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Rationalism – Wikipedia

In philosophy, rationalism is the epistemological view that “regards reason as the chief source and test of knowledge” or “any view appealing to reason as a source of knowledge or justification”. 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”.. In an old controversy, rationalism was opposed …

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Rationalism – Wikipedia

Rationalism (architecture) – Wikipedia

In architecture, rationalism is an architectural current which mostly developed from Italy in the 1920s and 1930s.Vitruvius had claimed in his work De Architectura that architecture is a science that can be comprehended rationally. This formulation was taken up and further developed in the architectural treatises of the Renaissance.Progressive art theory of the 18th-century opposed the Baroque …

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Rationalism (architecture) – 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”.

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BBC – Religions – Atheism: Rationalism

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 …

Rationalism and Empiricism – Ohio Northern University

Rationalism and EmpiricismRationalism and EmpiricismSome Notes on Epistemological Strategies and their Implications in Ethics

While the main focus in an ethics course is on ethics and the problems and issues that ethics raises, it is impossible to investigate these problems in isolation, without at least some excursions into the other philosophical sub-disciplines. While all the philosophical sub-disciplines consider what, on one level, are separate questions and issues, there are considerable interconnections, as assumptions in one area will have repercussions in other areas. One question that all ethical theories must address is where ethical knowledge arises, i.e., where does the knowledge about general ethical principles or the knowledge that certain actions are moral or immoral originate? These and other similar questions raise issues that are no longer unique to ethics, rather these issues touch upon more general epistemological questions, i.e., questions about knowledgeits sources, nature and justification. To some the question Where does knowledge originate? might seem rather strange. While knowledge acquisition and manipulation are essential to human beings, the more usual epistemological questions concern some particular ideas source or some statements truth conditions. So, while it is common to inquire into a statement or ideas source, to inquire into all knowledges source seems strange. Some might question whether an answer is even possible. Nevertheless, it is a legitimate (indeed, an essential) philosophical question and though there are difficultiesreal difficultiesanswers are possible. Rationalism and empiricism represent the traditional Western philosophical responses to these epistemological questions. As epistemological theories these philosophical traditions each trace their origins to ancient Greece and the earliest philosophical speculations about the human condition and each also brings unique insights and assumptions to questions about human knowledges nature and origins.

RATIONALISM

Rationalism distinguishes between empirical knowledge, i.e., knowledge that arises through experience, and a priori knowledge, i.e., knowledge that is prior to experience and that arises through reason. As knowledge that arises through our experiences, empirical knowledge is about the material universe (and the various entities and phenomena in that universe). Sentences such as Edinburgh is in Scotland, It is 75o outside, John Locke was a philosopher, The average moose weights 1500 pounds each express statements about certain entities in the universe and so represent empirical knowledge. In contrast a priori knowledge is not about phenomena in the empirical universe or our experiences, though some a priori knowledge is applicable to that universe. The sense in which a priori knowledge is prior to experience is logical rather than temporal, i.e., it is possible that one learns some a priori knowledge through experience, nevertheless that knowledge neither requires experience in order to be known, nor is about experience. Perhaps it is easier, then, to consider a priori knowledge as knowledge that arises through reason alone, i.e., it depends upon no experience. Consider, e.g., mathematical knowledge or logical knowledge. The statement All triangles have three sides makes no claim about experience or the empirical universe since there are no triangles in the universe. There are, to be sure, triangular entities, i.e., physical entities that have a triangular shape, but no triangles themselves. In a similar manner, the statement 3+3=6 makes no claims about the universe as there are no 3s or 6s that one can experience and so possess empirical knowledge about. Again, while it is obvious that some mathematical knowledge is applicable to experience (e.g., 3+3=6 is applicable when one has 3 apples and someone gives one 3 more applesone then knows that one has 6 apples), this fails to demonstrate that the mathematical statement 3+3=6 is an empirical statement. The logical statements x = x, All the entities in the universe are either x or not-x and No entities in the universe are both x and not-x are also statements that while applicable to experience are not about experience.[1] There is another difference between empirical and a priori knowledge in addition to their respective sources and content. This difference has to do with their truth conditions. A truth condition specifies under what conditions a given statement can be said to be true or false, i.e., it indicates what one needs to do to prove a statement true or false. Consider the statement It is 75o outside. Under what conditions is this statement true? It should be obvious that the statement is true so long as the outside temperature is 75o. How would one prove whether the statement is true or false? Again, it should be obvious that one would need to determine, through some procedure or apparatus, the outside temperature. In short, one appeals to experience and the empirical data it provides. In contrast to this empirical statement, consider again the statement 3+3=6. Under what conditions is this statement true and how is it possible to prove it? Well, it is true so long as 3+3 does indeed equal 6, this much seems obvious. But, and here is the principal difference between empirical and a priori knowledge, how does one prove the statement to be true? Perhaps the most obvious response is: Well, take three apples and add them to three more apples and then there are six apples. While this demonstration is to the point, does it suffice to prove that 3+3=6? No, at best this little exercise confirms the statement, but it fails to prove it. To understand the difference between prove and confirm consider another illustration. It is a quiet summer afternoon and James decides to rest on the grass beside a river. Some moments later a white swan swims down stream. As James continues to rest seven more swans, that are also white, swim down stream. James considers this experience and realizes that all the swans he has ever seen have been white. So, James formulates the statement All swans are white and sure enough the next swan he passes is white. Did this last experience prove that the statement All swans are white is true? No, since James has not seen all swans, it is possible that there is at least one that is some non-white color. James experience does, however, provide additional confirmation that the statement is true (at least until James discovers there are non-white swans). To prove that 3+3=6 is true then requires that one appeals to more than experience. To be precise, one must appeal to other mathematical knowledge. At this point someone will perhaps take exception with this analysis and point out that since one learns mathematics through experience, so mathematics must also be empirical knowledge! The point is well taken. The source, however, is not the real issue. The real issue is what the knowledge is about and its truth conditions. Moreover, even though some a priori knowledge might arise through experience, it should be obvious that most does not, i.e., while one might argue that one learns basic mathematical truths, e.g., 1+1=2, 2+2=4 and so on, through experience, it seems clear that there are other mathematical truths that it is much more difficult to learn through experience, e.g., 3525+2353=5858 or a2+b2=c2. The rationalists point here is that a priori knowledge is about more than experience and as such it provides knowledge that experience is unable to provide. A similar analysis will demonstrate that logical statements such as All the entities in the universe are either x or not-x also depend upon no experience to determine their truth. Indeed, since the statement is about all the entities in the universe, the experience one needs to prove it as an empirical claim is impossible. It should be obvious, however, that one needs no experience or empirical data to prove the statement, i.e., whatever characteristic one chooses as x, it is apparent that all the entities in the universe either have x or do not have x. All the entities in the universe are either purple or not purple, bigger than a cat or not bigger than a cat, spherical or not spherical, and so on. One can know that this statement is true even when one has no idea what the characteristic in question is. Thus, one knows that all the entities in the universe are either merbalis or not-merbalis, even though no one else in the universe knows what merbalis is (since I made it up!). To rationalists this power to discern and generate universal truths is quite impressive. Indeed, the differences between rationalism and empiricism as to (a) what constitutes genuine knowledge, (b) what such knowledge is about, and (c) its truth conditions, suggest to the rationalists that there is a real qualitative difference between empirical and a priori knowledge. To be precise, most rationalists argue that a priori knowledge is superior to empirical knowledge. The one consideration that is seen as the most decisive in this argument is the difference in truth conditions between empirical and a priori knowledge. Most rationalists consider there to be a fundamental problem with empirical knowledge. Empirical knowledge depends upon our senses, senses that, the rationalist wastes no time to demonstrate, are unreliable. Here the rationalist appeals to common sense deceptions and perceptual illusionswhen one places a straight rod into water the rod appears to bend, at a distance a square tower appears to be round, parallel lines appear to converge in the distance, and so on.[2] Thus, it is difficult, perhaps even impossible, to ever know that an empirical statement is true. It seems that it is possible to doubt even the most certain sense perceptions. In contrast, a priori knowledge is certain knowledge. While it might be possible to doubt that I see a map on the wall beside the computer (I might have a bizarre optical disease or it might be a hallucination), it seems impossible to doubt that 2+2=4. Furthermore, while empirical knowledge represents conditional knowledge, i.e., knowledge that might have been otherwise, a priori knowledge is universal and eternal. Again, while it is possible to imagine a universe in which the earths circumference was 30,000 miles rather than 25,000 miles or a universe in which politicians are honest or a universe in which the Chicago Cubs do win a World Series, it seems impossible to imagine a universe in which 2+2=6 or where triangles have more (or less) than three sides. As with most philosophical theories there is some disagreement between rationalists on certain issues. One issue that separates rationalists is the answer to the question where a priori knowledge originates. The more radical rationalists (e.g., Plato and Rene Descartes) argue that a priori knowledge is innate, i.e., the knowledge is in some manner latent within the mind or even built into the mind. At best then experience acts to elicit the knowledge, but the knowledge was there prior to the experience. Plato argues that all genuine knowledge is innate and education is mere recollection or remembrance (see Platos dialogue Meno), while Descartes claims that certain critical conceptsGod, material substance, and mental substanceare innate. Given these three innate ideas and reason, Descartes argues that other a priori knowledge is derivable. The obvious problem that these radical rationalist strategies face is the need to explain where the mind acquires these innate ideas. In Platos case the solution is an immortal soul-mind that lives through countless lives (i.e., reincarnations), whereas Descartes argues that God places these ideas in human minds. It is also possible to argue that evolution is responsible, i.e., the minds biological structure contains the ideas. While this sounds rather strange, the linguist Noam Chomsky argues this precise thesis. Unless one assumes that certain linguistic structures, e.g., deep grammar, are innate, the argument goes, it is impossible to explain the apparent ease with which human beings learn natural languages. Immanual Kant argues a less radical rationalist line. Kant accepts the rationalist claim that reason alone can provide certain knowledge. Nevertheless, Kant also accepts the empiricist claim that all knowledge begins in experience, i.e., without sense experience as the initial data upon which reason can operate, the knowledge acquisition process can never start. Knowledge, as Kant conceives it then is what the mind produces as it orders and structures otherwise chaotic sense data. The rather radical idea here is that it is the mind that imposes the order and structure on the sense data, the implication being that the sense data have no intrinsic order or structure. The main organizational principles that the mind imposes on sense data are its spatial and temporal structure. These considerations led Kant to a metaphysical distinctionthe distinction between the noumenal universe and the phenomenal universe. The noumenal universe comprises entities-in-themselves, while the phenomenal universe comprises entities-through-their-appearances (White 1996: 296). This is rather technical so it is best to go through it in stages. Suppose someone presents us with a blue glass sphere. It is through our senses that we perceive this sphere. In this case the principal senses are visual and tactileour visual sense indicates that it is blue and spherical and our tactile sense that it is glass and also that it is spherical. Philosophers call these qualitiesbeing blue, being glass and being sphericalproperties or characteristics. All entities have propertiesa size, a shape, a color, a taste, a texture, an odor, and sound and so on. Kants point is that it is through these properties, and through these properties alone, that all the knowledge we have about the entities in the universe arises. All knowledge about entities comes through their properties (which Kant calls appearances). Our commonsense intuitions suggest, however, that there must be some substance or matter that has the properties that our senses perceive, i.e., that the properties cannot exist without some substance that underlies them and possesses them as properties. While the substance that underlies the properties is unseen, nevertheless reason and commonsense insist that it must exist. Descartes suggests that such inferences are rather common occurrences, e.g., when one peers out a window on a cold winter afternoon one might see a person move across the lawn. But does one see a person? No, all that one sees is a cap, a coat and perhaps trousers and shoes. Nevertheless, no one doubts that there is someone under all the apparel. Even though one is unable to see the person one still reasons that there must be one there, since clothes seldom stroll across lawns on their own. Kant agrees that there must be entities that possess the properties our senses perceive, but argues that while logic necessitates their existence, these entities-in-themselves (which comprise the noumenal universe) are unperceivable and so incomprehensible to the human mind. All that is knowable are the properties (i.e., appearances) that our senses perceive and our mind structures. These appearances are the entities that comprise the phenomenal universe. There are no means then to, as it were, move outside our senses to see entities in themselves, to see the real universe rather than the universe that our senses communicate to us through perception. Since all our knowledge comes through the senses and reason, these act as filters which order and structure all our perceptions and thoughts. The entities-in-themselves that underlie the perceptions remain forever elusive. While perhaps more plausible, Kants rationalism imposes limitations on knowledge that more radical rationalists would refuse to accept. Nevertheless, Kants approach is rationalist since it is the mind (to be precise, reason), that gives our sense perceptions the structure that changes them into knowledge (White 1996: 297). The main point to remember is that rationalists believe that, even though it might require experience to initiate the knowledge process, there is some knowledge that is irreducible to experience, i.e., the knowledge is neither about experience nor is it possible to use experience to demonstrate that the knowledge is true or false.

EMPIRICISM

Empiricism denies the rationalist distinction between empirical and a priori knowledge. All knowledge, the empiricist argues, arises through, and is reducible to, sense perception. Thus, there is no knowledge that arises through reason alone. It is essential to be clear here: it is not reasons existence that empiricism denies, or that reason has a role in knowledge acquisition and manipulation, rather it is that reason has some special access to knowledge over and above the knowledge that experience provides. All empiricists acknowledge that human beings possess reasonreason is the instrument that allows us to manipulate and augment the knowledge that experience provides. Knowledge, however, has its origins in experience rather than in reason. Empiricism begins with the distinction between sense data and ideas. Sense data represent the basic information that the senses present to the mind through our perceptual experiences, i.e., sights, tastes, textures, sounds and odors. To illustrate, suppose that one sees a blue sphere. This sense experience is reducible to the visual act and the sense data (i.e., the information that the visual act contains). In this case the information that the visual act contains is that there is a visible blueness and a sphericalness. At this stage there is no conscious recognition that one sees a blue sphere, all there is is the pure sense data that the senses present to the mind through the sense experiences. The mind processes and represents each individual sense datum as an idea, in this case the ideas blue and spherical. The mind then associates and combines the ideas it creates through sense experience to create the conscious idea blue sphere. To the empiricist, sense data represent the basic material that the mind uses to construct the ideas that comprise all our knowledge. Thus, no matter what the idea is, it is possible to trace that idea to some sense experience(s). While the precise details differ, these are the basic cognitive mechanisms that the principal empiricist philosophersJohn Locke, George Berkeley and David Humeall appeal to in order to explain the process through which sense data becomes knowledge. Although empiricism denies a priori knowledges existence, as knowledge that depends upon no experience, there is still the recognition that some knowledge goes further than experience in the sense that it is not about experience. Nevertheless, empiricism argues that such knowledge is still reducible to experience. Again, this is the crucial notionthat it is possible to trace all knowledge, whether or not it is about experience, to some particular experience or experiences. Rather than preserve what is thought to be an inaccurate distinction, empiricism recasts the distinction between a priori knowledge and empirical knowledge into the distinction between analytic knowledge and synthetic knowledge. Through this distinction empiricism denies the rationalist claim that a priori knowledge is superior to empirical knowledge. Indeed, the distinction provides the basis to argue the precise opposite. The statements that the rationalists cite as paradigmatic a priori knowledgeA triangle has three sides, 3+3=6 and so onthe empiricist sees as analytic statements. An analytic statement is one where the statement analyzes the concept in question. Thus, the statement A triangle has three sides does no more than analyze the concept triangle, and the statement 3=3=6 does no more than analyzes the concept six. Moreover, the empiricist argues, these statements never do more than analyze the concepts in question. In a real sense then these statements provide no additional knowledge, all the knowledge that analytic statements contain is given is within the original concept the statement analyzes (White 1996: 280). Synthetic statements, in contrast, do provide additional knowledgeknowledge that goes further than the original concept. Consider the statement: The temperature outside is 75o. This is a synthetic statement since, while it has to be some temperature outside, there is no reason that it has to be 75o rather than some other temperature. The concepts temperature and outside then have no intrinsic connection to some specific outside temperature, rather what the temperature depends upon are various other environmental conditions. So statement such as The temperature outside is 75o provide us with additional (and sometimes valuable) information. All synthetic statements then share the characteristic that, because there is no intrinsic or logical connection between the statements elements, these statements provide information about a connection or relation that is unavailable in the original concepts themselves. Given that analytic statements reveal no additional insights, while synthetic statements do provide novel ideas and associations, it should come as no surprise that empiricism argues that empirical knowledge is superior to a priori knowledge rather than the reverse (or to be more precise, that synthetic knowledge is superior to analytic knowledge). With the focus on analytic truths rationalism never quite reaches the real universe in the manner that synthetic statements are able to do. There is, however, a philosophical price to be paid. While the empiricist gains additional insights and knowledge there is a loss in certitude, since the empiricist still must deal with senses that (the rationalist is correct to maintain) are unreliable. The rationalist can be certain that 2+2=4, the empiricist, however, must accept that empirical knowledge is at best probable, never certain. The problem is that the empiricist has no real response to the claim that it is possible to doubt even the most persuasive sense impressions, since it is possible to doubt them without logical contradiction. In philosophical terms, the problem is that our sense perceptions underdetermine their causes, i.e., a given sense perception has more than one explanation. Consider, e.g., that one sees a white rabbit. What might explain this perception? The obvious answer is that one sees a white rabbit because there is a white rabbit there. It is also possible, however, that one has a rare optical disease and the rabbit is some other color, rather than white. It is also possible that one hallucinates or dreams the rabbit. As Alice will attest, these are all logical possibilities and the sense experiences in themselves provide no certain means to decide which explanation is correct. This suggests another potential problem that empiricism must addresshow to explain mathematics and logic? Remember that empiricism maintains that all knowledge is reducible to experience. Thus, the empiricist must explain how it is possible to reduce sometimes arcane mathematical knowledge to common sense experience. This means that, since mathematical knowledge is thought to be certain knowledge, the empiricist must explain how it is possible to derive certain knowledge through a processsense experiencethat provides knowledge that is, at best, probable. Moreover, the empiricist must also explain how it is possible to prove mathematical statements through experience. There have been numerous attempts to demonstrate how it is possible to derive mathematics and logic through experience. Though commendable these attempts all have had serious difficulties and so have met with little general acceptance. Even were it possible to reduce mathematics to experience, the questions (1) whether experiences whose truth is probable can produce certain mathematical knowledge and (2) how it is possible to prove mathematical statements through experience, pose rather more serious difficulties. Perhaps the easiest, though least intuitive, solution is to argue that there is no certitude in mathematics. This is John Stuart Mills tactic. Mill, a radical empiricist, argues that, as with all other all empirical statements, mathematical statements express mere probabilities. All that distinguishes them is that mathematical statements have undergone more extensive con-firmation than other statements (Encyclopedia of Philosophy 2: 503). The disadvantage to this tactic is obvious: one must give up all claims to absolute truth in mathematics. Most philosophers (as well as mathematicians) consider this concession to be as difficult as it is undesirable. In contrast to Mill, less radical empiricists, e.g., David Hume and John Locke, still want to maintain mathematics certitude. This too, however, comes at a price. To preserve mathematical truths as absolute truths Locke argues that some perceptions, and the ideas that represent these perceptions, can be more certain than others. To be precise, Locke argues that, when reason operates on experience, the ideas, and the associations between ideas, that it produces result in knowledge that is either intuitive, demonstrative or sensitive. Locke maintains that intuitive knowledge and demonstrative knowledge are certain knowledge (Encyclopedia of Philosophy 2: 501). Lockes arguments here are technical and, to most, less than a complete success. To all intents and purposes, however, what Locke does in order to guarantee certain knowledge is to introduce certain rationalist elements. The consequence is that Lockes certain knowledge is rather too similar to the rationalists a priori knowledge to please most empiricists. Since empiricism argues that there is no knowledge that arises through reason alone, it should be obvious that empiricism also denies that there are innate ideas, i.e., ideas that are in the mind prior to experience or that are built into the mind in some manner. The standard argument against innate ideas is that were there such ideas then all rational beings should possess and acknowledge them. Since it is obvious that there are neither universal ideas, i.e., ideas that all human beings possess, nor ideas upon which their is universal agreement, then there are no innate ideas (see John Lockes Essays on the Law of Nature and Essay Concerning Human Understanding, and David Humes A Treatise on Human Nature). The empiricist considers the pre-experience mind to be a tabula rasaa clean slateand it is through experience that knowledge comes to be written on this slate. Thus, empiricisms credo is that where there is (or can be) no experience there is (and can be) no knowledge.

IMPLICATIONS IN ETHICS

The debate between rationalism and empiricism continues, and it is quite possible some issues will be impossible to resolve, at least given our finite human intelligence. To the degree that it is possible to determine the correct solutions to these issues, the British philosopher Bertrand Russell concludes that the score is even. Russell argues that while it seems clear that the empiricists are correct that all knowledge must arise through experience, it also seems obvious that there is some knowledge that it is impossible to reduce to experience, i.e., reason is able to use experience to produce knowledge that it is nevertheless impossible to prove through experience (see The Problems of Philosophy). The main purpose here, however, is to illustrate that ones general philosophical assumptions about knowledges nature and origins will have consequences in other philosophical investigations, in particular in ethics. And to illustrate that all theories involve compromises, i.e., no matter the initial assumptions, there will be advantages and disadvantages. It is to a philosophers credit then to be able to detect and acknowledge the disadvantages as well as the advantages that their positions entail.

John Locke:Lockes natural law ethics reveals the same tensions that run through Lockes general approach to knowledge. The desire to have some knowledge be certain knowledge, even though all knowledge arises through experience, forces Locke to argue that reason is able to combine some ideas in a manner that produces certain knowledge. Such knowledge is irresistible, i.e., it leaves no room to hesitate or doubt (Encyclopedia of Philosophy 4: 497). Thus, Locke argues that certain knowledge is possible. Perhaps most important to Lockes ethics is the conviction it is possible to be certain that God exists. More than this, since Locke bases what is moral on what God wills, it is even possible to know what it is that Gods desires human beings to do, i.e., the divine law. The divine law as discoverable through reason becomes the natural lawthe command to preserve human beings. The natural law, Locke argues, underlies and governs all human interaction. Thus, through the nature law reason is able to derive all the particular natural rights and moral duties that human beings possess. These are rights and duties that all human beings possess as human beings and that human beings must use as a guide in their behavior. The universal and absolute character is what reason supplies to experience to produce certain knowledge.

Immanual Kant:While Kant thought there was much to admire in the empiricist philosopher David Humes A Treatise on Human Nature, and though he even accepts the empiricist principle that all knowledge arises in experience, Kant is without doubt a rationalist. This rationalism is quite apparent in Kants philosophical investigations into ethics. Kant believes that the supreme principle that underlies all moralsthe categorical imperativemust be absolute and universal. Such a principle can never arise in experience, Kant argues, since all experience is particular (i.e., about particular entities in particular situations at particular times). Neither can experience prove this principle. Experience can at best, Kant insists, confirm the categorical imperative. In contrast to the knowledge that arises through experience, the knowledge that arises through reason is abstract and universal. To illustrate the difference consider the statements There are wombats in Tasmania and a2+b2=c2. It is clear that the empirical statement There are wombats in Tasmania is about particular entities (wombats) and a particular situation (being in Tasmania). The mathematical statement has no such limitations. This statement is abstract in that it mentions no particular entities and universal in that it applies to all appropriate as, bs and cs. It is reason alone then that is able to determine and prove the categorical imperative as the supreme moral principle. Kant distinguishes here between theoretical reason and practical reason. It is theoretical reason that investigates the empirical universe. This is the reason that science uses. Practical reasons concern is the will, that motive force in human beings that underlies all moral behavior. To be precise, it is practical reasons role to create a good will. To do this practical reason determines the moral principle that the will must follow, i.e., the categorical imperative. The general epistemological limitations that arise because Kant accepts the empiricist principle that all knowledge begins in experience are also apparent in Kants ethics. Since it is impossible to know entities-in-themselves there are certain entities and ideas, whose importance to ethics are immeasurable, about which human beings can have no knowledge whatsoever. In particular, it is impossible to have knowledge as to whether (1) God exists, (2) the soul is immortal and (3) that human possess free will. Kant argues, however, that even without certain knowledge, it is still essential to assume that all these are true, otherwise ethics is impossible.

John Stuart Mill:Mills utilitarian ethics incorporates the radical interpretation that Mill gives the empiricist principle that all knowledge arises in experience. Mill interprets the all to mean all knowledge. Thus, Mill assumes that even mathematical and logical knowledge are empirical knowledge with all the limitations that such knowledge possesses. Mill manages to overcome, however, the scepticism that characterizes Humes empiricism (Encyclopedia of Philosophy 5: 318). The Greatest Happiness Principle that underlies utilitarian ethics states that those actions are moral which provide the greatest happiness to the greatest number. What determines happiness is without a doubt an empirical matter, i.e., it is through our experience that we realize what actions cause the pleasures that increase happiness and what actions cause the pains that decrease happiness. Reasons role in this process is to learn through these experiences and to formulate the general moral rules that will, over time, lead to the greatest happiness. It is essential to realize, however, that while these general moral rules are meant to guide behavior, because our experiences change, these rules can and do change over time. There are no certain, or absolute, or universal moral rules. Experience is unable to provide such permanence. Mill also acknowledges, that it is impossible to prove that happiness is the ultimate end that drives all human desire and action. As a consequence Mill must concede, and this is a rather radical concession, that it is impossible to provide a logical demonstration that the Greatest Happiness Principle is the fundamental moral law. Logical analysis, Mill argues, has no place in ethics. In contrast to Locke and Kant then Mill denies that ethics is, or can be, a science. In the end, Mills normative ethics rests upon psychological observations and arguments, whereas Locke and Kant believe their normative theories to rest upon logical arguments.

NOTES:

1. Bertrand Russell argues that, more that obvious logical truths, without at least the assumption that these principles are true, rational argument becomes impossible (1912: 72). 2. There is an extensive discussion about these problems in Rene Descartes Meditations on First Philosophy.

Sources and References

Blau, J.L. 1967 Immanual Kant. The Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 1967 John Locke. The Encyclopedia of Philosophy.Descartes, Rene 1993 Meditations on First Philosophy. Indianpolis: Hackett.Hamlyn, D.W. 1967 Empiricism. The Encyclopedia of Philosophy.Hume, David 1969 A Treatise of Human Nature. London: Penguin.Locke, John 1950 Essays on the Law of Nature. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1975 An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Plato 1981 Five Dialogues. Indianapolis: Hackett.Russell, Bertrand 1912 The Problems of Philosophy. Indianapolis: Hackett.Schneewind, J. B. 1967 John Stuart Mill. The Encyclopedia of Philosophy.White, Thomas I. 1996 Discovering Philosophy. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.Williams, Bernard 1967 Rationalism. The Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

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Rationalism – Wikipedia

In philosophy, rationalism is the epistemological view that “regards reason as the chief source and test of knowledge” or “any view appealing to reason as a source of knowledge or justification”. 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”.. In an old controversy, rationalism was opposed …

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Rationalism – Wikipedia

Rationalism | Britannica.com

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 (architecture) – Wikipedia

In architecture, rationalism is an architectural current which mostly developed from Italy in the 1920s and 1930s. Vitruvius had claimed in his work De Architectura that architecture is a science that can be comprehended rationally. This formulation was taken up and further developed in the architectural treatises of the Renaissance. Progressive art theory of the 18th-century opposed the Baroque use of illusionism with the classic beauty of truth and reason.

Twentieth-century rationalism derived less from a special, unified theoretical work than from a common belief that the most varied problems posed by the real world could be resolved by reason. In that respect it represented a reaction to historicism and a contrast to Art Nouveau and Expressionism.

The name rationalism is retroactively applied to a movement in architecture that came about during the Enlightenment (more specifically, neoclassicism), arguing that architecture’s intellectual base is primarily in science as opposed to reverence for and emulation of archaic traditions and beliefs. Rational architects, following the philosophy of Ren Descartes emphasized geometric forms and ideal proportions.[1]:8184

The French Louis XVI style (better known as Neoclassicism) emerged in the mid-18th century with its roots in the waning interest of the Baroque period. The architectural notions of the time gravitated more and more to the belief that reason and natural forms are tied closely together, and that the rationality of science should serve as the basis for where structural members should be placed. Towards the end of the 18th century, Jean-Nicolas-Louis Durand, a teacher at the influential cole Polytechnique in Paris at the time, argued that architecture in its entirety was based in science.

Other architectural theorists of the period who advanced rationalist ideas include Abb Jean-Louis de Cordemoy (16311713),[2]:559[3]:265 the Venetian Carlo Lodoli (16901761),[2]:560 Abb Marc-Antoine Laugier (17131769) and Quatremre de Quincy (17551849).[1]:8792

The architecture of Claude Nicholas Ledoux (17361806) and tienne-Louis Boulle (172899) typify Enlightenment rationalism, with their use of pure geometric forms, including spheres, squares, and cylinders.[1]:9296

The term structural rationalism most often refers to a 19th-century French movement, usually associated with the theorists Eugne Viollet-le-Duc and Auguste Choisy. Viollet-le-Duc rejected the concept of an ideal architecture and instead saw architecture as a rational construction approach defined by the materials and purpose of the structure.

The architect Eugne Train was one of the most important practitioners of this school, particularly with his educational buildings such as the Collge Chaptal and Lyce Voltaire.[4]

Architects such as Henri Labrouste and Auguste Perret incorporated the virtues of structural rationalism throughout the 19th century in their buildings. By the early 20th century, architects such as Hendrik Petrus Berlage were exploring the idea that structure itself could create space without the need for decoration. This gave rise to modernism, which further explored this concept. More specifically, the Soviet Modernist group ASNOVA were known as ‘the Rationalists’.

Rational Architecture (Italian: Architettura razionale) thrived in Italy from the 1920s to the 1940s. In 1926, a group of young architects Sebastiano Larco, Guido Frette, Carlo Enrico Rava, Adalberto Libera, Luigi Figini, Gino Pollini, and Giuseppe Terragni (190443) founded the so-called Gruppo 7, publishing their manifesto in the magazine Rassegna Italiana. Their declared intent was to strike a middle ground between the classicism of the Novecento Italiano movement and the industrially inspired architecture of Futurism.[5]:203 Their “note” declared:

The hallmark of the earlier avant garde was a contrived impetus and a vain, destructive fury, mingling good and bad elements: the hallmark of today’s youth is a desire for lucidity and wisdom…This must be clear…we do not intend to break with tradition…The new architecture, the true architecture, should be the result of a close association between logic and rationality.[5]:203

One of the first rationalist buildings was the Palazzo Gualino in Turin, built for the financier Riccardo Gualino by the architects Gino Levi-Montalcini and Giuseppe Pagano.[6]Gruppo 7 mounted three exhibitions between 1926 and 1931, and the movement constituted itself as an official body, the Movimento Italiano per l’Architettura Razionale (MIAR), in 1930. Exemplary works include Giuseppe Terragni’s Casa del Fascio in Como (193236), The Medaglia d’Oro room at the Italian Aeronautical Show in Milan (1934) by Pagano and Marcello Nizzoli, and the Fascist Trades Union Building in Como (193843), designed by Cesare Cattaneo, Pietro Lingeri, Augusto Magnani, L. Origoni, and Mario Terragni.[5]:2059

Pagano became editor of Casabella in 1933 together with Edoardo Persico. Pagano and Persico featured the work of the rationalists in the magazine, and its editorials urged the Italian state to adopt rationalism as its official style. The Rationalists enjoyed some official commissions from the Fascist government of Benito Mussolini, but the state tended to favor the more classically inspired work of the National Union of Architects. Architects associated with the movement collaborated on large official projects of the Mussolini regime, including the University of Rome (begun in 1932) and the Esposizione Universale Roma (EUR) in the southern part of Rome (begun in 1936). The EUR features monumental buildings, many of which evocative of ancient Roman architecture, but absent ornament, revealing strong geometric forms.[5]:2047

In the late 1960s, a new rationalist movement emerged in architecture, claiming inspiration from both the Enlightenment and early-20th-century rationalists. Like the earlier rationalists, the movement, known as the Tendenza, was centered in Italy. Practitioners include Carlo Aymonino (19262010), Aldo Rossi (193197), and Giorgio Grassi. The Italian design magazine Casabella featured the work of these architects and theorists. The work of architectural historian Manfredo Tafuri influenced the movement, and the University Iuav of Venice emerged as a center of the Tendenza after Tafuri became chair of Architecture History in 1968.[1]:157 et seq. A Tendenza exhibition was organized for the 1973 [[Milan Triennial XV|Milan Triennale]].[1]:178183

Rossi’s book L’architettura della citt, published in 1966, and translated into English as The Architecture of the City in 1982, explored several of the ideas that inform Neo-rationalism. In seeking to develop an understanding of the city beyond simple functionalism, Rossi revives the idea of typology, following from Quatremre de Quincy, as a method for understanding buildings, as well as the larger city. He also writes of the importance of monuments as expressions of the collective memory of the city, and the idea of place as an expression of both physical reality and history.[1]:16672[7]:17880

Architects such as Leon Krier, Maurice Culot, and Demetri Porphyrios took Rossi’s ideas to their logical conclusion with a revival of Classical Architecture and Traditional Urbanism. Krier’s witty critique of Modernism, often in the form of cartoons, and Porphyrios’s well crafted philosophical arguments, such as “Classicism is not a Style”, won over a small but talented group of architects to the classical point of view. Organizations such as the Traditional Architecture Group at the RIBA, and the Institute of Classical Architecture attest to their growing number, but mask the Rationalist origins.

In Germany, Oswald Mathias Ungers became the leading practitioner of German rationalism from the mid-1960s.[7]:17880 Ungers influenced a younger generation of German architects, including Hans Kollhoff, Max Dudler, and Christoph Mckler.[8]

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Transcendentalism – Transcendentalism vs. Rationalism

Interestingly, the transcendentalism era promoted views that were almost exactly opposite to those of the rationalism era, which was the previous era. There views conflict on just about every issue. While rationalism focuses on reasoning based on facts, transcendentalism is about going beyond what is seen. A big part of transcendentalism is about going against the flow and opposing society. Rationalism however is about trusting in authorities. Rationalism was very knowledge based and transcendentalism is very soul based. Reasoning played a big part is rationalism but transcendentalism encouraged being inspired by ones surroundings.

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Transcendentalism – Transcendentalism vs. Rationalism

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 and Empiricism – Ohio Northern University

Rationalism and EmpiricismRationalism and EmpiricismSome Notes on Epistemological Strategies and their Implications in Ethics

While the main focus in an ethics course is on ethics and the problems and issues that ethics raises, it is impossible to investigate these problems in isolation, without at least some excursions into the other philosophical sub-disciplines. While all the philosophical sub-disciplines consider what, on one level, are separate questions and issues, there are considerable interconnections, as assumptions in one area will have repercussions in other areas. One question that all ethical theories must address is where ethical knowledge arises, i.e., where does the knowledge about general ethical principles or the knowledge that certain actions are moral or immoral originate? These and other similar questions raise issues that are no longer unique to ethics, rather these issues touch upon more general epistemological questions, i.e., questions about knowledgeits sources, nature and justification. To some the question Where does knowledge originate? might seem rather strange. While knowledge acquisition and manipulation are essential to human beings, the more usual epistemological questions concern some particular ideas source or some statements truth conditions. So, while it is common to inquire into a statement or ideas source, to inquire into all knowledges source seems strange. Some might question whether an answer is even possible. Nevertheless, it is a legitimate (indeed, an essential) philosophical question and though there are difficultiesreal difficultiesanswers are possible. Rationalism and empiricism represent the traditional Western philosophical responses to these epistemological questions. As epistemological theories these philosophical traditions each trace their origins to ancient Greece and the earliest philosophical speculations about the human condition and each also brings unique insights and assumptions to questions about human knowledges nature and origins.

RATIONALISM

Rationalism distinguishes between empirical knowledge, i.e., knowledge that arises through experience, and a priori knowledge, i.e., knowledge that is prior to experience and that arises through reason. As knowledge that arises through our experiences, empirical knowledge is about the material universe (and the various entities and phenomena in that universe). Sentences such as Edinburgh is in Scotland, It is 75o outside, John Locke was a philosopher, The average moose weights 1500 pounds each express statements about certain entities in the universe and so represent empirical knowledge. In contrast a priori knowledge is not about phenomena in the empirical universe or our experiences, though some a priori knowledge is applicable to that universe. The sense in which a priori knowledge is prior to experience is logical rather than temporal, i.e., it is possible that one learns some a priori knowledge through experience, nevertheless that knowledge neither requires experience in order to be known, nor is about experience. Perhaps it is easier, then, to consider a priori knowledge as knowledge that arises through reason alone, i.e., it depends upon no experience. Consider, e.g., mathematical knowledge or logical knowledge. The statement All triangles have three sides makes no claim about experience or the empirical universe since there are no triangles in the universe. There are, to be sure, triangular entities, i.e., physical entities that have a triangular shape, but no triangles themselves. In a similar manner, the statement 3+3=6 makes no claims about the universe as there are no 3s or 6s that one can experience and so possess empirical knowledge about. Again, while it is obvious that some mathematical knowledge is applicable to experience (e.g., 3+3=6 is applicable when one has 3 apples and someone gives one 3 more applesone then knows that one has 6 apples), this fails to demonstrate that the mathematical statement 3+3=6 is an empirical statement. The logical statements x = x, All the entities in the universe are either x or not-x and No entities in the universe are both x and not-x are also statements that while applicable to experience are not about experience.[1] There is another difference between empirical and a priori knowledge in addition to their respective sources and content. This difference has to do with their truth conditions. A truth condition specifies under what conditions a given statement can be said to be true or false, i.e., it indicates what one needs to do to prove a statement true or false. Consider the statement It is 75o outside. Under what conditions is this statement true? It should be obvious that the statement is true so long as the outside temperature is 75o. How would one prove whether the statement is true or false? Again, it should be obvious that one would need to determine, through some procedure or apparatus, the outside temperature. In short, one appeals to experience and the empirical data it provides. In contrast to this empirical statement, consider again the statement 3+3=6. Under what conditions is this statement true and how is it possible to prove it? Well, it is true so long as 3+3 does indeed equal 6, this much seems obvious. But, and here is the principal difference between empirical and a priori knowledge, how does one prove the statement to be true? Perhaps the most obvious response is: Well, take three apples and add them to three more apples and then there are six apples. While this demonstration is to the point, does it suffice to prove that 3+3=6? No, at best this little exercise confirms the statement, but it fails to prove it. To understand the difference between prove and confirm consider another illustration. It is a quiet summer afternoon and James decides to rest on the grass beside a river. Some moments later a white swan swims down stream. As James continues to rest seven more swans, that are also white, swim down stream. James considers this experience and realizes that all the swans he has ever seen have been white. So, James formulates the statement All swans are white and sure enough the next swan he passes is white. Did this last experience prove that the statement All swans are white is true? No, since James has not seen all swans, it is possible that there is at least one that is some non-white color. James experience does, however, provide additional confirmation that the statement is true (at least until James discovers there are non-white swans). To prove that 3+3=6 is true then requires that one appeals to more than experience. To be precise, one must appeal to other mathematical knowledge. At this point someone will perhaps take exception with this analysis and point out that since one learns mathematics through experience, so mathematics must also be empirical knowledge! The point is well taken. The source, however, is not the real issue. The real issue is what the knowledge is about and its truth conditions. Moreover, even though some a priori knowledge might arise through experience, it should be obvious that most does not, i.e., while one might argue that one learns basic mathematical truths, e.g., 1+1=2, 2+2=4 and so on, through experience, it seems clear that there are other mathematical truths that it is much more difficult to learn through experience, e.g., 3525+2353=5858 or a2+b2=c2. The rationalists point here is that a priori knowledge is about more than experience and as such it provides knowledge that experience is unable to provide. A similar analysis will demonstrate that logical statements such as All the entities in the universe are either x or not-x also depend upon no experience to determine their truth. Indeed, since the statement is about all the entities in the universe, the experience one needs to prove it as an empirical claim is impossible. It should be obvious, however, that one needs no experience or empirical data to prove the statement, i.e., whatever characteristic one chooses as x, it is apparent that all the entities in the universe either have x or do not have x. All the entities in the universe are either purple or not purple, bigger than a cat or not bigger than a cat, spherical or not spherical, and so on. One can know that this statement is true even when one has no idea what the characteristic in question is. Thus, one knows that all the entities in the universe are either merbalis or not-merbalis, even though no one else in the universe knows what merbalis is (since I made it up!). To rationalists this power to discern and generate universal truths is quite impressive. Indeed, the differences between rationalism and empiricism as to (a) what constitutes genuine knowledge, (b) what such knowledge is about, and (c) its truth conditions, suggest to the rationalists that there is a real qualitative difference between empirical and a priori knowledge. To be precise, most rationalists argue that a priori knowledge is superior to empirical knowledge. The one consideration that is seen as the most decisive in this argument is the difference in truth conditions between empirical and a priori knowledge. Most rationalists consider there to be a fundamental problem with empirical knowledge. Empirical knowledge depends upon our senses, senses that, the rationalist wastes no time to demonstrate, are unreliable. Here the rationalist appeals to common sense deceptions and perceptual illusionswhen one places a straight rod into water the rod appears to bend, at a distance a square tower appears to be round, parallel lines appear to converge in the distance, and so on.[2] Thus, it is difficult, perhaps even impossible, to ever know that an empirical statement is true. It seems that it is possible to doubt even the most certain sense perceptions. In contrast, a priori knowledge is certain knowledge. While it might be possible to doubt that I see a map on the wall beside the computer (I might have a bizarre optical disease or it might be a hallucination), it seems impossible to doubt that 2+2=4. Furthermore, while empirical knowledge represents conditional knowledge, i.e., knowledge that might have been otherwise, a priori knowledge is universal and eternal. Again, while it is possible to imagine a universe in which the earths circumference was 30,000 miles rather than 25,000 miles or a universe in which politicians are honest or a universe in which the Chicago Cubs do win a World Series, it seems impossible to imagine a universe in which 2+2=6 or where triangles have more (or less) than three sides. As with most philosophical theories there is some disagreement between rationalists on certain issues. One issue that separates rationalists is the answer to the question where a priori knowledge originates. The more radical rationalists (e.g., Plato and Rene Descartes) argue that a priori knowledge is innate, i.e., the knowledge is in some manner latent within the mind or even built into the mind. At best then experience acts to elicit the knowledge, but the knowledge was there prior to the experience. Plato argues that all genuine knowledge is innate and education is mere recollection or remembrance (see Platos dialogue Meno), while Descartes claims that certain critical conceptsGod, material substance, and mental substanceare innate. Given these three innate ideas and reason, Descartes argues that other a priori knowledge is derivable. The obvious problem that these radical rationalist strategies face is the need to explain where the mind acquires these innate ideas. In Platos case the solution is an immortal soul-mind that lives through countless lives (i.e., reincarnations), whereas Descartes argues that God places these ideas in human minds. It is also possible to argue that evolution is responsible, i.e., the minds biological structure contains the ideas. While this sounds rather strange, the linguist Noam Chomsky argues this precise thesis. Unless one assumes that certain linguistic structures, e.g., deep grammar, are innate, the argument goes, it is impossible to explain the apparent ease with which human beings learn natural languages. Immanual Kant argues a less radical rationalist line. Kant accepts the rationalist claim that reason alone can provide certain knowledge. Nevertheless, Kant also accepts the empiricist claim that all knowledge begins in experience, i.e., without sense experience as the initial data upon which reason can operate, the knowledge acquisition process can never start. Knowledge, as Kant conceives it then is what the mind produces as it orders and structures otherwise chaotic sense data. The rather radical idea here is that it is the mind that imposes the order and structure on the sense data, the implication being that the sense data have no intrinsic order or structure. The main organizational principles that the mind imposes on sense data are its spatial and temporal structure. These considerations led Kant to a metaphysical distinctionthe distinction between the noumenal universe and the phenomenal universe. The noumenal universe comprises entities-in-themselves, while the phenomenal universe comprises entities-through-their-appearances (White 1996: 296). This is rather technical so it is best to go through it in stages. Suppose someone presents us with a blue glass sphere. It is through our senses that we perceive this sphere. In this case the principal senses are visual and tactileour visual sense indicates that it is blue and spherical and our tactile sense that it is glass and also that it is spherical. Philosophers call these qualitiesbeing blue, being glass and being sphericalproperties or characteristics. All entities have propertiesa size, a shape, a color, a taste, a texture, an odor, and sound and so on. Kants point is that it is through these properties, and through these properties alone, that all the knowledge we have about the entities in the universe arises. All knowledge about entities comes through their properties (which Kant calls appearances). Our commonsense intuitions suggest, however, that there must be some substance or matter that has the properties that our senses perceive, i.e., that the properties cannot exist without some substance that underlies them and possesses them as properties. While the substance that underlies the properties is unseen, nevertheless reason and commonsense insist that it must exist. Descartes suggests that such inferences are rather common occurrences, e.g., when one peers out a window on a cold winter afternoon one might see a person move across the lawn. But does one see a person? No, all that one sees is a cap, a coat and perhaps trousers and shoes. Nevertheless, no one doubts that there is someone under all the apparel. Even though one is unable to see the person one still reasons that there must be one there, since clothes seldom stroll across lawns on their own. Kant agrees that there must be entities that possess the properties our senses perceive, but argues that while logic necessitates their existence, these entities-in-themselves (which comprise the noumenal universe) are unperceivable and so incomprehensible to the human mind. All that is knowable are the properties (i.e., appearances) that our senses perceive and our mind structures. These appearances are the entities that comprise the phenomenal universe. There are no means then to, as it were, move outside our senses to see entities in themselves, to see the real universe rather than the universe that our senses communicate to us through perception. Since all our knowledge comes through the senses and reason, these act as filters which order and structure all our perceptions and thoughts. The entities-in-themselves that underlie the perceptions remain forever elusive. While perhaps more plausible, Kants rationalism imposes limitations on knowledge that more radical rationalists would refuse to accept. Nevertheless, Kants approach is rationalist since it is the mind (to be precise, reason), that gives our sense perceptions the structure that changes them into knowledge (White 1996: 297). The main point to remember is that rationalists believe that, even though it might require experience to initiate the knowledge process, there is some knowledge that is irreducible to experience, i.e., the knowledge is neither about experience nor is it possible to use experience to demonstrate that the knowledge is true or false.

EMPIRICISM

Empiricism denies the rationalist distinction between empirical and a priori knowledge. All knowledge, the empiricist argues, arises through, and is reducible to, sense perception. Thus, there is no knowledge that arises through reason alone. It is essential to be clear here: it is not reasons existence that empiricism denies, or that reason has a role in knowledge acquisition and manipulation, rather it is that reason has some special access to knowledge over and above the knowledge that experience provides. All empiricists acknowledge that human beings possess reasonreason is the instrument that allows us to manipulate and augment the knowledge that experience provides. Knowledge, however, has its origins in experience rather than in reason. Empiricism begins with the distinction between sense data and ideas. Sense data represent the basic information that the senses present to the mind through our perceptual experiences, i.e., sights, tastes, textures, sounds and odors. To illustrate, suppose that one sees a blue sphere. This sense experience is reducible to the visual act and the sense data (i.e., the information that the visual act contains). In this case the information that the visual act contains is that there is a visible blueness and a sphericalness. At this stage there is no conscious recognition that one sees a blue sphere, all there is is the pure sense data that the senses present to the mind through the sense experiences. The mind processes and represents each individual sense datum as an idea, in this case the ideas blue and spherical. The mind then associates and combines the ideas it creates through sense experience to create the conscious idea blue sphere. To the empiricist, sense data represent the basic material that the mind uses to construct the ideas that comprise all our knowledge. Thus, no matter what the idea is, it is possible to trace that idea to some sense experience(s). While the precise details differ, these are the basic cognitive mechanisms that the principal empiricist philosophersJohn Locke, George Berkeley and David Humeall appeal to in order to explain the process through which sense data becomes knowledge. Although empiricism denies a priori knowledges existence, as knowledge that depends upon no experience, there is still the recognition that some knowledge goes further than experience in the sense that it is not about experience. Nevertheless, empiricism argues that such knowledge is still reducible to experience. Again, this is the crucial notionthat it is possible to trace all knowledge, whether or not it is about experience, to some particular experience or experiences. Rather than preserve what is thought to be an inaccurate distinction, empiricism recasts the distinction between a priori knowledge and empirical knowledge into the distinction between analytic knowledge and synthetic knowledge. Through this distinction empiricism denies the rationalist claim that a priori knowledge is superior to empirical knowledge. Indeed, the distinction provides the basis to argue the precise opposite. The statements that the rationalists cite as paradigmatic a priori knowledgeA triangle has three sides, 3+3=6 and so onthe empiricist sees as analytic statements. An analytic statement is one where the statement analyzes the concept in question. Thus, the statement A triangle has three sides does no more than analyze the concept triangle, and the statement 3=3=6 does no more than analyzes the concept six. Moreover, the empiricist argues, these statements never do more than analyze the concepts in question. In a real sense then these statements provide no additional knowledge, all the knowledge that analytic statements contain is given is within the original concept the statement analyzes (White 1996: 280). Synthetic statements, in contrast, do provide additional knowledgeknowledge that goes further than the original concept. Consider the statement: The temperature outside is 75o. This is a synthetic statement since, while it has to be some temperature outside, there is no reason that it has to be 75o rather than some other temperature. The concepts temperature and outside then have no intrinsic connection to some specific outside temperature, rather what the temperature depends upon are various other environmental conditions. So statement such as The temperature outside is 75o provide us with additional (and sometimes valuable) information. All synthetic statements then share the characteristic that, because there is no intrinsic or logical connection between the statements elements, these statements provide information about a connection or relation that is unavailable in the original concepts themselves. Given that analytic statements reveal no additional insights, while synthetic statements do provide novel ideas and associations, it should come as no surprise that empiricism argues that empirical knowledge is superior to a priori knowledge rather than the reverse (or to be more precise, that synthetic knowledge is superior to analytic knowledge). With the focus on analytic truths rationalism never quite reaches the real universe in the manner that synthetic statements are able to do. There is, however, a philosophical price to be paid. While the empiricist gains additional insights and knowledge there is a loss in certitude, since the empiricist still must deal with senses that (the rationalist is correct to maintain) are unreliable. The rationalist can be certain that 2+2=4, the empiricist, however, must accept that empirical knowledge is at best probable, never certain. The problem is that the empiricist has no real response to the claim that it is possible to doubt even the most persuasive sense impressions, since it is possible to doubt them without logical contradiction. In philosophical terms, the problem is that our sense perceptions underdetermine their causes, i.e., a given sense perception has more than one explanation. Consider, e.g., that one sees a white rabbit. What might explain this perception? The obvious answer is that one sees a white rabbit because there is a white rabbit there. It is also possible, however, that one has a rare optical disease and the rabbit is some other color, rather than white. It is also possible that one hallucinates or dreams the rabbit. As Alice will attest, these are all logical possibilities and the sense experiences in themselves provide no certain means to decide which explanation is correct. This suggests another potential problem that empiricism must addresshow to explain mathematics and logic? Remember that empiricism maintains that all knowledge is reducible to experience. Thus, the empiricist must explain how it is possible to reduce sometimes arcane mathematical knowledge to common sense experience. This means that, since mathematical knowledge is thought to be certain knowledge, the empiricist must explain how it is possible to derive certain knowledge through a processsense experiencethat provides knowledge that is, at best, probable. Moreover, the empiricist must also explain how it is possible to prove mathematical statements through experience. There have been numerous attempts to demonstrate how it is possible to derive mathematics and logic through experience. Though commendable these attempts all have had serious difficulties and so have met with little general acceptance. Even were it possible to reduce mathematics to experience, the questions (1) whether experiences whose truth is probable can produce certain mathematical knowledge and (2) how it is possible to prove mathematical statements through experience, pose rather more serious difficulties. Perhaps the easiest, though least intuitive, solution is to argue that there is no certitude in mathematics. This is John Stuart Mills tactic. Mill, a radical empiricist, argues that, as with all other all empirical statements, mathematical statements express mere probabilities. All that distinguishes them is that mathematical statements have undergone more extensive con-firmation than other statements (Encyclopedia of Philosophy 2: 503). The disadvantage to this tactic is obvious: one must give up all claims to absolute truth in mathematics. Most philosophers (as well as mathematicians) consider this concession to be as difficult as it is undesirable. In contrast to Mill, less radical empiricists, e.g., David Hume and John Locke, still want to maintain mathematics certitude. This too, however, comes at a price. To preserve mathematical truths as absolute truths Locke argues that some perceptions, and the ideas that represent these perceptions, can be more certain than others. To be precise, Locke argues that, when reason operates on experience, the ideas, and the associations between ideas, that it produces result in knowledge that is either intuitive, demonstrative or sensitive. Locke maintains that intuitive knowledge and demonstrative knowledge are certain knowledge (Encyclopedia of Philosophy 2: 501). Lockes arguments here are technical and, to most, less than a complete success. To all intents and purposes, however, what Locke does in order to guarantee certain knowledge is to introduce certain rationalist elements. The consequence is that Lockes certain knowledge is rather too similar to the rationalists a priori knowledge to please most empiricists. Since empiricism argues that there is no knowledge that arises through reason alone, it should be obvious that empiricism also denies that there are innate ideas, i.e., ideas that are in the mind prior to experience or that are built into the mind in some manner. The standard argument against innate ideas is that were there such ideas then all rational beings should possess and acknowledge them. Since it is obvious that there are neither universal ideas, i.e., ideas that all human beings possess, nor ideas upon which their is universal agreement, then there are no innate ideas (see John Lockes Essays on the Law of Nature and Essay Concerning Human Understanding, and David Humes A Treatise on Human Nature). The empiricist considers the pre-experience mind to be a tabula rasaa clean slateand it is through experience that knowledge comes to be written on this slate. Thus, empiricisms credo is that where there is (or can be) no experience there is (and can be) no knowledge.

IMPLICATIONS IN ETHICS

The debate between rationalism and empiricism continues, and it is quite possible some issues will be impossible to resolve, at least given our finite human intelligence. To the degree that it is possible to determine the correct solutions to these issues, the British philosopher Bertrand Russell concludes that the score is even. Russell argues that while it seems clear that the empiricists are correct that all knowledge must arise through experience, it also seems obvious that there is some knowledge that it is impossible to reduce to experience, i.e., reason is able to use experience to produce knowledge that it is nevertheless impossible to prove through experience (see The Problems of Philosophy). The main purpose here, however, is to illustrate that ones general philosophical assumptions about knowledges nature and origins will have consequences in other philosophical investigations, in particular in ethics. And to illustrate that all theories involve compromises, i.e., no matter the initial assumptions, there will be advantages and disadvantages. It is to a philosophers credit then to be able to detect and acknowledge the disadvantages as well as the advantages that their positions entail.

John Locke:Lockes natural law ethics reveals the same tensions that run through Lockes general approach to knowledge. The desire to have some knowledge be certain knowledge, even though all knowledge arises through experience, forces Locke to argue that reason is able to combine some ideas in a manner that produces certain knowledge. Such knowledge is irresistible, i.e., it leaves no room to hesitate or doubt (Encyclopedia of Philosophy 4: 497). Thus, Locke argues that certain knowledge is possible. Perhaps most important to Lockes ethics is the conviction it is possible to be certain that God exists. More than this, since Locke bases what is moral on what God wills, it is even possible to know what it is that Gods desires human beings to do, i.e., the divine law. The divine law as discoverable through reason becomes the natural lawthe command to preserve human beings. The natural law, Locke argues, underlies and governs all human interaction. Thus, through the nature law reason is able to derive all the particular natural rights and moral duties that human beings possess. These are rights and duties that all human beings possess as human beings and that human beings must use as a guide in their behavior. The universal and absolute character is what reason supplies to experience to produce certain knowledge.

Immanual Kant:While Kant thought there was much to admire in the empiricist philosopher David Humes A Treatise on Human Nature, and though he even accepts the empiricist principle that all knowledge arises in experience, Kant is without doubt a rationalist. This rationalism is quite apparent in Kants philosophical investigations into ethics. Kant believes that the supreme principle that underlies all moralsthe categorical imperativemust be absolute and universal. Such a principle can never arise in experience, Kant argues, since all experience is particular (i.e., about particular entities in particular situations at particular times). Neither can experience prove this principle. Experience can at best, Kant insists, confirm the categorical imperative. In contrast to the knowledge that arises through experience, the knowledge that arises through reason is abstract and universal. To illustrate the difference consider the statements There are wombats in Tasmania and a2+b2=c2. It is clear that the empirical statement There are wombats in Tasmania is about particular entities (wombats) and a particular situation (being in Tasmania). The mathematical statement has no such limitations. This statement is abstract in that it mentions no particular entities and universal in that it applies to all appropriate as, bs and cs. It is reason alone then that is able to determine and prove the categorical imperative as the supreme moral principle. Kant distinguishes here between theoretical reason and practical reason. It is theoretical reason that investigates the empirical universe. This is the reason that science uses. Practical reasons concern is the will, that motive force in human beings that underlies all moral behavior. To be precise, it is practical reasons role to create a good will. To do this practical reason determines the moral principle that the will must follow, i.e., the categorical imperative. The general epistemological limitations that arise because Kant accepts the empiricist principle that all knowledge begins in experience are also apparent in Kants ethics. Since it is impossible to know entities-in-themselves there are certain entities and ideas, whose importance to ethics are immeasurable, about which human beings can have no knowledge whatsoever. In particular, it is impossible to have knowledge as to whether (1) God exists, (2) the soul is immortal and (3) that human possess free will. Kant argues, however, that even without certain knowledge, it is still essential to assume that all these are true, otherwise ethics is impossible.

John Stuart Mill:Mills utilitarian ethics incorporates the radical interpretation that Mill gives the empiricist principle that all knowledge arises in experience. Mill interprets the all to mean all knowledge. Thus, Mill assumes that even mathematical and logical knowledge are empirical knowledge with all the limitations that such knowledge possesses. Mill manages to overcome, however, the scepticism that characterizes Humes empiricism (Encyclopedia of Philosophy 5: 318). The Greatest Happiness Principle that underlies utilitarian ethics states that those actions are moral which provide the greatest happiness to the greatest number. What determines happiness is without a doubt an empirical matter, i.e., it is through our experience that we realize what actions cause the pleasures that increase happiness and what actions cause the pains that decrease happiness. Reasons role in this process is to learn through these experiences and to formulate the general moral rules that will, over time, lead to the greatest happiness. It is essential to realize, however, that while these general moral rules are meant to guide behavior, because our experiences change, these rules can and do change over time. There are no certain, or absolute, or universal moral rules. Experience is unable to provide such permanence. Mill also acknowledges, that it is impossible to prove that happiness is the ultimate end that drives all human desire and action. As a consequence Mill must concede, and this is a rather radical concession, that it is impossible to provide a logical demonstration that the Greatest Happiness Principle is the fundamental moral law. Logical analysis, Mill argues, has no place in ethics. In contrast to Locke and Kant then Mill denies that ethics is, or can be, a science. In the end, Mills normative ethics rests upon psychological observations and arguments, whereas Locke and Kant believe their normative theories to rest upon logical arguments.

NOTES:

1. Bertrand Russell argues that, more that obvious logical truths, without at least the assumption that these principles are true, rational argument becomes impossible (1912: 72). 2. There is an extensive discussion about these problems in Rene Descartes Meditations on First Philosophy.

Sources and References

Blau, J.L. 1967 Immanual Kant. The Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 1967 John Locke. The Encyclopedia of Philosophy.Descartes, Rene 1993 Meditations on First Philosophy. Indianpolis: Hackett.Hamlyn, D.W. 1967 Empiricism. The Encyclopedia of Philosophy.Hume, David 1969 A Treatise of Human Nature. London: Penguin.Locke, John 1950 Essays on the Law of Nature. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1975 An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Plato 1981 Five Dialogues. Indianapolis: Hackett.Russell, Bertrand 1912 The Problems of Philosophy. Indianapolis: Hackett.Schneewind, J. B. 1967 John Stuart Mill. The Encyclopedia of Philosophy.White, Thomas I. 1996 Discovering Philosophy. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.Williams, Bernard 1967 Rationalism. The Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

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Rationalism | Article about rationalism by The Free Dictionary

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 (architecture) – Wikipedia

In architecture, rationalism is an architectural current which mostly developed from Italy in the 1920s and 1930s. Vitruvius had claimed in his work De Architectura that architecture is a science that can be comprehended rationally. This formulation was taken up and further developed in the architectural treatises of the Renaissance. Progressive art theory of the 18th-century opposed the Baroque use of illusionism with the classic beauty of truth and reason.

Twentieth-century rationalism derived less from a special, unified theoretical work than from a common belief that the most varied problems posed by the real world could be resolved by reason. In that respect it represented a reaction to historicism and a contrast to Art Nouveau and Expressionism.

The name rationalism is retroactively applied to a movement in architecture that came about during the Enlightenment (more specifically, neoclassicism), arguing that architecture’s intellectual base is primarily in science as opposed to reverence for and emulation of archaic traditions and beliefs. Rational architects, following the philosophy of Ren Descartes emphasized geometric forms and ideal proportions.[1]:8184

The French Louis XVI style (better known as Neoclassicism) emerged in the mid-18th century with its roots in the waning interest of the Baroque period. The architectural notions of the time gravitated more and more to the belief that reason and natural forms are tied closely together, and that the rationality of science should serve as the basis for where structural members should be placed. Towards the end of the 18th century, Jean-Nicolas-Louis Durand, a teacher at the influential cole Polytechnique in Paris at the time, argued that architecture in its entirety was based in science.

Other architectural theorists of the period who advanced rationalist ideas include Abb Jean-Louis de Cordemoy (16311713),[2]:559[3]:265 the Venetian Carlo Lodoli (16901761),[2]:560 Abb Marc-Antoine Laugier (17131769) and Quatremre de Quincy (17551849).[1]:8792

The architecture of Claude Nicholas Ledoux (17361806) and tienne-Louis Boulle (172899) typify Enlightenment rationalism, with their use of pure geometric forms, including spheres, squares, and cylinders.[1]:9296

The term structural rationalism most often refers to a 19th-century French movement, usually associated with the theorists Eugne Viollet-le-Duc and Auguste Choisy. Viollet-le-Duc rejected the concept of an ideal architecture and instead saw architecture as a rational construction approach defined by the materials and purpose of the structure.

The architect Eugne Train was one of the most important practitioners of this school, particularly with his educational buildings such as the Collge Chaptal and Lyce Voltaire.[4]

Architects such as Henri Labrouste and Auguste Perret incorporated the virtues of structural rationalism throughout the 19th century in their buildings. By the early 20th century, architects such as Hendrik Petrus Berlage were exploring the idea that structure itself could create space without the need for decoration. This gave rise to modernism, which further explored this concept. More specifically, the Soviet Modernist group ASNOVA were known as ‘the Rationalists’.

Rational Architecture (Italian: Architettura razionale) thrived in Italy from the 1920s to the 1940s. In 1926, a group of young architects Sebastiano Larco, Guido Frette, Carlo Enrico Rava, Adalberto Libera, Luigi Figini, Gino Pollini, and Giuseppe Terragni (190443) founded the so-called Gruppo 7, publishing their manifesto in the magazine Rassegna Italiana. Their declared intent was to strike a middle ground between the classicism of the Novecento Italiano movement and the industrially inspired architecture of Futurism.[5]:203 Their “note” declared:

The hallmark of the earlier avant garde was a contrived impetus and a vain, destructive fury, mingling good and bad elements: the hallmark of today’s youth is a desire for lucidity and wisdom…This must be clear…we do not intend to break with tradition…The new architecture, the true architecture, should be the result of a close association between logic and rationality.[5]:203

One of the first rationalist buildings was the Palazzo Gualino in Turin, built for the financier Riccardo Gualino by the architects Gino Levi-Montalcini and Giuseppe Pagano.[6]Gruppo 7 mounted three exhibitions between 1926 and 1931, and the movement constituted itself as an official body, the Movimento Italiano per l’Architettura Razionale (MIAR), in 1930. Exemplary works include Giuseppe Terragni’s Casa del Fascio in Como (193236), The Medaglia d’Oro room at the Italian Aeronautical Show in Milan (1934) by Pagano and Marcello Nizzoli, and the Fascist Trades Union Building in Como (193843), designed by Cesare Cattaneo, Pietro Lingeri, Augusto Magnani, L. Origoni, and Mario Terragni.[5]:2059

Pagano became editor of Casabella in 1933 together with Edoardo Persico. Pagano and Persico featured the work of the rationalists in the magazine, and its editorials urged the Italian state to adopt rationalism as its official style. The Rationalists enjoyed some official commissions from the Fascist government of Benito Mussolini, but the state tended to favor the more classically inspired work of the National Union of Architects. Architects associated with the movement collaborated on large official projects of the Mussolini regime, including the University of Rome (begun in 1932) and the Esposizione Universale Roma (EUR) in the southern part of Rome (begun in 1936). The EUR features monumental buildings, many of which evocative of ancient Roman architecture, but absent ornament, revealing strong geometric forms.[5]:2047

In the late 1960s, a new rationalist movement emerged in architecture, claiming inspiration from both the Enlightenment and early-20th-century rationalists. Like the earlier rationalists, the movement, known as the Tendenza, was centered in Italy. Practitioners include Carlo Aymonino (19262010), Aldo Rossi (193197), and Giorgio Grassi. The Italian design magazine Casabella featured the work of these architects and theorists. The work of architectural historian Manfredo Tafuri influenced the movement, and the University Iuav of Venice emerged as a center of the Tendenza after Tafuri became chair of Architecture History in 1968.[1]:157 et seq. A Tendenza exhibition was organized for the 1973 [[Milan Triennial XV|Milan Triennale]].[1]:178183

Rossi’s book L’architettura della citt, published in 1966, and translated into English as The Architecture of the City in 1982, explored several of the ideas that inform Neo-rationalism. In seeking to develop an understanding of the city beyond simple functionalism, Rossi revives the idea of typology, following from Quatremre de Quincy, as a method for understanding buildings, as well as the larger city. He also writes of the importance of monuments as expressions of the collective memory of the city, and the idea of place as an expression of both physical reality and history.[1]:16672[7]:17880

Architects such as Leon Krier, Maurice Culot, and Demetri Porphyrios took Rossi’s ideas to their logical conclusion with a revival of Classical Architecture and Traditional Urbanism. Krier’s witty critique of Modernism, often in the form of cartoons, and Porphyrios’s well crafted philosophical arguments, such as “Classicism is not a Style”, won over a small but talented group of architects to the classical point of view. Organizations such as the Traditional Architecture Group at the RIBA, and the Institute of Classical Architecture attest to their growing number, but mask the Rationalist origins.

In Germany, Oswald Mathias Ungers became the leading practitioner of German rationalism from the mid-1960s.[7]:17880 Ungers influenced a younger generation of German architects, including Hans Kollhoff, Max Dudler, and Christoph Mckler.[8]

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Rationalism (architecture) – Wikipedia

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”[1] or “any view appealing to reason as a source of knowledge or justification”.[2] 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”.[3]

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”.[4]

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”.[5] 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 the 17th-century Dutch Republic, the rise of early modern-period rationalism as a highly systematic school of philosophy in its own right for the first time in history exerted an immense and profound influence on modern Western thought in general,[6][7] with the birth of two highly influential rationalistic philosophical systems of Descartes[8][9] (who spent most of his adult life in the Netherlands in the period 16281649)[10][11][12] and Spinoza[13][14] namely Cartesianism[15][16][17] and Spinozism.[18][19][20][21][22][23][24] It was the 17th-century arch-rationalists[25][26][27][28] like Descartes, Spinoza and Leibniz who have given the “Age of Reason” its name and place in history.[29]

In politics, rationalism, since the Enlightenment, historically emphasized a “politics of reason” centered upon rational choice, utilitarianism, secularism, and irreligion[30] the latter aspect’s antitheism was later softened by the adoption of pluralistic methods practicable regardless of religious or irreligious ideology.[31] In this regard, the philosopher John Cottingham[32] 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.[2] 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.”[33] 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.”[34]

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.[34] 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.[34]

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”[35]

Rationale: “We have knowledge of some truths in a particular subject area, S, as part of our rational nature.”[36]

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.[37] 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.”[36] 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.”[38]

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.[39] 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.[38]

In his book, Meditations on First Philosophy,[40] 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.”[41]

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.”[42]

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.”[1] 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”.[1] 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.[1]

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.[3] 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.[4]

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.”[5]

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.[43]

Pythagoras was one of the first Western philosophers to stress rationalist insight.[44] 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”.[44] It has been said that he was the first man to call himself a philosopher, or lover of wisdom.[45]

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)[46][47][48] 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).[49] For Plato, these forms were accessible only to reason and not to sense.[44] 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.[50]

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.”[51] Despite this very general definition, Aristotle limits himself to categorical syllogisms which consist of three categorical propositions in his work Prior Analytics.[52] These included categorical modal syllogisms.[53]

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.[44]

Early modern rationalism has its roots in the 17th-century Dutch Republic,[54] with some notable intellectual representatives like Hugo Grotius,[55] 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,[56][57][58] 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.[59] 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.[63][64][65] 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.”[65][66] He was heavily influenced by Descartes,[67] Euclid[66] and Thomas Hobbes,[67] as well as theologians in the Jewish philosophical tradition such as Maimonides.[67] 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”[65] 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.[66] Spinoza’s philosophy attracted believers such as Albert Einstein[68] and much intellectual attention.[69][70][71][72][73]

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”.[74] 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.[75]

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”.[76]

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.[77]

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.[78]

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Rationalism – Wikipedia

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

Rationalism | Britannica.com

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


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