduction, Innate Knowledge, and Innate Concept are the cornerstones of rationalism. To be considered a rationalist, one must adopt at least one of those three claims. The following two theses are traditionally adopted by rationalists, but they aren’t essential to the rationalist’s position.

The Indispensability of Reason Thesis has the following rationale, “The knowledge we gain in subject area, S, by intuition and deduction, as well as the ideas and instances of knowledge in S that are innate to us, could not have been gained by us through sense experience.”[3] In short, this thesis claims that experience cannot provide what we gain from reason.

The Superiority of Reason Thesis has the following rationale, ‘”The knowledge we gain in subject area S by intuition and deduction or have innately is superior to any knowledge gained by sense experience”.[3] In other words, this thesis claims reason is superior to experience as a source for knowledge.

In addition to the following claims, rationalists often adopt similar stances on other aspects of philosophy. Most rationalists reject skepticism for the areas of knowledge they claim are knowable a priori. Naturally, when you claim some truths are innately known to us, one must reject skepticism in relation to those truths. Especially for rationalists who adopt the Intuition/Deduction thesis, the idea of epistemic foundationalism tends to crop up. This is the view that we know some truths without basing our belief in them on any others and that we then use this foundational knowledge to know more truths.[3]

Rationalism – as an appeal to human reason as a way of obtaining knowledge – has a philosophical history dating from antiquity. The analytical nature of much of philosophical enquiry, the awareness of apparently a priori domains of knowledge such as mathematics, combined with the emphasis of obtaining knowledge through the use of rational faculties (commonly rejecting, for example, direct revelation) have made rationalist themes very prevalent in the history of philosophy.

Since the Enlightenment, rationalism is usually associated with the introduction of mathematical methods into philosophy as seen in the works of Descartes, Leibniz, and Spinoza.[5] This is commonly called continental rationalism, because it was predominant in the continental schools of Europe, whereas in Britain empiricism dominated.

Even then, the distinction between rationalists and empiricists was drawn at a later period and would not have been recognized by the philosophers involved. Also, the distinction between the two philosophies is not as clear-cut as is sometimes suggested; for example, Descartes and Locke have similar views about the nature of human ideas.[6]

Proponents of some varieties of rationalism argue that, starting with foundational basic principles, like the axioms of geometry, one could deductively derive the rest of all possible knowledge. The philosophers who held this view most clearly were Baruch Spinoza and Gottfried Leibniz, whose attempts to grapple with the epistemological and metaphysical problems raised by Descartes led to a development of the fundamental approach of rationalism. Both Spinoza and Leibniz asserted that, in principle, all knowledge, including scientific knowledge, could be gained through the use of reason alone, though they both observed that this was not possible in practice for human beings except in specific areas such as mathematics. On the other hand, Leibniz admitted in his book Monadology that “we are all mere Empirics in three fourths of our actions.”[7]

Although rationalism in its modern form post-dates antiquity, philosophers from this time laid down the foundations of rationalism.[citation needed] In particular, the understanding that we may be aware of knowledge available only through the use of rational thought.[citation needed]

Ajita Kesakambali was an ancient Indian philosopher in the 6th century BCE. He is considered to be the first known proponent of Indian materialism, and forerunner to the Charvaka school of Indian thought, which holds direct perception, empiricism, and conditional inference as proper sources of knowledge, embraces philosophical skepticism and rejects Vedas, Vedic ritualism, and supernaturalism.[21]

Pythagoras was one of the first Western philosophers to stress rationalist insight.[22] He is often revered as a great mathematician, mystic and scientist, but he is best known for the Pythagorean theorem, which bears his name, and for discovering the mathematical relationship between the length of strings on lute and the pitches of the notes. Pythagoras “believed these harmonies reflected the ultimate nature of reality. He summed up the implied metaphysical rationalism in the words “All is number”. It is probable that he had caught the rationalist’s vision, later seen by Galileo (15641642), of a world governed throughout by mathematically formulable laws”.[22] It has been said that he was the first man to call himself a philosopher, or lover of wisdom.[23]

Plato held rational insight to a very high standard, as is seen in his works such as Meno and The Republic. He taught on the Theory of Forms (or the Theory of Ideas)[24][25][26] which asserts that the highest and most fundamental kind of reality is not the material world of change known to us through sensation, but rather the abstract, non-material (but substantial) world of forms (or ideas).[27] For Plato, these forms were accessible only to reason and not to sense.[22] In fact, it is said that Plato admired reason, especially in geometry, so highly that he had the phrase “Let no one ignorant of geometry enter” inscribed over the door to his academy.[28]

Aristotle’s main contribution to rationalist thinking was the use of syllogistic logic and its use in argument. Aristotle defines syllogism as “a discourse in which certain (specific) things having been supposed, something different from the things supposed results of necessity because these things are so.”[29] Despite this very general definition, Aristotle limits himself to categorical syllogisms which consist of three categorical propositions in his work Prior Analytics.[30] These included categorical modal syllogisms.[31]

Although the three great Greek philosophers disagreed with one another on specific points, they all agreed that rational thought could bring to light knowledge that was self-evident information that humans otherwise couldn’t know without the use of reason. After Aristotle’s death, Western rationalistic thought was generally characterized by its application to theology, such as in the works of Augustine, the Islamic philosopher Avicenna and Jewish philosopher and theologian Maimonides. One notable event in the Western timeline was the philosophy of Thomas Aquinas who attempted to merge Greek rationalism and Christian revelation in the thirteenth-century.[22]

Early modern rationalism has its roots in the 17th-century Dutch Republic,[32] with some notable intellectual representatives like Hugo Grotius,[33] Ren Descartes, and Baruch Spinoza.

Descartes was the first of the modern rationalists and has been dubbed the ‘Father of Modern Philosophy.’ Much subsequent Western philosophy is a response to his writings,[34][35][36] which are studied closely to this day.

Descartes thought that only knowledge of eternal truths including the truths of mathematics, and the epistemological and metaphysical foundations of the sciences could be attained by reason alone; other knowledge, the knowledge of physics, required experience of the world, aided by the scientific method. He also argued that although dreams appear as real as sense experience, these dreams cannot provide persons with knowledge. Also, since conscious sense experience can be the cause of illusions, then sense experience itself can be doubtable. As a result, Descartes deduced that a rational pursuit of truth should doubt every belief about sensory reality. He elaborated these beliefs in such works as Discourse on Method, Meditations on First Philosophy, and Principles of Philosophy. Descartes developed a method to attain truths according to which nothing that cannot be recognised by the intellect (or reason) can be classified as knowledge. These truths are gained “without any sensory experience,” according to Descartes. Truths that are attained by reason are broken down into elements that intuition can grasp, which, through a purely deductive process, will result in clear truths about reality.

Descartes therefore argued, as a result of his method, that reason alone determined knowledge, and that this could be done independently of the senses. For instance, his famous dictum, cogito ergo sum or “I think, therefore I am”, is a conclusion reached a priori i.e., prior to any kind of experience on the matter. The simple meaning is that doubting one’s existence, in and of itself, proves that an “I” exists to do the thinking. In other words, doubting one’s own doubting is absurd.[37] This was, for Descartes, an irrefutable principle upon which to ground all forms of other knowledge. Descartes posited a metaphysical dualism, distinguishing between the substances of the human body (“res extensa”) and the mind or soul (“res cogitans”). This crucial distinction would be left unresolved and lead to what is known as the mind-body problem, since the two substances in the Cartesian system are independent of each other and irreducible.

The philosophy of Baruch Spinoza is a systematic, logical, rational philosophy developed in seventeenth-century Europe.[38][39][40] Spinoza’s philosophy is a system of ideas constructed upon basic building blocks with an internal consistency with which he tried to answer life’s major questions and in which he proposed that “God exists only philosophically.”[40][41] He was heavily influenced by Descartes,[42] Euclid[41] and Thomas Hobbes,[42] as well as theologians in the Jewish philosophical tradition such as Maimonides.[42] But his work was in many respects a departure from the Judeo-Christian tradition. Many of Spinoza’s ideas continue to vex thinkers today and many of his principles, particularly regarding the emotions, have implications for modern approaches to psychology. To this day, many important thinkers have found Spinoza’s “geometrical method”[40] difficult to comprehend: Goethe admitted that he found this concept confusing[citation needed]. His magnum opus, Ethics, contains unresolved obscurities and has a forbidding mathematical structure modeled on Euclid’s geometry.[41] Spinoza’s philosophy attracted believers such as Albert Einstein[43] and much intellectual attention.[44][45][46][47][48]

Leibniz was the last of the great Rationalists who contributed heavily to other fields such as metaphysics, epistemology, logic, mathematics, physics, jurisprudence, and the philosophy of religion; he is also considered to be one of the last “universal geniuses”.[49] He did not develop his system, however, independently of these advances. Leibniz rejected Cartesian dualism and denied the existence of a material world. In Leibniz’s view there are infinitely many simple substances, which he called “monads” (possibly taking the term from the work of Anne Conway).

Leibniz developed his theory of monads in response to both Descartes and Spinoza, because the rejection of their visions forced him to arrive at his own solution. Monads are the fundamental unit of reality, according to Leibniz, constituting both inanimate and animate objects. These units of reality represent the universe, though they are not subject to the laws of causality or space (which he called “well-founded phenomena”). Leibniz, therefore, introduced his principle of pre-established harmony to account for apparent causality in the world.

Kant is one of the central figures of modern philosophy, and set the terms by which all subsequent thinkers have had to grapple. He argued that human perception structures natural laws, and that reason is the source of morality. His thought continues to hold a major influence in contemporary thought, especially in fields such as metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, political philosophy, and aesthetics.[50]

Kant named his brand of epistemology “Transcendental Idealism”, and he first laid out these views in his famous work The Critique of Pure Reason. In it he argued that there were fundamental problems with both rationalist and empiricist dogma. To the rationalists he argued, broadly, that pure reason is flawed when it goes beyond its limits and claims to know those things that are necessarily beyond the realm of all possible experience: the existence of God, free will, and the immortality of the human soul. Kant referred to these objects as “The Thing in Itself” and goes on to argue that their status as objects beyond all possible experience by definition means we cannot know them. To the empiricist he argued that while it is correct that experience is fundamentally necessary for human knowledge, reason is necessary for processing that experience into coherent thought. He therefore concludes that both reason and experience are necessary for human knowledge. In the same way, Kant also argued that it was wrong to regard thought as mere analysis. “In Kant’s views, a priori concepts do exist, but if they are to lead to the amplification of knowledge, they must be brought into relation with empirical data”.[51]

Rationalism has become a rarer label tout court of philosophers today; rather many different kinds of specialised rationalisms are identified. For example, Robert Brandom has appropriated the terms rationalist expressivism and rationalist pragmatism as labels for aspects of his programme in Articulating Reasons, and identified linguistic rationalism, the claim that the content of propositions “are essentially what can serve as both premises and conclusions of inferences”, as a key thesis of Wilfred Sellars.[52]

Rationalism was criticized by William James for being out of touch with reality. James also criticized rationalism for representing the universe as a closed system, which contrasts to his view that the universe is an open system.[53]

Read more here:

Rationalism – Wikipedia

BBC – Religions – Atheism: Rationalism

Auguste Rodin’s The Thinker

Rationalism is an approach to life based on reason and evidence.

Rationalism encourages ethical and philosophical ideas that can be tested by experience and rejects authority that cannot be proved by experience.

Because rationalism encourages people to think for themselves, rationalists have many different and diverse ideas and continue in a tradition from the nineteenth century known as freethought.

However, most rationalists would agree that:

Almost all rationalists are atheists or agnostics. There has been a long link between rationalism and scientific method.

There is also a long tradition of philosophers who have approached philosophical and ethical questions from a rationalist perspective.

Bertrand Russell’s “The Faith of a Rationalist” is an example of a rationalist approach to religious belief.

As well as approaching life through reason, rationalists enjoy those things in life where emotion and imagination are to the fore.

There has been a long tradition of artists and writers who have been associated with rationalism and its sister movement, humanism, or have pre-empted rationalist ideas in their writings. George Eliot, E.M. Forster and Emile Zola are all examples of such writers.

Rationalism encourages people to think for themselves, to look at the evidence before them and to come to their own conclusions. For this reason, the logo of the Rationalist Press Association is based on Rodin’s “The Thinker”.

See the article here:

BBC – Religions – Atheism: Rationalism

Rationalism | Definition of Rationalism by Merriam-Webster

1 : reliance on reason as the basis for establishment of religious truth

2a : a theory that reason is in itself a source of knowledge superior to and independent of sense perceptions

b : a view that reason and experience rather than the nonrational are the fundamental criteria in the solution of problems

The rest is here:

Rationalism | Definition of Rationalism by Merriam-Webster

critical rationalism blog – An exploration of critical …

Rafe Championand Brian Gladish, Independent Scholars

The Austrian-born philosopher Karl Popper charted new direction in the philosophy of science in the 1930s with Logik der Forschung (The Logic of Scientific Discovery 1959). His ideas can be recruited to support the little-known Austrian school of economics, to improve the quality of scientific research and to indicate how a unit on critical thinking can be a core subject in liberal education. If Poppers ideas are robust then the main features of his thinking should be the common property of all educated people. Some would say the same applies to Austrian economics.

The paper begins with a summary of the key features of Poppers critical rationalism followed by an introduction to Austrian economics and the way that some of his ideas can elevate the profile of the Austrian school. The paper then turns to the rising tide of concern about the quality and reliability of the scientific research that is published in some fields. Finally there is a proposal for short course to introduce various forms of critical appraisal of ideas that could be a core component of liberal education to promote imaginative problem-solving and lateral thinking.

POPPERS CRITICAL RATIONALISM

In his introduction to Poppers philosophy Mark Notturno wrote Popper was an outspoken champion of rationalism and a constant critic of subjectivist and authoritarian tendencies in science and society. (Notturno, 2003, Preface). His philosophy can be described as critical rationalism with a historical and evolutionary approach. He liked to sum it up in two nutshells. One is the critical rationalist credo I may be wrong and you may be right, and by an effort we may get nearer to the truth. The other is the four-stage problem solving scheme that is described below.

Wade Hands demonstrated the difference that it makes to perceive Popper as a critical rationalist rather than the more usual falsificationist, a label that implies that his ideas are merely a variation on the theme of logical empiricism. Hands is a leading contributor to the literature on the philosophy and methodology of economics and for many years he was a critic of Poppers views until he radically changed his perception. He wrote that Popper is best depicted as a critical rationalist and he concluded that critical rationalism fits both the practice of mainstream economics and Poppers specific contribution to social studies Situational Analysis and the Rationality Principle.

If Poppers real message is critical rationalism, rather than falsificationist rules, then the method of SA seems to be quite fine. Popper explains in detail how to modify a particular SA explanation when it seems to be in conflict with the empirical data, internally inconsistent, or in conflict with more corroborated theories if there are many paths to effective criticism, then preserving the RP and modifying the rest of the SA could be a perfectly reasonable response. The critical rationalist reading of Poppers philosophy thus relaxes the tension between scientific rationality and SA social science and it does so within a framework that is both more contemporary than, and devoid of many of the problems of, strict falsificationism. (Hands, 2001).

Popper (1902-1994) was born in Vienna, the son of a prominent liberal lawyer with scholarly interests. He dropped out of high school and attended lectures at the university as an unmatriculated student, trained as a cabinet-maker and eventually matriculated. In 1928 he qualified to teach high school science and mathematics after a course that included a doctoral thesis on habit formation in children. He worked on the philosophy of science in his spare time and in 1935 he published Logik der Forschung that appeared many years later in English (Popper 1959).

He criticized the traditional idea that scientific theories are developed by collecting observations followed by confirmation of the theories with more observations. He argued that the creation of theories is a matter of inspiration and guesswork because new ideas arise as conjectures or speculations and the really vital function of observations is to act as tests or attempted falsifications of theories.

In the 1960s biological themes became more prominent in his work and he contributed to the revival of evolutionary epistemology by exploring the principle of natural selection in relation to the development of scientific theories and other forms of knowledge. Evolutionary epistemology is concerned with problem-solving and error-elimination under various forms of selective pressure unlike theories of knowledge that focus on the justification of beliefs and the numerical probability of theories.

Popper started with the old idea that knowledge grows by trial and error or in more learned terms by conjecture and refutation. He postulated that every organism from the amoeba to Einstein can be described as constantly engaged in problem solving (not necessarily consciously of course). Innovations in the plant and animal world arise from mutations which generate new reactions, new organs, new forms of life. For humans the most important innovations are new ideas. Living organisms confront selective pressures exerted by the biological environment and competing forms of life. Ideas meet the competition of alternative theories, critical arguments and experimental tests.

The central motif of Poppers evolutionary epistemology is a cyclic four-step problem-solving schema:

P1 > TS > EE > P2, P3, P4 etc

The starting point is a problem situation. In response the organism generates tentative solutions. These are subjected to the process of error elimination by various selective pressures. Humans can make the process of error elimination conscious and systematic by critical discussion and experimental testing. In the course of these activities new problems emerge.

This approach to scientific knowledge has at least two important consequences; (1) it resolves conflicting ideas about the various processes and activities which are involved in creative thinking and problem-solving and (2) it highlights the importance of finding unresolved issues (problems) and the willingness to recognize them, even to create them!

On the first point the evolutionary schema can be used to challenge views about science that can tend to promote antagonism between the rational (scientific) and the imaginative (literary) frames of mind. For example Peter Medawar in his book Plutos Republic described the tension between the romantic and the rational views of science; the romantic points to the poetic inspiration involved in creating new theories while in contrast the rationalist makes much of data collection, experimentation and logical analysis. This conflict has broad cultural implications. The triumph of Newtonian mechanics was widely perceived as the full flowering of the so-called inductive method to find the truth by accumulating observations. This achievement provoked a revolt by romantics and poets who could not stomach a view of human activity that had no place for the imagination. Nor could they accept the mechanical universe. The result of this collision has been a kind of cultural clash with imagination set against reason, the organic set against the mechanical, the inspiration of the poet set against the empiricism of the scientist.

Poppers theory offers a cure for this cultural conflict by harmonising the relationship between the various elements of the situation for both scientists and artists and indeed for anyone. These elements include traditional beliefs, criticism, logic, imagination and experimental trials. These elements each have a role to play and so there is no need for the tensions and antagonisms that flow from partial and narrow views of problem-solving and creativity, whether in science, art, technology or daily life. A helpful selection of Poppers thoughts can be found in David Millers A Pocket Popper (Miller, 1983) and in a collection of Cliffs Notes for Poppers first five books Champion (2016).

On the second point the schema brings out the importance of recognizing problems and working on them in a critical and imaginative spirit. In this schema a problem functions as an ecological niche to be colonised by tentative solutions. Problems are welcomed as a challenge, not an impediment to science because they are the growing point or perhaps a habitat for new species of ideas. This provides a theory of discovery, based on the creative function of criticism. To grasp the full power of evolutionary epistemology it is necessary to understand this creative function of criticism in generating problems that can be seen as spaces for new ideas Problems are the habitat where new ideas grow and criticism has two functions, which are about equally valuable: (1) to eliminate error and (2) to reveal new problems, i.e. new habitats. Thus Poppers theory brings out both the error elimination and the creative function of criticism and we need to maximise the play of criticism to get the best out of both its functions.

Watson and Crick systematically used the critical approach in their pursuit of the double helix structure of DNA. As Crick described it:

Our other advantage was that we had evolved unstated but fruitful methods of collaboration, something that was lacking in the London group. If either of us suggested a new idea the other, while taking it seriously, would attempt to demolish it in a candid but non hostile manner. This turned out to be quite crucial. In solving scientific problems of this type, it is almost impossible to avoid falling into errorNow, to obtain the correct solution of a [complex] problem usually requires a sequence of logical steps. If one of these is a mistake, the answer is often hidden, since the error usually puts one on completely the wrong track. It is therefore extremely important not to be trapped by ones own mistakes. (Crick, 1988, 70) [my emphasis].

In an interview he stated Its getting rid of false ideas which is the most important thing in developing the good ones You should not get bogged down with experimental details. You should make some sort of bold assumptions, and try them out (Wolpert and Richards, 1989, 94-5). Richard Feynman was an exemplary critical rationalist. He famously said science is organized skepticism in the reliability of expert opinion and he introduced his students to scientific discovery as guessing followed by the deduction and computation of results from the guess to check with experimental observations (Feynman, 2013). This is what Popper called conjecture and refutation. It seems that Feynman never encountered Poppers ideas and his impatience with philosophy and the soft social sciences was legendary (Feynman 1985).

Poppers student Bartley described four forms of criticism: (1) experience; (2) theories; (3) problems; and (4) logic (Bartley, 1982, section xiii onward). The criticism by test or experience is closely related to the main concern of theories of knowledge which are based on observations. The crucial difference is that for critical rationalists the observations are designed to test ideas, not to verify or confirm them. Of course good theories will pass a lot of tests but that is not the end of the matter because even the best theories have rivals and also internal problems which call for more work. The second form of criticism by theories consists of comparing the assumptions and implications of the theory under consideration with other well-tested theories. Criticism by problems or check on the problem means assessing how effectively the theory (or the policy proposal) addresses the problems that it was formulated to solve.

As for the process of forming critical preferences among rival theories, Popper suggested several criteria rather than one over-riding principle which leaves open the possibility that some theories will have different performances on the different criteria. This is consistent with Poppers support for theoretical pluralism and the desirability of competing research programs. His first proposal applies to major breakthrough developments.

The new theory should proceed from some simple, new, and powerful unifying idea about some connection or relation (such as gravitational attraction) between hitherto unconnected things (such as apples and planets) or facts (such as inertial and gravitational mass) or new theoretical entities (such as field and particles). (Popper, 1963, 241)

Other features of the preferable theory are: it makes more precise predictions and these stand up to more precise tests; it explains more facts; it describes or explains the facts in more detail; it has passed tests where the rival failed; it has suggested new experimental tests and passed them.

POPPER AND THE AUSTRIAN ECONOMISTS

The argument in this section is that some features of Poppers ideas can improve the image of the Austrian school which currently makes up only about 2% of American economists. The Austrians have suffered from the perception that their methods do not meet the standards which have been taught in the philosophy of science since it became professionalised and specialised as an academic discipline under the influence of the logical empiricists led by Rudolf Carnap (1891-1970) and Karl Hempel (1905-1997).

Austrian economics is not widely taught and some background information will be helpful for most readers. It is pursued by a confederation of scholars who trace their intellectual ancestry to the founding father Carl Menger (1840-1921) and his colleagues Eugene Bohm Bawerk and Friedrich Weiser. Other significant early figures were John Bates Clark, Frank Fetter and Herbert J. Davenport in the US, Philip Wicksteed in England and Knut Wicksell in Sweden (Salerno 2010). Prominent Austrians in the next generation were Ludwig von Mises (1881-1973), Friedrich Hayek (1898-1992) and Lionel Robbins (1898-1984) in the first part of his career.

Until the 1930s the members of the school were concentrated in Austria with scattered supporters around the world. Now most of the Austrians are in the United States with two prominent hives of activity, one at the George Mason University in Virginia and another at the Mises Institute in Alabama. There are doctoral programs at George Mason University, Texas Tech, Texas Baylor and Virginia. The Austrians are closely affiliated with the Virginia school of public choice theory (Coase, Buchanan, Tullock) and the Ostrom/Bloomington school of public administration.

In the early 20th century the Austrian ideas appeared to be firmly planted in the mainstream of the economics profession but the impact of Keynes in the 1930s and the rise of mathematics in the 1940s transformed the situation. The Austrians rejected the Keynesian revolution and they also object to much of the mathematical analysis that rapidly became standard in the profession after the war. They insisted that mathematical analysis can be misleading if it is not handled with care and insight into the economic issues as well as the mathematical formalism. Consequently the Austrians were widely perceived to be out of date and amidst the mushrooming postwar growth of the profession they became practically invisible until the movement staged a revival during the 1970s (Vaughn 1990, Boettke 2015). Another adverse influence from the 1930s was the rise of the philosophy of science known as logical positivism in Vienna and logical empiricism in the United States.

Mises did not live long enough to see the Austrian revival although he did more than anyone to keep the ideas alive. Prominent in the revival were Hayek, Ludwig Lachmann (1906-1990), Murray Rothbard (1926-1995) and Israel Kirzner (1930 ) . The numbers have increased rapidly in recent years and it is hazardous to mention the names of contemporaries because any short list will give offence to many worthy scholars who are left out! For a concise and masterly account of the progress of the school from Menger to the present day see Boettke (2015).

In the aftermath of the Great Financial Crisis 2008 the Austrians emerged with a deal of credit for the insights they provided into the mechanism of the collapse (Thornton, 2009).

Several high profile investment advisers and financial commentators have employed the Austrian Business Cycle Theory in their interpretation of the crisis. They have been inspired to revisit this theory as a result of the manifest failure of mainstream macroeconomists to foresee or explain the subprime mortgage crisis and its subsequent metamorphosis into a pandemic financial meltdowna number of economists and journalists associated with the modern Austrian school had warned of an emerging housing bubble during the Greenspan era when the conventional wisdom was that the Federal Reserve System had matters well in hand (Salerno, 2012).

The leading emphases of the school include the salience of dynamic competition and entrepreneurial innovation in the marketplace, the origin of social institutions as the unintended consequences of human action, the subjective theory of value, recognition of the time factor in social and economic processes, and the uncertainty of human knowledge. Those ideas are not unique to the Austrians although they been especially diligent in drawing out their implications. They have distinctive ideas regarding the boom and bust business cycle (as described by Salerno), capital theory and especially the methodology and philosophy of research.

The Austrian approach can be described as the situational analysis of human action, combining the language of von Mises, Talcott Parsons and Karl Popper. A central resource for Austrians is Human Action by von Mises, first published in 1949. A similar framework of analysis can be found in The Structure of Human Action published by Talcott Parsons in 1937 (summarized in Devereaux, 1964) and in The Open Society and Its Enemies and The Poverty of Historicism (Popper, 1945, 1957). The common features of the schemes of Parsons, von Mises and Popper are summarised in Champion (2010). The analysis starts with the human actor making plans and taking action to achieve his or her objectives. The actors take account of the various elements in the situation as they are subjectively perceived. These include the resources and capacities of the actors, the opportunities and constraints offered by the physical environment, the institutional framework of laws and regulations, and the social/cultural framework of written and unwritten mores, traditions, values and belief systems.

Some of the elements can change rapidly but many can only be changed slowly and the individual actor has very limited capacity to change the major elements of the situation. The outcome of actions are mediated (limited) by natural laws whether the actors are aware of them or not. The situation offers problems and opportunities for the actor/entrepreneur and Parsons in particular emphasised the element of individual choice and he thought of his approach as a voluntarist theory of human action (Devereaux, 1964).

Economists focus on the economic system, prices and production and the like but the framework is sufficiently expansive to take account of the impact of other factors and to coordinate the work in many areas of the social sciences and humanities. The framework drafted by the gang of three in the 1930s could have been used to maintain sociology and economics as an integrated discipline and to sponsor partnerships between economists and all students of social institutions law, politics, literature, religion and cultural studies at large. There was a window of opportunity for these three leading figures in their respective fields to form a united front across the disciplines of sociology, economics and philosophy to promote the ideas that they shared and to debate the issues where they disagreed. This did not happen; there was no united front, no dialogue to resolve differences and the defective ideas that all three identified in the 1930s became embedded in the rapidly growing community of academics and researchers after the war. Consequently the kind of research programs which were implicit in the situational analysis of human action were blindsided by the dominance of logical empiricism, Keynesianism and mathematical formalism. This is not to decry the use of mathematics but the efficacy of numerical analysis has to be decided on a case by case basis by people who are understand both the mathematics and the economics.

The Achilles heel of the Austrian school in the eyes of the modern mainstream is the claim that the basic principles of economics can be established by logical analysis in advance of evidence (apriori) and they cannot and need not be empirically tested. Not surprisingly this position raised eyebrows after the rise of logical positivism/empiricism and Poppers ideas in the philosophy of science created a demand for empirical verification or at least testing of scientific theories. Living in Vienna von Mises saw this coming because he was alert to the activities of the famous Vienna Circle of logical positivists and he wrote a long criticism of positivism in his master work (von Mises 1949).

The strong form of apriorism is apparent in his comparison of monetary theory with geometry where all of the theorems are implied in the axioms. The quantity theory does not add to our knowledge anything that is which is not virtually contained in the concept of money (von Mises, 1966, 38). The starting point of praxeology is not a choice of axioms and a decision about methods of procedure, but reflection about the essence of action (ibid, 39). Rothbard took the same strong position. The fundamental axiom that individual human beings act, that is, on the primordial fact that individuals engage in conscious action towards chosen goals [in contrast with reflex or knee-jerk behavior], furthermore, since praxeology begins with a true axiom, A, all the propositions that can be deduced from this axiom must also be true. For if A implies B, and A is true, then B must also be true. (Rothbard, 1976). He asserted that these propositions are justified because they are deduced from the axiom of purposeful action. Apart from the fact that these conclusions cannot be tested by historical or statistical means, there is no need to test them since their truth has already been established. (ibid).

In view of those arguments Mark Blaug wrote Mises made important contributions to monetary economics, business cycle theory and of course socialist economics, but his later writings on the foundations of economic science are so cranky and idiosyncratic that we can only wonder that they have been taken seriously by anyone (Blaug, 1992, 81). He quoted Samuelsons famous rejoinder to the Austrians. Well, in connection with the exaggerated claims that used to be made in economics for the power of deduction and a priori reasoningI tremble for the reputation of my subject.

Poppers approach offers a corrective to the methodological rhetoric of the Austrians and simultaneously a rejoinder to Blaug and Samuelson. For Popper the test of evidence applies to the explanations and predictions generated by a scientific research program. The program itself is a system of ideas including philosophical and metaphysical framework assumptions and methodological procedures and principles that generate explanations and predictions. Not all of these parts are amenable to empirical testing and this applies to the natural sciences as much as the human sciences.

Hence it is not a departure from standard scientific practice to make use of untestable propositions. The critical rationalist does not insist that all the premises and presuppositions in scientific discourse should be verified, merely that they stand up to criticism as well or better than other options (Hands, 2001, 301). Recall the four forms of criticism: empirical tests are a particular kind of criticism but they are not appropriate for all assumption, especially those of methodology and the philosophical framework assumptions of the program. They prove themselves at one step removed by the power of the explanatory theories and the research programs that they generate.

The basic principles of Austrian economics such as the axiom of action can be regarded as working assumptions in the form of indispensable methodological procedures and assumptions which are required in all sciences. The axiom is often described as self-evidently true but it is better to describe as a methodological assumption that contributes to explanatory theories which are tested by their capacity to account for the phenomena under investigation, such as money, the Great Depression, unemployment, inflation and trade cycles including the Great Financial Crisis.

Popper made two other relevant contributions. One is the framework of Situational Analysis and the Rationality Principle which is functionally equivalent to the Austrian approach using the axiom of human action (Popper 1994). The second is to introduce students to the critical/creative problem-solving approach of the scientist who operates like an entrepreneur in a world of intellectual problems and opportunities, generating conjectures which are tested and criticised in the laboratory and the marketplace of ideas. Students who bring this approach to a course on Austrian economics will have less to unlearn than students who have encountered the philosophy of science in the more usual mode of collecting data and attempting to confirm theories. Harper explicitly drew on Poppers evolutionary epistemology in his work on entrepreneurial activities (Harper, 1996 and 2003).

THE QUALITY OF SCIENCE

There is a rapidly-growing literature on problems in the quality of published research. The editor in chief of Lancet wrote The case against science is straightforward: much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may be simply untrueScience has taken a turn towards darkness with reference to small sample sizes, invalid analyses, conflicts of interest and obsession with fashionable trends (Horton, 2015). There is concern about the increasing incidence of retractions and the higher rate of retractions in high impact journals (Fang et al., 2011) and the dangerous liaison of science and politics (Butos and McQuade, 2006). Less than 12% of articles in 2004 in The Journal of Economic Theory passed three tests stating a theory, explaining why it mattered and testing it (Klein and Romero, 2007). There are problems of replication of results and politicization in some fields. Another concern is the declining publication of negative results (Fanelli, 2012).

Popper provided two ways to approach this complex of issues. One is the social or institutional analysis of scientific and industrial progress which he proposed in The Poverty of Historicism. The other is the approach of critical rationalism and multi-faceted criticism to offset tendencies to confirmation bias that are built into the courses in the philosophy of science which focus on confirmation and the quest for inductive probabilities.

In The Poverty of Historicism Popper confronted Comte and Mill who adopted a psychological approach and regarded progress as inevitable due to the progressive tendencies in the human mind. Popper noted that there are other tendencies in the human mind such as forgetfulness, laziness and dogmatism. Instead of the psychological approach he urged a search for the conditions of progress using a situational approach to imagine ways that progress could be stopped. This is a very counterintuitive approach and it is presented in a few highly compressed paragraphs, summarized below.

Popper did not pursue these early thoughts in depth and others made important contributions. The art historian Ernst Gombrich applied Poppers ideas to a wide range of issues including the drift of linguistic usage, architecture, the popularity of modern art and trends in music and fashion including hemlines (Gombrich 1974). Ian Jarvie published a major work to explain what he called Poppers social turn to institutional analysis almost a decade after Popper died (Jarvie, 2001). He previously applied the situational approach in sociology (Jarvie, 1972). Roger James applied critical rationalism to some episodes of central planning in Britain (James, 1980) and Tyrell Burgess used Poppers approach in education planning and administration in Britain (Burgess, 1985). Paul Knepper explained the work that has been done on situational crime prevention inspired by both Popper and the Austrian economists (Knepper 2007).

As for stopping progress in science, Popper proposed that this might be achieved in various ways.

By closing down or controlling laboratories for research, by suppressing or controlling scientific periodicals and other means of discussion, by suppressing scientific congresses and conferences, by suppressing Universities and other schools, by suppressing books, the printing press, writing, and, in the end, speaking. All these things which indeed might be suppressed (or controlled) are social institutionsScientific method itself has social aspects. Science, and more especially scientific progress, are the results not of isolated efforts but of the free competition of thought. For science needs ever more competition between hypotheses and ever more rigorous tests. And the competing hypotheses need personal representation, as it were: they need advocates, they need a jury, and even a public. This personal representation must be institutionally organized if we wish to ensure that it works. (Popper, 1961, 154-5)

Popper also used the social approach to suggest how science can achieve a degree of objectivity through cooperative criticism of the kind practiced by Watson and Crick. When he wrote about this in the 1930s and 1940s the sociology of knowledge was becoming popular under the influence of Marxists and others such as Karl Mannheim. This approach aimed to explain our personal beliefs as a reflection of the social and political climate of ideas around us.

Popper did not challenge the importance of intellectual influences. However he turned the sociology of knowledge on its head to argue that it is a mistake focus on the formation of subjective beliefs because this does not engage with the proper object of inquiry, namely knowledge as a public or inter-subjective social product. In other words we are students and critics of spoken and written propositions and arguments, not subjective beliefs or states of mind. Thus it follows that the objectivity of science, such as it is, does not arise from the a lack of prejudices among scientists or their unique impartiality. Instead it depends on a process of more or less free criticism in the scientific community.

It may be said that what we call scientific objectivity is not a product of the individual scientists impartiality, but a product of the social or public character of scientific method; and the individual scientists impartiality is, so far as it exists, not the source but rather the result of this socially or institutionally organized objectivity of science. (Popper, 1966, 217).

It is important to note that criticism may be more or less free and this raises some issues about free speech and the factors which limit criticism. Following Poppers line of thought to promote scientific objectivity it seems that we need such things as diversity of ideas (points of view and theoretical pluralism), clear formulation of the problems that the theories are supposed to solve, and access to journals, seminars and conferences to facilitate critical discussion. Some of these requirements have to be provided by individual scientists, especially new ideas and imaginative criticism while others are social and institutional.

Turning to the contribution of the philosophy of science to the quality of scientific work and especially the declining publication of negative results, it may be that the function of criticism is underplayed in teaching the philosophy of science compared with the effort devoted to confirmation theory and the technical aspects of assigning inductive probabilities to theories. In addition much of this work proceeds in isolation from live problems in science. Mulligan and associates deplored this tendency in philosophy at large (Mulligan, Simons and Smith, 2006) and a recent example is a contribution to The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Science (Sprenger, 2016).

Sprenger posed two problems of induction; first whether inferences beyond the evidence are justified and second, assuming a positive answer to the first, to assess the various methods used to justify inferences about the future performance of general scientific theories. Regarding the first problem he briefly noted Poppers critical approach and work by Deborah Mayo on testing in some specific scientific situations. That could have led to a survey of work by philosophers in relation to substantive scientific problems, such as Alan Chalmers on the contribution of philosophy to the development of atomic theory in chemistry (Chalmers, 2009). This could arouse the interest of working scientists. However almost all of the paper addressed the latest developments in probability theory without seriously engaging with any contemporary scientific issues. There is an impression of a mighty engine of philosophical thought which is not transmitting any power to the wheels of science.

AN INTRODUCTION TO PHILOSOPHY AND CRITICAL THINKING

Critical thinking is an important part of philosophy and this section suggests how a short course on critical thinking could be part of a Philosophy major or indeed a part of any liberal education curriculum. The idea is to introduce the four types of criticism suggested by Bartley (above); the test of experience; the test of comparison with other theories; the check on the problem; and the test of logical consistency. This could be pursued at school, it could be used for an introduction to university courses in philosophy, it could be a core subject for all tertiary students. The students would explore the implications and applications of the four methods of criticism applied to some theories or beliefs which interest the class. The topics should have some scientific or practical relevance but it would be unhelpful to select the most pressing issues of the day if these generate too much polarization of opinion to permit a civil discussion.

Explaining the test of evidence and experience could lead into the philosophy of science, the logic of experimental design and hypothesis-testing, to a study of rules of evidence in law, to the use of diagnostic tests by doctors, motor mechanics or plumbers, and to the use of clues by detectives and archaeologists. The test of comparison with other theories would raise questions about the weight and authority to be assigned to assumptions imported into arguments from other domains. For example the psychological theories assumed by literary critics, the physical theories assumed by geologists, the sociological theories assumed by engineers, the economic theories assumed by politicians. This part of the course should open students eyes to the interdependence of the disciplines and the artificial nature of boundaries between subjects. At the same time students may learn how to use readily available resources, including other students and staff to pursue problems from one discipline to another (for example by walking from the Philosophy Department to Physics or Life Sciences).

The check on the problem can lead in particularly interesting directions. This part of the course could indicate how a revised formulation of a problem may be decisive, how background theories can unconsciously direct how problems are identified and formulated, how fashions, fads and funding can influence the direction of research. It would lead to a study of the history of ideas, showing that problems have histories, that philosophical problems usually have their roots elsewhere, in science, or religion or in social and moral dilemmas, that powerful themes can leak from one discipline to another and preoccupations often run in parallel in more than one field.

The section on logic would call for study of both the formal and informal methods of argument. Formal logic concerns rules of inference and the way that logical steps can be used to draw out the consequences of an argument or of a scientific theory, perhaps for testing or for technological application. Informal logic encompasses the tricks of debate that may be used to cover up logical and factual defects in a position. Discourse by politicians, creation scientists and advertisers would furnish material for critical study.

If this approach is used for philosophy students it could be followed by exploratory reading of the Great Philosophers, though preferably not until the students have a firm sense of their own interests and problems. In this mood they might be less deferential to the greats, more critical and at the same time more willing to learn. This would contrast with the common situation where the young student is confronted with the soaring abstractions and profound arguments produced by the titans of the past. The novice is likely to be overwhelmed (who am I to criticise the great?) or else clings to a critique provided by the teacher. The result is likely to be either a student who is inducted into a system of thought or a graduate who is highly skilled in certain methods and techniques which are not necessarily connected to issues outside philosophy.

It is important to note that this approach is very different from most of the literature on critical thinking surveyed by Miller (2005). He discovered that there was a great deal of effort dedicated to critical thinking in recent times, citing an annotated bibliography of material on critical thinking with 903 books and papers published between 1980 and 1991 (Cassell and Congleton, 1993). Scanning the literature he found that practically all of it defined the purpose of arguments in terms of justification of beliefs and persuading other people to come to the same point of view. He quoted a typical example from the preface of a book on the philosophy of argument. Argument is a social practice, arguable part of the core of any culturethe finding of reasons to justify beliefs and the response to disagreement by rational persuasion. (Blair, 1999).

The purpose of the course proposed here is very different from justification and persuasion because it is focussed on the criticism of arguments and it can be explained in the language of used by Stuart Firestein in his book Ignorance: How it Drives Science (Firestein, 2012). More precisely, discovering ignorance (unsolved problems) drives science. Criticism a la Watson and Crick uncovers ignorance especially false assumptions and that drives the quest for better assumptions and new ideas. According to Firestein the great Italian physicist Enrico Fermi told his students that an experiment that successfully proves a hypothesis is a measurement and one that doesnt is a discovery an uncovering of new ignorance (Firestein, 2012, 57). Firesteins book could be the text for the course.

CONCLUSION

Popper has a low profile these days judging from the negligible references to his work in The Oxford Handbook of Contemporary Philosophy (Jackson and Smith, 2005) and The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Science (Humphries, 2016). He enjoyed a high profile during the philosophy of science wars in the 1960s and 1970s but he became classified as a transitional figure between the logical empiricists and the new waves generated by Kuhn, Lakatos and Feyerabend. It seems that he went out of fashion before the full implications of his critical rationalism and evolutionary epistemology were explored (Champion, 2011). In the philosophy and methodology of economics that view is strongly supported by Hands (2001). This paper argues that there is still plenty of mileage in Poppers work including a potentially fruitful partnership with Austrian economics, a contribution to improve the quality of science and ideas to promote critical and imaginative thinking.

REFERENCES

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Blair, J. A. (1999). Preface in T. Govier, The Philosophy of Argument. Newport News, VA: Vale Press. vii-x.

Blaug, M. (1992). The Methodology of Economics: Or How Economists Explain. Second edition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Boettke, P. (2015). The Methodology of Austrian Economics as a Sophisticated, Rather Than Nave, Philosophy of Economics. Journal of the History of Economic Thought, 37, (1). 79-85.

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Burgess, T. (1985). Applying Popper to Social Problems: Practical Solutions to Practical Problems. ETC Fall. 299-309.

Cassell, J. F. & Congleton, R. J. (1993). Critical Thinking: An Annotated Bibliography. London: The Scarecrow Press.

Chalmers, A. (2009). The Scientists Atom and the Philosophers Stone: How Science Succeeded and Philosophy Failed to Gain Knowledge of Atoms. Springer.

Champion, R. (2010). The Common Ground of Parsons, Mises and Popper in the 1930s: The Action Frame of Reference, Praxeology and Situational Analysis. Retrieved from http://www.the-rathouse.com/EvenMoreAustrianProgram/Convergence.html

Champion, R. (2011). In Defence of Fallible Apriorism and The Aristotelian Program for Economics. Nuova civilt delle macchine, Vol. 1-2. 69-88.

Champion, R. (2016). Popper: The Champion Guides. Amazon https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=rafe+champion

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Originally posted here:

critical rationalism blog – An exploration of critical …

What is CR? – critical rationalism blogcritical …

I like to think of CR (critical rationalism) as a kind of evolving philosophical tradition concerning how we should approach knowledge. It is the Socratic method only with a little bit of modern awareness. While most philosophical traditions regard knowledge as something that has to be certain and justified, CR takes the view that we dont have ultimate answers, but knowledge is nevertheless possible. Truth is an endless quest.

The modern founder of critical rationalism was Karl Popper. Popper pointed out we can never justify anything, we merely criticize and weed out bad ideas and work with whats left. Poppers initial emphasis was on empirical science, where he solved the problem of induction, something that had been haunting philosophers and scientists for centuries. The problem of induction is this. No matter how many times weve seen an apple fall to the ground after weve dropped it, do we have any way to prove the same thing will happen next time we drop it. The answer is no. What Popper pointed out is that you can never justify any scientific theory, but you can falsify it. If I were to claim that all swans were white, one black swan would falsify my theory. In this way, science moves forward by weeding out bad theories, so to speak.

Popper said that science moves forward through a method of conjecture and refutation. While Popper was primarily interested in science, he often commented on political problems as well. Popper liked to emphasize the need for an open society, a society where people can speak out and criticize. After all, if science progresses through refutations, criticizing becomes essential. We need to speak out and therefore we need the freedom to do so. Popper was against any form of government that didnt give people the chance to speak out. Poppers thinking could probably best be summed up in this quote, I may be wrong and you may be right, and by an effort, we may get nearer to the truth.

Popper worked hard to expand his ideas, and so have several other people. CR should not be viewed as one mans philosophy, but as a growing philosophical tradition. One in which several people have contributed and are still contributing. One notable person was William Warren Bartley, III. Bartley worked towards expanding the idea of critical rationalism to cover all areas of knowledge, not just empirical science. Bartley felt that while in almost all areas of knowledge we seek justification, we should instead seek criticism. While nothing can ever be justified in any ultimate sense, certainly we can see error and weed it out. This is true whether we are dealing with empirical science and perhaps even knowledge of what is ethical. An important part of Bartleys thinking could probably best be summed up in this quote, How can our intellectual life and institutions, our tradition, and even our etiquette, sensibility, manners and customs, and behavior patterns, be arranged so as to expose our beliefs, conjectures, ideologies, policies, positions, programs, sources of ideas, traditions, and the like, to optimum criticism, so as at once to counteract and eliminate as much intellectual error as possible, and also so as to contribute to and insure the fertility of the intellectual econiche: to create an environment in which not only negative criticism but also positive creation of ideas, and the development of rationality, are truly inspired.

Neither Bartley or Popper have exhaustively explored the full potential of the CR philosophical tradition. Indeed, there are unlimited possibilities. While CR often emphasizes criticism, it also encourages new approaches and creative thinking. We need to come up with as many new ideas as we can, then let the process of criticism weed out the less workable ones. As CR accepts that the truth is out there and we are working towards it, it is actually a very optimistic philosophical tradition. Perhaps the most optimistic among the big three philosophical traditions. What are the big three traditions. Let me give you a quick summary.

One, dogmatism. Decide that you are privy to ultimate truth and then just follow that truth no matter what. Does such an attitude contribute to fanaticism? Perhaps.

Two, pessimism. Decide that truth is impossible, relative, random, meaningless. Just do whatever you want because nothing matters anyway. Does such an attitude contribute to random violence? Perhaps.

Three, critical rationalism, the truth is out there, but no one has a monopoly on it, so lets work together to try and get a little closer to it. Does such an attitude contribute to progress and mutual respect? More than likely.

If youd like more details than this then thats what this blog is for, please look around and explore.

Matt Dioguardi, blog administrator

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Rationalism | Britannica.com

Rationalism, in Western philosophy, the view that regards reason as the chief source and test of knowledge. Holding that reality itself has an inherently logical structure, the rationalist asserts that a class of truths exists that the intellect can grasp directly. There are, according to the rationalists, certain rational principlesespecially in logic and mathematics, and even in ethics and metaphysicsthat are so fundamental that to deny them is to fall into contradiction. The rationalists confidence in reason and proof tends, therefore, to detract from their respect for other ways of knowing.

Rationalism has long been the rival of empiricism, the doctrine that all knowledge comes from, and must be tested by, sense experience. As against this doctrine, rationalism holds reason to be a faculty that can lay hold of truths beyond the reach of sense perception, both in certainty and generality. In stressing the existence of a natural light, rationalism has also been the rival of systems claiming esoteric knowledge, whether from mystical experience, revelation, or intuition, and has been opposed to various irrationalisms that tend to stress the biological, the emotional or volitional, the unconscious, or the existential at the expense of the rational.

Rationalism has somewhat different meanings in different fields, depending upon the kind of theory to which it is opposed.

In the psychology of perception, for example, rationalism is in a sense opposed to the genetic psychology of the Swiss scholar Jean Piaget (18961980), who, exploring the development of thought and behaviour in the infant, argued that the categories of the mind develop only through the infants experience in concourse with the world. Similarly, rationalism is opposed to transactionalism, a point of view in psychology according to which human perceptual skills are achievements, accomplished through actions performed in response to an active environment. On this view, the experimental claim is made that perception is conditioned by probability judgments formed on the basis of earlier actions performed in similar situations. As a corrective to these sweeping claims, the rationalist defends a nativism, which holds that certain perceptual and conceptual capacities are innateas suggested in the case of depth perception by experiments with the visual cliff, which, though platformed over with firm glass, the infant perceives as hazardousthough these native capacities may at times lie dormant until the appropriate conditions for their emergence arise.

In the comparative study of languages, a similar nativism was developed in the 1950s by the innovating syntactician Noam Chomsky, who, acknowledging a debt to Ren Descartes (15961650), explicitly accepted the rationalistic doctrine of innate ideas. Though the thousands of languages spoken in the world differ greatly in sounds and symbols, they sufficiently resemble each other in syntax to suggest that there is a schema of universal grammar determined by innate presettings in the human mind itself. These presettings, which have their basis in the brain, set the pattern for all experience, fix the rules for the formation of meaningful sentences, and explain why languages are readily translatable into one another. It should be added that what rationalists have held about innate ideas is not that some ideas are full-fledged at birth but only that the grasp of certain connections and self-evident principles, when it comes, is due to inborn powers of insight rather than to learning by experience.

Common to all forms of speculative rationalism is the belief that the world is a rationally ordered whole, the parts of which are linked by logical necessity and the structure of which is therefore intelligible. Thus, in metaphysics it is opposed to the view that reality is a disjointed aggregate of incoherent bits and is thus opaque to reason. In particular, it is opposed to the logical atomisms of such thinkers as David Hume (171176) and the early Ludwig Wittgenstein (18891951), who held that facts are so disconnected that any fact might well have been different from what it is without entailing a change in any other fact. Rationalists have differed, however, with regard to the closeness and completeness with which the facts are bound together. At the lowest level, they have all believed that the law of contradiction A and not-A cannot coexist holds for the real world, which means that every truth is consistent with every other; at the highest level, they have held that all facts go beyond consistency to a positive coherence; i.e., they are so bound up with each other that none could be different without all being different.

In the field where its claims are clearestin epistemology, or theory of knowledgerationalism holds that at least some human knowledge is gained through a priori (prior to experience), or rational, insight as distinct from sense experience, which too often provides a confused and merely tentative approach. In the debate between empiricism and rationalism, empiricists hold the simpler and more sweeping position, the Humean claim that all knowledge of fact stems from perception. Rationalists, on the contrary, urge that some, though not all, knowledge arises through direct apprehension by the intellect. What the intellectual faculty apprehends is objects that transcend sense experienceuniversals and their relations. A universal is an abstraction, a characteristic that may reappear in various instances: the number three, for example, or the triangularity that all triangles have in common. Though these cannot be seen, heard, or felt, rationalists point out that humans can plainly think about them and about their relations. This kind of knowledge, which includes the whole of logic and mathematics as well as fragmentary insights in many other fields, is, in the rationalist view, the most important and certain knowledge that the mind can achieve. Such a priori knowledge is both necessary (i.e., it cannot be conceived as otherwise) and universal, in the sense that it admits of no exceptions. In the critical philosophy of Immanuel Kant (17241804), epistemological rationalism finds expression in the claim that the mind imposes its own inherent categories or forms upon incipient experience (see below Epistemological rationalism in modern philosophies).

In ethics, rationalism holds the position that reason, rather than feeling, custom, or authority, is the ultimate court of appeal in judging good and bad, right and wrong. Among major thinkers, the most notable representative of rational ethics is Kant, who held that the way to judge an act is to check its self-consistency as apprehended by the intellect: to note, first, what it is essentially, or in principlea lie, for example, or a theftand then to ask if one can consistently will that the principle be made universal. Is theft, then, right? The answer must be No, because, if theft were generally approved, peoples property would not be their own as opposed to anyone elses, and theft would then become meaningless; the notion, if universalized, would thus destroy itself, as reason by itself is sufficient to show.

In religion, rationalism commonly means that all human knowledge comes through the use of natural faculties, without the aid of supernatural revelation. Reason is here used in a broader sense, referring to human cognitive powers generally, as opposed to supernatural grace or faiththough it is also in sharp contrast to so-called existential approaches to truth. Reason, for the rationalist, thus stands opposed to many of the religions of the world, including Christianity, which have held that the divine has revealed itself through inspired persons or writings and which have required, at times, that its claims be accepted as infallible, even when they do not accord with natural knowledge. Religious rationalists hold, on the other hand, that if the clear insights of human reason must be set aside in favour of alleged revelation, then human thought is everywhere rendered suspecteven in the reasonings of the theologians themselves. There cannot be two ultimately different ways of warranting truth, they assert; hence rationalism urges that reason, with its standard of consistency, must be the final court of appeal. Religious rationalism can reflect either a traditional piety, when endeavouring to display the alleged sweet reasonableness of religion, or an antiauthoritarian temper, when aiming to supplant religion with the goddess of reason.

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Rationalism | Britannica.com

Rationalism: Examples and Definition | Philosophy Terms

I. Definition

Rationalism is the philosophy that knowledge comes from logic and a certain kind of intuitionwhen we immediately know something to be true without deduction, such as I am conscious. Rationalists hold that the best way to arrive at certain knowledge is using the minds rational abilities. The opposite of rationalism is empiricism, or the view that knowledge comes from observing the outside world. However, in practice almost all philosophers and scientists use a combination of empiricism and rationalism.

Rationalism is an idea about where knowledge comes from, and is therefore part of the philosophical sub-field of epistemology.

Math provides a good illustration of rationalism: to a rationalist, you dont have to observe the world or have experiences in order to know that 1+1=2. You just have to understand the concepts one and addition, and then you can know that its true. Empiricists, on the other hand, argue that this is not true; they point out that we can only rely on mathematical equations based on some experience of the world, for example having one cookie, being given another, and then having two.

Rationalism and empiricism both play a role in science, though they correspond to different branches of science. Rationalism corresponds to mathematical analysis, whereas empiricism corresponds to experiments and observation.

Of course, the best route to knowledge combines rational contemplation and empirical observation. Rationalists and empiricists agree on that; they just disagree on which one is more important or primary.

Constructivism is an effort to combine empiricism and rationalism. According to constructivists, we can observe the world around us and gain a lot of knowledge this way (thats the empiricist part), but in order to understand or explain what we know, we have to fit it into an existing structure. That is, we have to construct a rational set of ideas that can make sense of the empirical data (thats the rationalist part). Constructivism is a popular idea among teachers, who find it helpful in structuring lessons: constructivist teaching involves presenting new information in a way designed to fit in with what the student already knows, so that they can gradually build up an understanding of the world for themselves.

Many people think that the progress of the human race is based on experiences of an empirical, critical nature, but I say that true knowledge is to be had only through a philosophy of deduction . . . Intuition makes us look at unrelated facts and then think about them until they can all be brought under one law. (Albert Einstein)

Many people think of science as an inherently empirical discipline after all, its based mainly on observation and experiments, right? But theres also a rationalist side to science as seen in this quote from Einstein. Einstein was not big on experiments or peering through telescopes. Instead, he took data that other people had collected and tried to understand it rationally (i.e. mathematically). His brilliant theories of special and general relativity were not the results of new experiments, but rather the result of applying a keen rational eyeand intuitionto existing data.

Music has always been inseparable from religious expression, since, like religion at its best, music marks the limits of reason. Because a territory is defined by its extremities, it follows that music must be definitively rational. (Karen Armstrong)

Many rationalist philosophers are fascinated by music, for exactly the reasons that Karen Armstrong points out in this quote. Music is intensely rational in some ways (you can analyze its structures and frequencies and find all sorts of mathematical patterns there), but its also extremely emotional and seems to short-circuit our rational brains. Thus, music exists right on the boundary between rational and anti-rational. Armstrong also makes the more controversial, but no less interesting, claim that religion works in a similar way, operating at the boundaries between rational thought and non-rational emotions.

Rationalism has deep historical roots; you might even say that its discovery defines the birth of philosophy in various cultures. The ancient Greeks are probably the most famous example: ancient philosophers such as Plato and Pythagoras argued that reality is characterized by some basic abstract logical principles, and that if we know these principles, then we can derive further truths about reality. (Thats the same Pythagoras who invented the famous Pythagorean Theorem more evidence of the connection between rationalism and math.)

However, other Greeks disagreed. Aristotle, for example, based much of his philosophy on observation. He was fascinated by the natural world and spent much of his time gathering samples of plants and animals; in some ways he was the first modern biologist. This method is, of course, based on observation and therefore is a kind of empiricism.

Rationalism really took off in the Medieval Islamic world, where Muslim philosophers looked to Plato for inspiration. Platos rationalism proved to be extremely important to medieval Islam, which was an intensely rationalistic religion based on logical deduction. Its first principle was tawheed, or the Unity of God, and all other truths were thought to be logical consequences of that single revelation.

Both rationalism and empiricism played a major role in the Scientific Revolution. Empiricists did experiments and made observations by, for example, looking through telescopes. But many of the most important discoveries were made by rational analysis, not empirical observation. And of course, the experiments were also partially inspired by reason and intuition.

Isaac Newton developed his theory of gravity by working out the mathematical relationship between falling objects and orbiting planets. (Sometimes people say that Newton discovered gravity, but really its more accurate to say that he explained gravity.)

The debate between rationalists and empiricists was resolved to some extent by Immanuel Kant, one of the most influential philosophers who ever lived. Kants theory was that empiricism and rationalism were both true in their own ways: he agreed with the empiricists when he said that all human knowledge comes from observation. This, he said, is in fact the way that people learn about the world. But our observations are also based on certain innate ways of reasoning; our brains are hard-wired to make certain conclusions from observation and reason further in certain ways. So, he also agreed with the rationalists that knowledge is determined by rationality. As you might expect, many constructivists can trace their lineage back to Kant.

In Civilization V, one of the social policy options is Rationalism. This social policy improves science output for your civilization and allows you to produce more Great Scientists. This makes sense since rationalism was so important in the early scientific revolution. However, the game illustrates rationalism with a picture of a scientist looking through a prism, presumably as part of an experiment. So the picture would fit better under the heading of empiricism rather than rationalism!

Vulcanians do not speculate. I speak from pure logic. (Spock, Star Trek)

Spock is the perfect rationalist. His powerful brain can compute logical probabilities faster than any human being, and he is not distracted by pesky emotions or personal biases (at least most of the time; he is half-human, after all). He is capable of incredible feats of logic, such as playing three-dimensional chess.

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Rationalism: Examples and Definition | Philosophy Terms

Rationalism (philosophy) | Article about Rationalism …

a collective designation for the architectural schools of the first half of the 20th century that made use of the achievements of modern science and technology. In the broad sense, rationalism in architecture is sometimes equated with the concept of modern architecture, as represented by the work of L. H. Sullivan in the United States, H. P. Berlage in the Netherlands, A. Loos in Austria, the masters of the Deutscher Werkbund in Germany, and A. Perret in France.

The establishment of rationalism in the early 1920s was largely promoted by the theories propagated by the circle of architects associated with the journal LEsprit nouveau. The movements leaders were Le Corbusier in France and W. Gro-pius of the Bauhaus school of architecture in Germany.

Rationalism flourished essentially from the 1920s through the 1950s. In 1928 its supporters organized the International Congress for Modern Architecture, which met until 1959. Rationalist ideas concerning urban planning were set forth in 1933 in the Athens Charter. In the 1950s the general architectural principles of rationalism led to the creation of the international style, represented by the work of L. Mies van der Rohe and many others. The dogmatic architectural ideas and the social-reformist utopianism of the proponents of rationalism led to a crisis in the movement by the late 1950s.

The Russian architects of Asnova (Association of New Architects), including N. A. Ladovskii and K. S. Melnikov, proclaimed themselves to be rationalists. They emphasized psychological and physiological factors in the appreciation of architectural form and sought rational principles in the visual aspect of architecture.

REFERENCESKhazanova, V. E. Sovelskaia arkhitektura pervykh let Oktiabria: 19171925 gg. Moscow. 1970.Banham, R. Theory and Design in the First Machine Age. London [1960].Collins, P. Changing Ideals in Modern Architecture: 17501950. London [1965].

a philosophical school that considers reason to be the foundation of human understanding and behavior. Rationalism is the opposite of fideism, irrationalism, and sensationalism (empiricism). The term rationalism has been used to designate and characterize philosophical concepts since the 19th century, but historically the rationalist tradition originated in ancient Greek philosophy. For example, Parmenides, who distinguished between the knowledge of truth (obtained through reason) and the knowledge of opinion (obtained through sensory perception), considered reason to be the criterion of truth.

Rationalism took shape in modern times as an integral system of epistemological views, as a result of the development of mathematics and the natural sciences. In contrast to medieval Scholasticism and religious dogmatism, the classical rationalism of the 17th and 18th centuries (Descartes, Spinoza, Male-branche, and Leibniz) was based on the idea of natural orderan infinite chain of causality pervading the world. Thus, the principles of rationalism were accepted by both materialists (Spinoza) and idealists (Leibniz), although the character of rationalism differed in the two philosophical trends, depending on how the question of the origin of knowledge was resolved.

The rationalism of the 17th and 18th centuries, which asserted the decisive role of reason in both human cognition and human activity, was one of the philosophical sources of the ideology of the Enlightenment. The cult of reason was also characteristic of the 18th-century French materialists, who adopted a philosophical position of materialistic sensationalism and criticized the speculative constructs of rationalism.

Seeking to substantiate the absolute reliability of the principles of science and the tenets of mathematics and the natural sciences, rationalism attempted to explain how knowledge obtained through human cognitive activity could be objective, universal, and necessary. Unlike sensationalism, rationalism maintained that scientific knowledge, which possesses these logical properties, could be attained through reason, which served as the source of knowledge and as the criterion of truth. For example, the rationalist Leibniz modified the basic thesis of sensationalism, as stated by Locke (there is nothing in reason that was not previously present in sensations) by appending to it the phrase other than reason itself. In other words, reason is capable of grasping not only the particular and the accidental, to which sensory perception is limited, but also the universal and the essential.

The concept of reason as the single source of scientific knowledge led rationalists to an idealist conclusion regarding the existence of innate ideas (Descartes) or of predispositions and inclinations in thought that are independent of sensory impressions (Leibniz). The underestimation by rationalists of the role of sensory perception, mans link with the external world, led to the separation of thought from the object of cognition.

Kant, who attempted to reconcile the ideas of rationalism and sensationalism, proposed that all our knowledge begins with the senses, passes to the faculty of understanding, and ends with reason (I. Kant, Sock, vol. 3, Moscow, 1964, p. 340). According to Kant, reason cannot serve as the universal criterion of truth. In order to explain the properties of knowledge, Kant introduced the concept of the apriority (a priori knowledge) of both conceptual forms (as in classical rationalism) and forms of contemplationspace and time. However, Kantian rationalism retains its force only at the price of adopting an agnostic positionthat is, it deals only with the world of phenomena and excludes consideration of things-in-themselves, or objective reality.

In Hegels philosophy the absolute idea, or absolute reason, is the original principle and essence of the world, and the process of cognition is viewed as the self-cognition of reason, which comprehends its own content in the world. In Hegel, therefore, the development of the objective world is represented as a purely logical, rational process, and rationalism assumes the character of panlogism.

Bourgeois philosophy of the 19th and 20th centuries (positivism and neopositivism, for example) lost faith in the unlimited power of reason. The prevailing trend in 19th- and 20th- century bourgeois philosophy is a critique of classical rationalism, with its ideals of the power of reason and mans unlimited rational activity. This critique is based either on irrationalism or on a moderate, limited rationalism. For example, Freudianism, which asserts the dominant role of irrational, subconscious elements, criticizes rationalism from the standpoint of irrationalism, as do intuitionism and existentialism. The concepts of M. Weber and K. Mannheim are representative of the critique of rationalism from the standpoint of moderate, limited rationalism, which is associated less with the logical problems of cognition and more with a search for the sociocultural bases and limits of rationalism.

The narrrow, one-sided character of rationalism was overcome in Marxism. It was possible to resolve the contradiction between empiricism and rationalism on the basis of fundamentally new principles developed in the theory of cognition of dialectical materialism. The basic condition for resolving the contradiction between empiricism and rationalism was an analysis of the process of cognition, in integral association with practical activity for transforming reality. V. I. Lenin wrote: From living perception to abstract thought, and from this to practice such is the dialectical path of the cognition of truth and the cognition of objective reality (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 29, pp. 15253).

REFERENCESMarx, K. Tezisy o Feierbakhe. In K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 3.Engels, F. Dialektika prirody. Ibid., vol. 20.Lenin, V. I. Filosofskie tetradi. Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed. vol. 29.Descartes, R. Rassuzhdenie o metode: Izbr. filosofskie proizvedeniia. Moscow, 1950.Leibniz, G. Novye opyty o chelovecheskom razume. Moscow, 1936.Istoriia filosofii, vol. 1. Moscow, 1957. Chapter 5.Girgensohn, K. Der Rationalismus des Abendlandes. Greifswald, 1921.Cassirer, E. Die Philosophie der Aufklrung. Tbingen, 1932.Santillana, G. de, and E. Zilsel. The Development of Rationalism and Empiricism. Chicago, 1941.

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Rationalism (philosophy) | Article about Rationalism …

Rationalism (philosophy) – definition of Rationalism …

(redirected from Rationalism (philosophy))Also found in: Thesaurus, Medical, Legal, Encyclopedia.rationalism (rsh-n-lzm)n.

1. Reliance on reason as the best guide for belief and action.

2. Philosophy The theory that the exercise of reason, rather than experience, authority, or spiritual revelation, provides the primary basis for knowledge.

rationalist n.

rationalistic adj.

rationalistically adv.

1. reliance on reason rather than intuition to justify one’s beliefs or actions

a. the doctrine that knowledge about reality can be obtained by reason alone without recourse to experience

b. the doctrine that human knowledge can all be encompassed within a single, usually deductive, system

c. the school of philosophy initiated by Descartes which held both the above doctrines

3. the belief that knowledge and truth are ascertained by rational thought and not by divine or supernatural revelation

rationalist n

rationalistic adj

rationalistically adv

n.

1. the principle or habit of accepting reason as the supreme authority in matters of opinion, belief, or conduct.

a. a philosophic doctrine that reason alone is a source of knowledge and is independent of experience.

b. a doctrine that all knowledge is expressible in self-evident propositions or their consequences.

3. a doctrine that human reason, unaided by divine revelation, is an adequate or the sole guide to all attainable religious truth.

[17901800]

rationalist, n.

1. the doctrine that knowledge is gained only through the reason, a faculty independent of experience.2. the doctrine that all knowledge is expressible in self-evident propositions or their consequences. rationalist, n. rationalistic, adj.

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Translations

racionalismus

racionalizam

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Rationalism (philosophy) – definition of Rationalism …

Rationalism | Define Rationalism at Dictionary.com

[rash-uh-nl-iz-uhm]

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Dictionary.com UnabridgedBased on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, Random House, Inc. 2018

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Collins English Dictionary – Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

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Rationalism | Define Rationalism at Dictionary.com

Rationalism | Definition of Rationalism by Merriam-Webster

1 : reliance on reason as the basis for establishment of religious truth

2a : a theory that reason is in itself a source of knowledge superior to and independent of sense perceptions

b : a view that reason and experience rather than the nonrational are the fundamental criteria in the solution of problems

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Rationalism | Definition of Rationalism by Merriam-Webster


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