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Rationalism Wikipedia

Posted: June 22, 2016 at 11:32 pm

Rationalism r alla filosofiska riktningar, som r centrerade kring frnuftet (ratio p latin), tnkandet och tingens logiska ordning.

Den troligen tidigaste rationalisten var Parmenides.

Rationalismen utvecklades under 1600- och 1700-talen d filosoferna Ren Descartes, Baruch Spinoza och Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz byggde upp metafysiska system. Rationalismen kom att prgla upplysningens tnkande, och drigenom den moderna vetenskapsuppfattningen. Enbart frnuftet r alla tings mtt, och med dess hjlp kan alla problem lsas.

En stark inspiration fr rationalisterna var det deduktiva vetenskapsidealet som har sin brjan i senantiken med Euklides Elementa dr han beskriver hur man ur ett ftal antaganden som r uppenbara fr var och en kan hrleda mngder av satser i geometrin som var och en kan hrledas tillbaka till grunden. Euklides beskrev det som senare kom att kallas euklidisk geometri. Euklides mest knda verk heter Stoicheia, eller Elementa p latin. I den sammanfattade han all d knd geometrisk kunskap. Verket r delat i 13 bcker, av vilka de sex frsta handlar om planfigurer och deras egenskaper, de tre fljande om talteori och de fyra terstende om irrationella tal och rymdgeometri. Euklides betydelse fr matematiken r ltt att inse, men fr filosofin r kanske den betydelse han fick fr rationalismen viktigare. Euklides geometri kom att bli av en stor intellektuell upplevelse om sann och ren vetenskap fr mnga unga intellektuella som genom rhundraden frskt att frverkliga deduktiva system p andra omrden n geometrin. Genom att utifrn grundlggande antagande bevisa en mngd geometriska satser gav Euklides ett exempel fr andra filosofer. Descartes, Hobbes och Spinoza frskte anvnda metoden fr filosofiska system i motsats till empirister, som John Locke, som menade att kunskapen inte kom frn tnkandet utan frn erfarenheten.

Ren Descartes bygger sin filosofi utifrn cogito ergo sum, jag tnker [allts] r jag. Utifrn att ha ifrgasatt och tvivlat p allt hittar han den fasta grunden i att han existerar och lyckas utifrn detta hrleda en komplett filosofi dr det mesta som behvs i en vrld och samhlle kan hrledas fram. Ren Descartes gjorde ocks viktiga insatser i matematik och naturvetenskap, till exempel brukar man tala om cartesiska koordinatsystem. Hans latinska namn r Cartesius.

P politikens omrde r Thomas Hobbes Leviathan bermd fr sin deduktiva uppbyggnad och sina skrmmande slutsatser om ledarens legitima och nrmast oinskrnkta makt i samhllet. Thomas Hobbes beskriver naturens mekaniska lagar som strikt styr allting i naturen, inklusive mnniskors beteende. Mnniskans naturliga beteende r enligt Hobbes egoistiskt, hennes strvan r att stta sig ver alla andra mnniskor genom att tillskaffa sig till exempel makt. I naturtillstndet, skriver Hobbes, blir hela livet ett allas krig mot alla (bellum omnium contra omnes)och livet blir sledes inte vrt att leva. Fr att undvika ett sdant tillstnd var det ndvndigt att utse en suvern, en envldshrskare vars funktion var att skydda mnniskorna mot varandra, en 'Leviathan, som i utbyte mot makt kan sknka trygghet t folket, tminstone inom staten. (se f Naturrtt)

Descartes var djupt missnjd med sin tids vetenskap och dess kunskapsteoretiska grund. Ett av hans ml var att med hjlp av reduktionism n fram till helt skra pstenden om vrlden. Han menade till exempel att man intuitivt kunde se (skda klart och tydligt) att en triangel hade tre sidor och att man genom deduktion kunde n sker kunskap. Det var med frnuftet, inte knslor eller sinnesintryck, som det var mjligt. Genom att ha ngra f enkla principer (frn latinets principia "brjan") som utgngspunkt menade de att man kunde frst och frklara vrlden. Descartes frskte skapa en sker grundval fr tnkandet och vetenskapen genom att tvivla p allt - inklusive matematikens satser. Det fanns dock en sak han inte kunde tvivla p, nmligen att han tnkte under sitt tvivel. Hrav kommer hans bermda cogito ergo sum "jag tnker, allts r jag". Sjlen blev grundvalen fr hans rationalism och mnniskan som "tnkande ting".

Aristoteles och senare skolastikens filosofer gav stor vikt t tanken p substanser. Substanser r tillvarons yttersta bestndsdelar. De kan inte delas och r sig sjlva nog. Rationalisterna tog, trots sitt motstnd mot skolastiskt filosofi; till sig substanslran. Descartes genomfr en strng dualism mellan tv substanser - tnkande substans (res cogitans) och utstrckt materia (res exstensa). Denna dualism har haft stor betydelse in i vr tid. Mnniskans kropp r en rent mekanisk automat styrd av sjlen. Men hur pverkar sjlen - denna eteriska substans - den fysiska substansen? Kan ett spke som gr genom vggar ocks ppna drrar av jrn? Detta var en sttesten som redan Descartes samtid kritiserade. Spinoza och Leibniz var djupt pverkade av Descartes men ville utveckla hans tankar och gra ngonting bttre. Spinoza genom att anta en monism det vill sga att allt bestr av en substans; Leibniz i sin tur genom att pst allt bestr av ett ondligt antal substanser.

Descartes dualism ledde honom till problemet med hur kropp och sjl interagerar. Hans efterfljare - cartesianerna - frskte lsa detta med att anta tanken p synkrona klockor, att viljeakter i sjlen parallellt yttrar sig i hndelser i yttervrlden. Yttersta garanten fr detta var Gud. Fr Spinoza fanns bara en substans och denna substans var Gud sjlv, det vill sga en immanent tanke p Gud. Vi r alla delar av Gud. Leibniz resonerade som s, att ingen substans r delbar. Materia r alltid delbart i mindre och mindre entiteter. - allts kan inte den yttersta substansen vara materiell. I sin s kallade Monadologi menade han att allt ytterst bestr av sm andliga punkter, som han kallade monader (av latinets monad "ensam enhet"). Rationalisterna tnkte ofta i den nya mekanistiska "dda" vrldsbildens termer men nskade ocks frsona den med en religis gudstro.

Fr rationalisterna fanns inte uppdelningen i praktisk och teoretisk filosofi, det vill sga att strikt syssla med hur vrlden br vara och hur den r. Moralfilosofi och metafysik sammanfaller. Att Spinozas huvudverk heter "Etiken" r drfr inte s mrkligt. I den mekanistiska vrldsbilden r allt understllt lagen om orsak och verkan; det r i grunden ett deterministiskt synstt. Men om allt r frutbestmt, hur kan d det harmonieras med mnsklig vrdighet, frihet och moral? Fr Descartes dualism utgr helt enkelt lsningen, att mnniskan i kraft av att vara ett tnkande ting har helt fri vilja och kan gra autonoma val. Hon br drfr fullt ansvar fr sina handlingar. Spinoza och Leibniz r bda verens om en strikt deterministisk syn p tillvaron men bda intar en position som frsker frena determinism med frihet , s kallad kompatibilism.

Filosofen Hans-Georg Gadamer talade ibland om att vi lever i vetenskapens tidslder. Rationalisterna frskte "rdda" gud frn ett stort och de universum - men brjan till ett avkristnat Europa kan nog sknjas redan p 1600-talet efter ett bigott 1500-tal. En dold agenda, dr frnuft, vetenskap och matematik styr vra liv fr delvis sgas ha rationalisterna sjlva som skribenter.

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rationalism – History of rationalism | Britannica.com

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Alternative titles: apriorism; intellectualism

The first Western philosopher to stress rationalist insight was Pythagoras, a shadowy figure of the 6th century bce. Noticing that, for a right triangle, a square built on its hypotenuse equals the sum of those on its sides and that the pitches of notes sounded on a lute bear a mathematical relation to the lengths of the strings, Pythagoras held that 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 rationalists vision, later seen by Galileo (15641642), of a world governed throughout by mathematically formulable laws.

The difficulty in this view, however, is that, working with universals and their relations, which, like the multiplication table, are timeless and changeless, it assumes a static world and ignores the particular, changing things of daily life. The difficulty was met boldly by the rationalist Parmenides (born c. 515 bce), who insisted that the world really is a static whole and that the realm of change and motion is an illusion, or even a self-contradiction. His disciple Zeno of Elea (c. 495c. 430 bce) further argued that anything thought to be moving is confronted with a row of points infinite in number, all of which it must traverse; hence it can never reach its goal, nor indeed move at all. Of course, perception tells us that we do move, but Zeno, compelled to choose between perception and reason, clung to reason.

PlatoG. Dagli OrtiDeA Picture Library/Learning PicturesThe exalting of rational insight above perception was also prominent in Plato (c. 427c. 347 bce). In the Meno, Socrates (c. 470399 bce) dramatized the innateness of knowledge by calling upon an illiterate slave boy and, drawing a square in the sand, proceeding to elicit from him, step by step, the proof of a theorem in geometry of which the boy could never have heard (to double the size of a square, draw a square on the diagonal). Such knowledge, rationalists insist, is certain, universal, and completely unlearned.

Plato so greatly admired the rigorous reasoning of geometry that he is alleged to have inscribed over the door of his Academy the phrase Let no one unacquainted with geometry enter here. His famous forms are accessible only to reason, not to sense. But how are they related to sensible things? His answers differed. Sometimes he viewed the forms as distilling those common properties of a class in virtue of which one identifies anything as a member of it. Thus, what makes anything a triangle is its having three straight sides; this is its essence. At other times, Plato held that the form is an ideal, a non-sensible goal to which the sensible thing approximates; the geometers perfect triangle never was on sea or land, though all actual triangles more or less embody it. He conceived the forms as more real than the sensible things that are their shadows and saw that philosophers must penetrate to these invisible essences and see with their minds eye how they are linked together. For Plato they formed an orderly system that was at once eternal, intelligible, and good.

Aristotle: portrait bustA. Dagli Orti/ DeA Picture LibraryPlatos successor Aristotle (384322 bce) conceived of the work of reason in much the same way, though he did not view the forms as independent. His chief contribution to rationalism lay in his syllogistic logic, regarded as the chief instrument of rational explanation. Humans explain particular facts by bringing them under general principles. Why does one think Socrates will die? Because he is human, and humans are mortal. Why should one accept the general principle itself that all humans are mortal? In experience such principles have so far held without exception. But the mind cannot finally rest in this sort of explanation. Humans never wholly understand a fact or event until they can bring it under a principle that is self-evident and necessary; they then have the clearest explanation possible. On this central thesis of rationalism, the three great Greeks were in accord.

Nothing comparable in importance to their thought appeared in rationalistic philosophy in the next 1,800 years, though the work of St. Thomas Aquinas (c. 122574) was an impressive attempt to blend Greek rationalism and Christian revelation into a single harmonious system.

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CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: Rationalism – NEW ADVENT

Posted: June 19, 2016 at 3:34 am

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(Latin, ratio reason , the faculty of the mind which forms the ground of calculation, i.e. discursive reason. See APOLOGETICS; ATHEISM; BIBLE; DEISM; EMPIRICISM; ETHICS; BIBLICAL EXEGESIS; FAITH; MATERIALISM; MIRACLE; REVELATION).

The term is used: (1) in an exact sense, to designate a particular moment in the development of Protestant thought in Germany; (2) in a broader, and more usual, sense to cover the view (in relation to which many schools may be classed as rationalistic) that the human reason, or understanding, is the sole source and final test of all truth. It has further: (3) occasionally been applied to the method of treating revealed truth theologically, by casting it into a reasoned form , and employing philosophical Categories in its elaboration. These three uses of the term will be discussed in the present article.

The German school of theological Rationalism formed a part of the more general movement of the eighteenth-century "Enlightenment". It may be said to owe its immediate origin to the philosophical system of Christian Wolff (1679-1754), which was a modification, with Aristotelean features, of that of Leibniz, especially characterized by its spiritualism , determinism , and dogmatism. This philosophy and its method exerted a profound influence upon contemporaneous German religious thought, providing it with a rationalistic point of view in theology and exegesis. German philosophy in the eighteenth century was, as a whole, tributary to Leibniz, whose "Thodice" was written principally against the Rationalism of Bayle: it was marked by an infiltration of English Deism and French Materialism, to which the Rationalism at present considered had great affinity, and towards which it progressively developed: and it was vulgarized by its union with popular literature . Wolff himself was expelled from his chair at the University of Halle on account of the Rationalistic nature of his teaching, principally owing to the action of Lange (1670-1774; cf. "Causa Dei et reilgionis naturals adversus atheismum", and "Modesta Disputatio", Halle, 1723). Retiring to Marburg, he taught there until 1740, when he was recalled to Halle by Frederick II. Wolff's attempt to demonstrate natural religion rationally was in no sense an attack upon revelation. As a "supranaturalist" he admitted truths above reason, and he attempted to support by reason the supernatural truths contained in Holy Scripture. But his attempt, while it incensed the pietistic school and was readily welcomed by the more liberal and moderate among the orthodox Lutherans, in reality turned out to be strongly in favour of the Naturalism that he wished to condemn. Natural religion, he asserted, is demonstrable; revealed religion is to be found in the Bible alone. But in his method of proof of the authority of Scripture recourse was had to reason , and thus the human mind became, logically, the ultimate arbiter in the case of both. Supranaturalism in theology, which it was Wolff's intention to uphold, proved incompatible with such a philosophical position, and Rationalism took its place. This, however, is to be distinguished from pure Naturalism, to which it led, but with which it never became theoretically identified. Revelation was not denied by the Rationalists; though, as a matter of fact, if not of theory, it was quietly suppressed by the claim, with its ever-increasing application, that reason is the competent judge of all truth. Naturalists, on the other hand, denied the fact of revelation. As with Deism and Materialism, the German Rationalism invaded the department of Biblical exegesis. Here a destructive criticism , very similar to that of the Deists, was levelled against the miracles recorded in, and the authenticity of the Holy Scripture. Nevertheless, the distinction between Rationalism and Naturalism still obtained. The great Biblical critic Semler (1725-91), who is one of the principal representatives of the school, was a strong opponent of the latter; in company with Teller (1734-1804) and others he endeavoured to show that the records of the Bible have no more than a local and temporary character, thus attempting to safeguard the deeper revelation, while sacrificing to the critics its superficial vehicle. He makes the distinction between theology and religion (by which he signifies ethics ).

The distinction made between natural and revealed religion necessitated a closer definition of the latter. For Supernaturalists and Rationalists alike religion was held to be "a way of knowing and worshipping the Deity", but consisting chiefly, for the Rationalists, in the observance of God's law. This identification of religion with morals, which at the time was utilitarian in character (see UTILITARIANISM), led to further developments in the conceptions of the nature of religion, the meaning of revelation , and the value of the Bible as a collection of inspired writings. The earlier orthodox Protestant view of religion as a body of truths published and taught by God to man in revelation was in process of disintegration. In Semler's distinction between religion (ethics) on the one hand and theology on the other, with Herder's similar separation of religion from theological opinions and religious usages, the cause of the Christian religion, as they conceived it, seemed to be put beyond the reach of the shock of criticism, which, by destroying the foundations upon which it claimed to rest, had gone so far to discredit the older form of Lutheranism. Kant's (1724-1804) criticism of the reason, however, formed a turning-point in the development of Rationalism. For a full understanding of his attitude, the reader must be acquainted with the nature of his pietistic upbringing and later scientific and philosophical formation in the Leibniz-Wolff school of thought (see PHILOSOPHY OF KANT). As far as concerns the point that occupies us at present, Kant was a Rationalist. For him religion was coextensive, with natural , though not utilitarian, morals. When he met with the criticisms of Hume and undertook his famous "Kritik", his preoccupation was to safeguard his religious opinions, his rigorous morality , from the danger of criticism. This he did, not by means of the old Rationalism, but by throwing discredit upon metaphysics. The accepted proofs of the existence of God, immortality, and liberty were thus, in his opinion, overthrown, and the well-known set of postulates of the "categoric imperative " put forward in their place. This, obviously, was the end of Rationalism in its earlier form, in which the fundamental truths of religion were set out as demonstrable by reason . But, despite the shifting of the burden of religion from the pure to the practical reason , Kant himself never seems to have reached the view --; to which all his work pointed --; that religion is not mere ethics , "conceiving moral laws as divine commands", no matter how far removed from Utilitarianism --; not an affair of the mind , but of the heart and will ; and that revelation does not reach man by way of an exterior promulgation, but consists in a personal adaptation towards God. This conception was reached gradually with the advance of the theory that man possesses a religious sense, or faculty, distinct from the rational (Fries, 1773-1843; Jacobi, 1743-1819; Herder, 1744-1803; all opposed to the Intellectualism of Kant), and ultimately found expression with Schleiermacher (1768-1834), for whom religion is to be found neither in knowledge nor in action, but in a peculiar attitude of mind which consists in the consciousness of absolute dependence upon God. Here the older distinction between natural and revealed religion disappears. All that can be called religion the consciousness of dependence is at the same time revelational, and all religion is of the same character. There is no special revelation in the older Protestant (the Catholic) sense, but merely this attitude of dependence brought into being in the individual by the teaching of various great personalities who, from time to time, have manifested an extraordinary sense of the religious. Schleiermacher was a contemporary of Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel, whose philosophical speculations had influence, with his own, in ultimately subverting Rationalism as here dealt with. The movement may be said to have ended with him in the opinion of Teller "the greatest theologian that the Protestant Church has had since the period of the Reformation". The majority of modern Protestant theologians accept his views, not, however, to the exclusion of knowledge as a basis of religion.

Parallel with the development of the philosophical and theological views as to the nature of religion and the worth of revelation , which provided it with its critical principles, took place an exegetical evolution. The first phase consisted in replacing the orthodox Protestant doctrine (i.e. that the Sacred Scriptures are the Word of God) by a distinction between the Word of God contained in the Bible and the Bible itself (Tllner, Herder), though the Rationalists still held that the purer source of revelation lies rather in the written than in the traditional word. This distinction led inevitably to the destruction, of the rigid view of inspiration , and prepared the ground for the second phase. The principle of accommodation was now employed to explain the difficulties raised by the Scripture records of miraculous events and demoniacal manifestations (Senf, Vogel), and arbitrary methods of exegesis were also used to the same end (Paulus, Eichhorn). In the third phase Rationalists had reached the point of allowing the possibility of mistakes having been made by Christ and the Apostles, at any rate with regard to non-essential parts of religion. All the devices of exegesis were employed vainly; and, in the end, Rationalists found themselves forced to admit that the authors of the New Testament must have written from a point of view different from that which a modern theologian would adopt (Henke, Wegseheider). This principle, which is sufficiently elastic to admit of usage by nearly every variety of opinion, was admitted by several of the Supernaturalists (Reinhard, Storr ), and is very generally accepted by modern Protestant divines, in the rejection of verbal inspiration . Herder is very clear on the distinction the truly inspired must be discerned from that which is not; and de Wette lays down as the canon of interpretation "the religious perception of the divine operation, or of the Holy Spirit, in the sacred writers as regards their belief and inspiration, but not respecting their faculty of forming ideas. . ." In an extreme form it may be seen employed in such works as Strauss's "Leben Jesu", where the hypothesis of the mythical nature of miracles is developed to a greater extent than by Schleiermacher or de Wette.

Rationalism, in the broader, popular meaning of the term, is used to designate any mode of thought in which human reason holds the place of supreme criterion of truth; in this sense, it is especially applied to such modes of thought as contrasted with faith. Thus Atheism, Materialism, Naturalism, Pantheism, Scepticism, etc., fall under the head of rationalistic systems. As such, the rationalistic tendency has always existed in philosophy, and has generally shown itself powerful in all the critical schools. As has been noted in the preceding paragraph, German Rationalism had strong affinities with English Deism and French Materialism, two historic forms in which the tendency has manifested itself. But with the vulgarization of the ideas contained in the various systems that composed these movements, Rationalism has degenerated. It has become connected in the popular mind with the shallow and misleading philosophy frequently put forward in the name of science, so that a double confusion has arisen, in which;

This Rationalism is now rather a spirit, or attitude, ready to seize upon any arguments, from any source and of any or no value, to urge against the doctrines and practices of faith. Beside this crude and popular form it has taken, for which the publication of cheap reprints and a vigorous propaganda are mainly responsible, there runs the deeper and more thoughtful current of critical-philosophical Rationalism, which either rejects religion and revelation altogether or treats them in much the same manner as did the Germans. Its various manifestations have little in common in method or content, save the general appeal to reason as supreme. No better description of the position can be given than the statements of the objects of the Rationalist Press Association. Among these are: "To stimulate the habits of reflection and inquiry and the free exercise of individual intellect . . . and generally to assert the supremacy of reason as the natural and necessary means to all such knowledge and wisdom as man can achieve". A perusal of the publications of the same will show in what sense this representative body interprets the above statement. It may be said finally, that Rationalism is the direct and logical outcome of the principles of Protestantism; and that the intermediary form , in which assent is given to revealed truth as possessing the imprimatur of reason , is only a phase in the evolution of ideas towards general disbelief. Official condemnations of the various forms of Rationalism, absolute and mitigated, are to be found in the Syllabus of Pius IX.

The term Rationalism is perhaps not usually applied to the theological method of the Catholic Church. All forms of theological statement, however, and pre-eminently the dialectical form of Catholic theology, are rationalistic in the truest sense. Indeed, the claim of such Rationalism as is dealt with above is directly met by the counter claim of the Church: that it is at best but a mutilated and unreasonable Rationalism, not worthy of the name, while that of the Church is rationally complete, and integrated, moreover, with super-rational truth. In this sense Catholic theology presupposes the certain truths of natural reason as the preambula fidei, philosophy (the ancilla theologi) is employed in the defence of revealed truth (see APOLOGETICS), and the content of Divine revelation is treated and systematized in the categories of natural thought. This systematization is carried out both in dogmatic and moral theology. It is a process contemporaneous with the first attempt at a scientific statement of religious truth, comes to perfection of method in the works of such writers as St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Alphonsus, and is consistently employed and developed in the Schools.

HAGENBACH, Kirchengesch. des 18. Jahrhunderts in Vorlesungen ber Wesen u. Gesch. der Reformation in Deutschland etc., V-VI (Leipzig, 1834-43); IDEM (tr. BUCH), Compendium of the History of Doctrines (Edinburgh, 1846); HASE, Kirchengesch. (Leipzig, 1886); HENKE, Rationalismus u. Traditionalismus im 19. Jahrh. (Halle, 1864); HURST, History of Rationalism (New York, 1882); LERMINIER, De l'influence de la philosophie du XVIIIe sicle (Paris, 1833); SAINTES, Hist. critique du rationalisme en Allemagne (Paris, 1841); SCHLEIERMACHER, Der christl. Glaube nach der Grundstzen der evangelischen Kirche (Berlin, 1821-22): SEMLER, Von freier Untersuchung des Kanons (Halle, 1771-75); IDEM, Institutio ad doctrinam christianam liberaliter discendam (Halle, 1774); IDEM, Versuch einer freier theologischen Lehrart (Halle, 1777); STADLIN, Gesch. des Rationalismus u. Supranaturalismus (Gttingen, 1826); THOLUCK, Vorgesch. des Rationalismus (Halle, 1853-62); BENN, History of Rationalism in the Nineteenth Century (London, 1906).

APA citation. Aveling, F. (1911). Rationalism. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12652a.htm

MLA citation. Aveling, Francis. "Rationalism." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 12. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12652a.htm>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Douglas J. Potter. Dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. June 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: Rationalism - NEW ADVENT

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Rationalism, Continental | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Posted: June 6, 2016 at 4:45 pm

Continental rationalism is a retrospective category used to group together certain philosophers working in continental Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries, in particular, Descartes, Spinoza, and Leibniz, especially as they can be regarded in contrast with representatives of British empiricism, most notably, Locke, Berkeley, and Hume. Whereas the British empiricists held that all knowledge has its origin in, and is limited by, experience, the Continental rationalists thought that knowledge has its foundation in the scrutiny and orderly deployment of ideas and principles proper to the mind itself. The rationalists did not spurn experience as is sometimes mistakenly alleged; they were thoroughly immersed in the rapid developments of the new science, and in some cases led those developments. They held, however, that experience alone, while useful in practical matters, provides an inadequate foundation for genuine knowledge.

The fact that Continental rationalism and British empiricism are retrospectively applied terms does not mean that the distinction that they signify is anachronistic. Leibnizs New Essays on Human Understanding, for instance, outlines stark contrasts between his own way of thinking and that of Locke, which track many features of the rationalist/empiricist distinction as it tends to be applied in retrospect. There was no rationalist creed or manifesto to which Descartes, Spinoza, and Leibniz all subscribed (nor, for that matter, was there an empiricist one). Nevertheless, with due caution, it is possible to use the Continental rationalism category (and its empiricist counterpart) to highlight significant points of convergence in the philosophies of Descartes, Spinoza, and Leibniz, inter alia. These include: (1) a doctrine of innate ideas; (2) the application of mathematical method to philosophy; and (3) the use of a priori principles in the construction of substance-based metaphysical systems.

According to the Historisches Worterbuch der Philosophie, the word rationaliste appears in 16th century France, as early as 1539, in opposition to empirique. In his New Organon, first published in 1620 (in Latin), Francis Bacon juxtaposes rationalism and empiricism in memorable terms:

Those who have treated of the sciences have been either empiricists [Empirici] or dogmatists [Dogmatici]. Empiricists [Empirici], like ants, simply accumulate and use; Rationalists [Rationales], like spiders, spin webs from themselves; the way of the bee is in between: it takes material from the flowers of the garden and the field; but it has the ability to convert and digest them. (The New Organon, p. 79; Spedding, 1, 201)

Bacons association of rationalists with dogmatists in this passage foreshadows Kants use of the term dogmatisch in reference, especially, to the Wolffian brand of rationalist philosophy prevalent in 18th century Germany. Nevertheless, Bacons use of rationales does not refer to Continental rationalism, which developed only after the New Organon, but rather to the Scholastic philosophy that dominated the medieval period. Moreover, while Bacon is, in retrospect, often considered the father of modern empiricism, the above-quoted passage shows him no friendlier to the empirici than to the rationales. Thus, Bacons juxtaposition of rationalism and empiricism should not be confused with the distinction as it develops over the course of the 17th and 18th centuries, although his imagery is certainly suggestive.

The distinction appears in an influential form as the backdrop to Kants critical philosophy (which is often loosely understood as a kind of synthesis of certain aspects of Continental rationalism and British empiricism) at the end of the 18th century. However, it was not until the time of Hegel in the first half of the 19th century that the terms rationalism and empiricism were applied to separating the figures of the 17th and 18th centuries into contrasting epistemological camps in the fashion with which we are familiar today. In his Lectures on the History of Philosophy, Hegel describes an opposition between a priori thought, on the one hand, according to which the determinations which should be valid for thought should be taken from thought itself, and, on the other hand, the determination that we must begin and end and think, etc., from experience. He describes this as the opposition between Rationalismus and Empirismus (Werke 20, 121).

Perhaps the best recognized and most commonly made distinction between rationalists and empiricists concerns the question of the source of ideas. Whereas rationalists tend to think (with some exceptions discussed below) that some ideas, at least, such as the idea of God, are innate, empiricists hold that all ideas come from experience. Although the rationalists tend to be remembered for their positive doctrine concerning innate ideas, their assertions are matched by a rejection of the notion that all ideas can be accounted for on the basis of experience alone. In some Continental rationalists, especially in Spinoza, the negative doctrine is more apparent than the positive. The distinction is worth bearing in mind, in order to avoid the very false impression that the rationalists held to innate ideas because the empiricist alternative had not come along yet. (In general, the British empiricists came after the rationalists.) The Aristotelian doctrine, nihil in intellectu nisi prius in sensu (nothing in the intellect unless first in the senses), had been dominant for centuries, and it was in reaction against this that the rationalists revived in modified form the contrasting Platonic doctrine of innate ideas.

Descartes distinguishes between three kinds of ideas: adventitious (adventitiae), factitious (factae), and innate (innatae). As an example of an adventitious idea, Descartes gives the common idea of the sun (yellow, bright, round) as it is perceived through the senses. As an example of a factitious idea, Descartes cites the idea of the sun constructed via astronomical reasoning (vast, gaseous body). According to Descartes, all ideas which represent true, immutable, and eternal essences are innate. Innate ideas, for Descartes, include the idea of God, the mind, and mathematical truths, such as the fact that it pertains to the nature of a triangle that its three angles equal two right angles.

By conceiving some ideas as innate, Descartes does not mean that children are born with fully actualized conceptions of, for example, triangles and their properties. This is a common misconception of the rationalist doctrine of innate ideas. Descartes strives to correct it in Comments on a Certain Broadsheet, where he compares the innateness of ideas in the mind to the tendency which some babies are born with to contract certain diseases: it is not so much that the babies of such families suffer from these diseases in their mothers womb, but simply that they are born with a certain faculty or tendency to contract them (CSM I, 304). In other words, innate ideas exist in the mind potentially, as tendencies; they are then actualized by means of active thought under certain circumstances, such as seeing a triangular figure.

At various points, Descartes defends his doctrine of innate ideas against philosophers (Hobbes, Gassendi, and Regius, inter alia) who hold that all ideas enter the mind through the senses, and that there are no ideas apart from images. Descartes is relatively consistent on his reasons for thinking that some ideas, at least, must be innate. His principal line of argument proceeds by showing that there are certain ideas, for example, the idea of a triangle, that cannot be either
adventitious or factitious; since ideas are either adventitious, factitious, or innate, by process of elimination, such ideas must be innate.

Take Descartes favorite example of the idea of a triangle. The argument that the idea of a triangle cannot be adventitious proceeds roughly as follows. A triangle is composed of straight lines. However, straight lines never enter our mind via the senses, since when we examine straight lines under a magnifying lens, they turn out to be wavy or irregular in some way. Since we cannot derive the idea of straight lines from the senses, we cannot derive the idea of a true triangle, which is made up of straight lines, through the senses. Sometimes Descartes makes the point in slightly different terms by insisting that there is no similarity between the corporeal motions of the sense organs and the ideas formed in the mind on the occasion of those motions (CSM I, 304; CSMK III, 187). One such dissimilarity, which is particularly striking, is the contrast between the particularity of all corporeal motions and the universality that pure ideas can attain when conjoined to form necessary truths. Descartes makes this point in clear terms to Regius:

I would like our author to tell me what the corporeal motion is that is capable of forming some common notion to the effect that things which are equal to a third thing are equal to each other, or any other he cares to take. For all such motions are particular, whereas the common notions are universal and bear no affinity with, or relation to, the motions. (CSM I, 304-5)

Next, Descartes has to show that the idea of a triangle is not factitious. This is where the doctrine of true and immutable natures comes in. For Descartes, if, for example, the idea that the three angles of a triangle are equal to two right angles were his own invention, it would be mutable, like the idea of a gold mountain, which can be changed at whim into the idea of a silver mountain. Instead, when Descartes thinks about his idea of a triangle, he is able to discover eternal properties of it that are not mutable in this way; hence, they are not invented (CSMK III, 184).

Since, therefore, the triangle can be neither adventitious nor factitious, it must be innate; that is to say, the mind has an innate tendency or power to form this idea from its own purely intellectual resources when prompted to do so.

Descartes insistence that there is no similarity between the corporeal motions of our sense organs and the ideas formed in the mind on the occasion of those motions raises a difficulty for understanding how any ideas could be adventitious. Since none of our ideas have any similarity to the corporeal motions of the sense organs even the idea of motion itself it seems that no ideas can in fact have their origin in a source external to the mind. The reason that we have an idea of heat in the presence of fire, for instance, is not, then, because the idea is somehow transmitted by the fire. Rather, Descartes thinks that God designed us in such a way that we form the idea of heat on the occasion of certain corporeal motions in our sense organs (and we form other sensory ideas on the occasion of other corporeal motions). Thus, there is a sense in which, for Descartes, all ideas are innate, and his tripartite division between kinds of ideas becomes difficult to maintain.

Per his so-called doctrine of parallelism, Spinoza conceives the mind and the body as one and the same thing, conceived under different attributes (to wit, thought and extension). (See Benedict de Spinoza: Metaphysics.) As a result, Spinoza denies that there is any causal interaction between mind and body, and so Spinoza denies that any ideas are caused by bodily change. Just as bodies can be affected only by other bodies, so ideas can be affected only by other ideas. This does not mean, however, that all ideas are innate for Spinoza, as they very clearly are for Leibniz (see below). Just as the body can be conceived to be affected by external objects conceived under the attribute of extension (that is, as bodies), so the mind can (as it were, in parallel) be conceived to be affected by the same objects conceived under the attribute of thought (that is, as ideas). Ideas gained in this way, from encounters with external objects (conceived as ideas) constitutes knowledge of the first kind, or imagination, for Spinoza, and all such ideas are inadequate, or in other words, confused and lacking order for the intellect. Adequate ideas, on the other hand, which can be formed via Spinozas second and third kinds of knowledge (reason and intuitive knowledge, respectively), and which are clear and distinct and have order for the intellect, are not gained through chance encounters with external objects; rather, adequate ideas can be explained in terms of resources intrinsic to the mind. (For more on Spinozas three kinds of knowledge and the distinction between adequate and inadequate ideas, see Benedict de Spinoza: Epistemology.)

The mind, for Spinoza, just by virtue of having ideas, which is its essence, has ideas of what Spinoza calls common notions, or in other words, those things which are equally in the part and in the whole. Examples of common notions include motion and rest, extension, and indeed God. Take extension for example. To think of any body however small or however large is to have a perfectly complete idea of extension. So, insofar as the mind has any idea of body (and, for Spinoza, the human mind is the idea of the human body, and so always has ideas of body), it has a perfectly adequate idea of extension. The same can be said for motion and rest. The same can also be said for God, except that God is not equally in the part and in the whole of extension only, but of all things. Spinoza treats these common notions as principles of reasoning. Anything that can be deduced on their basis is also adequate.

It is not clear if Spinozas common notions should be considered innate ideas. Spinoza speaks of active and passive ideas, and adequate and inadequate ideas. He associates the former with the intellect and the latter with the imagination, but innate idea is not an explicit category in Spinozas theory of ideas as it is in Descartes and also Leibnizs. Common notions are not in the mind independent of the minds relation with its object (the body); nevertheless, since it is the minds nature to be the idea of the body, it is part of the minds nature to have common notions. Commentators differ over the question of whether Spinoza had a positive doctrine of innate ideas; it is clear, however, that he denied that all ideas come about through encounters with external objects; moreover, he believed that those ideas which do come about through encounters with external objects are of an inferior epistemic value than those produced through the minds own intrinsic resources; this is enough to put him in the rationalist camp on the question of the origin of ideas.

Of the three great rationalists, Leibniz propounded the most thoroughgoing doctrine of innate ideas. For Leibniz, all ideas are strictly speaking innate. In a general and relatively straightforward sense, this viewpoint is a direct consequence of Leibnizs conception of individual substance. According to Leibniz, each substance is a world apart, independent of everything outside of itself except for God. Thus all our phenomena, that is to say, all the things that can ever happen to us, are only the results of our own being (L, 312); or, in Leibnizs famous phrase from the Monadology, monads have no windows, meaning there is no way for sensory data to enter monads from the outside. In this more general sense, then, to give a
n explanation for Leibnizs doctrine of innate ideas would be to explain his conception of individual substance and the arguments and considerations which motivate it. (See Section 4, b, iii, below for a discussion of Leibnizs conception of substance; see also Gottfried Leibniz: Metaphysics.) This would be to circumvent the issues and questions which are typically at the heart of the debate over the existence of innate ideas, which concern the extent to which certain kinds of perceptions, ideas, and propositions can be accounted for on the basis of experience. Although Leibnizs more general reasons for embracing innate ideas stem from his unique brand of substance metaphysics, Leibniz does enter into the debate over innate ideas, as it were, addressing the more specific questions regarding the source of given kinds of ideas, most notably in his dialogic engagement with Lockes philosophy, New Essays on Human Understanding.

Due to Leibnizs conception of individual substance, nothing actually comes from a sensory experience, where a sensory experience is understood to involve direct concourse with things outside of the mind. However, Leibniz does have a means for distinguishing between sensations and purely intellectual thoughts within the framework of his substance metaphysics. For Leibniz, although each monad or individual substance expresses (or represents) the entire universe from its own unique point of view, it does so with a greater or lesser degree of clarity and distinctness. Bare monads, such as comprise minerals and vegetation, express the rest of the world only in the most confused fashion. Rational minds, by contrast, have a much greater proportion of clear and distinct perceptions, and so express more of the world clearly and distinctly than do bare monads. When an individual substance attains a more perfect expression of the world (in the sense that it attains a less confused expression of the world), it is said to act; when its expression becomes more confused, it is said to be acted upon. Using this distinction, Leibniz is able to reconcile the terms of his philosophy with everyday conceptions. Although, strictly speaking, no monad is acted upon by any other, nor acts upon any other directly, it is possible to speak this way, just as, Leibniz says, Copernicans can still speak of the motion of the sun for everyday purposes, while understanding that the sun does not in fact move. It is in this sense that Leibniz enters into the debate concerning the origin of our ideas.

Leibniz distinguishes between ideas (ides) and thoughts (penses) (or, sometimes, notions (notions) or concepts (conceptus)). Ideas exist in the soul whether we actually perceive them or are aware of them or not. It is these ideas that Leibniz contends are innate. Thoughts, by contrast is Leibnizs designation for ideas which we actually form or conceive at any given time. In this sense, thoughts can be formed on the basis of a sensory experience (with the above caveats regarding the meaning a sensory experience can have in Leibnizs thought) or on the basis of an internal experience, or a reflection. Leibniz alternatively characterizes our ideas as aptitudes, preformations, and as dispositions to represent something when the occasion for thinking of it arises. On multiple occasions, Leibniz uses the metaphor of the veins present in marble to illustrate his understanding of innate ideas. Just as the veins dispose the sculptor to shape the marble in certain ways, so do our ideas dispose us to have certain thoughts on the occasion of certain experiences.

Leibniz rejects the view that the mind cannot have ideas without being aware that it has them. (See Gottfried Leibniz: Philosophy of Mind.) Much of the disagreement between Locke and Leibniz on the question of innate ideas turns on this point, since Locke (at least as Leibniz represents him in the New Essays) is not able to make any sense out of the notion that the mind can have ideas without being aware of them. Much of Leibnizs defense of his innate ideas doctrine takes the form of replying to Lockes charge that it is absurd to hold that the mind could think (that is, have ideas) without being aware of it.

Leibniz marshals several considerations in support of his view that the mind is not always aware of its ideas. The fact that we can store many more ideas in our understanding than we can be aware of at any given time is one. Leibniz also points to the phenomenology of attention; we do not attend to everything in our perceptual field at any given time; rather we focus on certain things at the expense of others. To convey a sense of what it might be like for the mind to have perceptions and ideas in a dreamless sleep, Leibniz asks the reader to imagine subtracting our attention from perceptual experience; since we can distinguish between what is attended to and what is not, subtracting attention does not eliminate perception altogether.

While such considerations suggest the possibility of innate ideas, they do not in and of themselves prove that innate ideas are necessary to explain the full scope of human cognition. The empiricist tends to think that if innate ideas are not necessary to explain cognition, then they should be abandoned as gratuitous metaphysical constructs. Leibniz does have arguments designed to show that innate ideas are needed for a full account of human cognition.

In the first place, Leibniz recalls favorably the famous scenario from Platos Meno where Socrates teaches a slave boy to grasp abstract mathematical truths merely by asking questions. The anecdote is supposed to indicate that mathematical truths can be generated by the mind alone, in the absence of particular sensory experiences, if only the mind is prompted to discover what it contains within itself. Concerning mathematics and geometry, Leibniz remarks: one could construct these sciences in ones study and even with ones eyes closed, without learning from sight or even from touch any of the needed truths (NE, 77). So, on these grounds, Leibniz contends that without innate ideas, we could not explain the sorts of cognitive capacities exhibited in the mathematical sciences.

A second argument concerns our capacity to grasp certain necessary or eternal truths. Leibniz says that necessary truths can be suggested, justified, and confirmed by experience, but that they can be proved only by the understanding alone (NE, 80). Leibniz does not explain this point further, but he seems to have in mind the point later made by both Hume and Kant (to different ends), that experience on its own can never account for the kind of certainty that we find in mathematical and metaphysical truths. For Leibniz, if it can be granted that we can be certain of propositions in mathematics and metaphysics and Leibniz thinks this must be granted recourse must be had to principles innate to the mind in order to explain our ability to be certain of such things.

It is worth noting briefly the position of Nicolas Malebranche on innate ideas, since Malebranche is often considered among the rationalists, yet he denied the doctrine of innate ideas. Malebranches reasons for rejecting innate ideas were anything but empiricist in nature, however. His leading objection stems from the infinity of ideas that the mind is able to form independently of the senses; as an example, Malebranche cites the infinite number of triangles of which the mind could in principle, albeit not in practice, form ideas. Unlike Descartes and Leibniz, who view innate ideas as tendencies or dispositions to form certain thoughts under certain circumstances, Malebranche understands them as fully formed entities that would have to exist somehow
in the mind were they to exist there innately. Given this conception, Malebranche finds it unlikely that God would have created so many things along with the mind of man (The Search After Truth, p. 227). Since God already contains the ideas of all things within Himself, Malebranche thinks that it would be much more economical if God were simply to reveal to us the ideas of things that already exist in him rather than placing an infinity of ideas in each human mind. Malebranches tenet that we see all things in God thus follows upon the principle that God always acts in the simplest ways. Malebranche finds further support for this doctrine from the fact that it places human minds in a position of complete dependence on God. Thus, if Malebranches rejection of innate ideas distinguishes him from other rationalists, it does so not from an empiricist standpoint, but rather because of the extent to which his position on ideas is theologically motivated.

In one sense, what it means to be a rationalist is to model philosophy on mathematics, and, in particular, geometry. This means that the rationalist begins with definitions and intuitively self-evident axioms and proceeds thence to deduce a philosophical system of knowledge that is both certain and complete. This at least is the goal and (with some qualifications to be explored below) the claim. In no work of rationalist philosophy is this procedure more apparent than in Spinozas Ethics, laid out famously in the geometrical manner (more geometrico). Nevertheless, Descartes main works (and those of Leibniz as well), although not as overtly more geometrico as Spinozas Ethics, are also modelled after geometry, and it is Descartes celebrated methodological program that first introduces mathematics as a model for philosophy.

Perhaps Descartes clearest and most well-known statement of mathematics role as paradigm appears in the Discourse on the Method:

Those long chains of very simple and easy reasonings, which geometers customarily use to arrive at their most difficult demonstrations, had given me occasion to suppose that all the things which can fall under human knowledge are interconnected in the same way. (CSM I, 120)

However, Descartes promotion of mathematics as a model for philosophy dates back to his early, unfinished work, Rules for the Direction of the Mind. It is in this work that Descartes first outlines his standards for certainty that have since come to be so closely associated with him and with the rationalist enterprise more generally.

In Rule 2, Descartes declares that henceforth only what is certain should be valued and counted as knowledge. This means the rejection of all merely probable reasoning, which Descartes associates with the philosophy of the Schools. Descartes admits that according to this criterion, only arithmetic and geometry thus far count as knowledge. But Descartes does not conclude that only in these disciplines is it possible to attain knowledge. According to Descartes, the reason that certainty has eluded philosophers has as much to do with the disdain that philosophers have for the simplest truths as it does with the subject matter. Admittedly, the objects of arithmetic and geometry are especially pure and simple, or, as Descartes will later say, clear and distinct. Nevertheless, certainty can be attained in philosophy as well, provided the right method is followed.

Descartes distinguishes between two ways of achieving knowledge: through experience and through deduction [] [W]e must note that while our experiences of things are often deceptive, the deduction or pure inference of one thing from another can never be performed wrongly by an intellect which is in the least degree rational [] (CSM I, 12). This is a clear statement of Descartes methodological rationalism. Building up knowledge through accumulated experience can only ever lead to the sort of probable knowledge that Descartes finds lacking. Pure inference, by contrast, can never go astray, at least when it is conducted by right reason. Of course, the truth value of a deductive chain is only as good as the first truths, or axioms, whose truth the deductions preserve. It is for this reason that Descartes method relies on intuition as well as deduction. Intuition provides the first principles of a deductive system, for Descartes. Intuition differs from deduction insofar as it is not discursive. Intuition grasps its object in an immediate way. In its broadest outlines, Descartes method is just the use of intuition and deduction in the orderly attainment and preservation of certainty.

In subsequent Rules, Descartes goes on to elaborate a more specific methodological program, which involves reducing complicated matters step by step to simpler, intuitively graspable truths, and then using those simple truths as principles from which to deduce knowledge of more complicated matters. It is generally accepted by scholars that this more specific methodological program reappears in a more iconic form in the Discourse on the Method as the four rules for gaining knowledge outlined in Part 2. There is some doubt as to the extent to which this more specific methodological program actually plays any role in Descartes mature philosophy as it is expressed in the Meditations and Principles (see Garber 2001, chapter 2). There can be no doubt, however, that the broader methodological guidelines outlined above were a permanent feature of Descartes thought.

In response to a request to cast his Meditations in the geometrical style (that is, in the style of Euclids Elements), Descartes distinguishes between two aspects of the geometrical style: order and method, explaining:

The order consists simply in this. The items which are put forward first must be known entirely without the aid of what comes later; and the remaining items must be arranged in such a way that their demonstration depends solely on what has gone before. I did try to follow this order very carefully in my Meditations [] (CSM II, 110)

Elsewhere, Descartes contrasts this order, which he calls the order of reasons, with another order, which he associates with scholasticism, and which he calls the order of subject-matter (see CSMK III, 163). What Descartes understands as geometrical order or the order of reasons is just the procedure of starting with what is most simple, and proceeding in a step-wise, deliberate fashion to deduce consequences from there. Descartes order is governed by what can be clearly and distinctly intuited, and by what can be clearly and distinctly inferred from such self-evident intuitions (rather than by a concern for organizing the discussion into neat topical categories per the order of subject-matter)

As for method, Descartes distinguishes between analysis and synthesis. For Descartes, analysis and synthesis represent different methods of demonstrating a conclusion or set of conclusions. Analysis exhibits the path by which the conclusion comes to be grasped. As such, it can be thought of as the order of discovery or order of knowledge. Synthesis, by contrast, wherein conclusions are deduced from a series of definitions, postulates, and axioms, as in Euclids Elements, for instance, follows not the order in which things are discovered, but rather the order that things bear to one another in reality. As such, it can be thought of as the order of being. God, for example, is prior to the human mind in the order of being (since God created the human mind), and so in the synthetic mode of demonstration the existence of God is demonstrated before the existence of the human mind. However, knowledge of ones own mind precedes knowledge of God, at least in D
escartes philosophy, and so in the analytic mode of demonstration the cogito is demonstrated before the existence of God. Descartes preference is for analysis, because he thinks that it is superior in helping the reader to discover the things for herself, and so in bringing about the intellectual conversion which it is the Meditations goal to effectuate in the minds of its readers. According to Descartes, while synthesis, in laying out demonstrations systematically, is useful in preempting dissent, it is inferior in engaging the mind of the reader.

Two primary distinctions can be made in summarizing Descartes methodology: (1) the distinction between the order of reasons and the order of subject-matter; and (2) the analysis/synthesis distinction. With respect to the first distinction, the great Continental rationalists are united. All adhere to the order of reasons, as we have described it above, rather than the order of subject-matter. Even though the rationalists disagree about how exactly to interpret the content of the order of reasons, their common commitment to following an order of reasons is a hallmark of their rationalism. Although there are points of convergence with respect to the second, analysis/synthesis distinction, there are also clear points of divergence, and this distinction can be useful in highlighting the range of approaches the rationalists adopt to mathematical methodology.

Of the great Continental rationalists, Spinoza is the most closely associated with mathematical method due to the striking presentation of his magnum opus, the Ethics, (as well as his presentation of Descartes Principles), in geometrical fashion. The fact that Spinoza is the only major rationalist to present his main work more geometrico might create the impression that he is the only philosopher to employ mathematical method in constructing and elaborating his philosophical system. This impression is mistaken, since both Descartes and Leibniz also apply mathematical method to philosophy. Nevertheless, there are differences between Spinozas employment of mathematical method and that of Descartes (and Leibniz). The most striking, of course, is the form of Spinozas Ethics. Each part begins with a series of definitions, axioms, and postulates and proceeds thence to deduce propositions, the demonstrations of which refer back to the definitions, axioms, postulates and previously demonstrated propositions on which they depend. Of course, this is just the method of presenting findings that Descartes in the Second Replies dubbed synthesis. For Descartes, analysis and synthesis differ only in pedagogical respects: whereas analysis is better for helping the reader discover the truth for herself, synthesis is better in compelling agreement.

There is some evidence that Spinozas motivations for employing synthesis were in part pedagogical. In Lodewijk Meyers preface to Spinozas Principles of Cartesian Philosophy, Meyer uses Descartes Second Replies distinction between analysis and synthesis to explain the motivation for the work. Meyer criticizes Descartes followers for being too uncritical in their enthusiasm for Descartes thought, and attributes this in part to the relative opacity of Descartes analytic mode of presentation. Thus, for Meyer, the motivation for presenting Descartes Principles in the synthetic manner is to make the proofs more transparent, and thereby leave less excuse for blind acceptance of Descartes conclusions. It is not clear to what extent Meyers explanation of the mode of presentation of Spinozas Principles of Cartesian Philosophy applies to Spinozas Ethics. In the first place, although Spinoza approved the preface, he did not author it himself. Secondly, while such an explanation seems especially suited to a work in which Spinozas chief goal was to present another philosophers thought in a different form, there is no reason to assume that it applies to the presentation of Spinozas own philosophy. Scholars have differed on how to interpret the geometrical form of Spinozas Ethics. However, it is generally accepted that Spinozas use of synthesis does not merely represent a pedagogical preference. There is reason to think that Spinozas methodology differs from that of Descartes in a somewhat deeper way.

There is another version of the analysis/synthesis distinction besides Descartes that was also influential in the 17th century, that is, Hobbes version of the distinction. Although there is little direct evidence that Spinoza was influenced by Hobbes version of the distinction, some scholars have claimed a connection, and, in any case, it is useful to view Spinozas methodology in light of the Hobbesian alternative.

Synthesis and analysis are not modes of demonstrating findings that have already been made, for Hobbes, as they are for Descartes, but rather complementary means of generating findings; in particular, they are forms of causal reasoning. For Hobbes, analysis is reasoning from effects to causes; synthesis is reasoning in the other direction, from causes to effects. For example, by analysis, we infer that geometrical objects are constructed via the motions of points and lines and surfaces. Once motion has been established as the principle of geometry, it is then possible, via synthesis, to construct the possible effects of motion, and thereby, to make new discoveries in geometry. According to the Hobbesian schema, then, synthesis is not merely a mode of presenting truths, but a means of generating and discovering truths. (For Hobbes method, see The English Works of Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury, vol. 1, ch. 6.) There is reason to think that synthesis had this kind of significance for Spinoza, as well as a means of discovery, not merely presentation. Spinozas methodology, and, in particular, his theory of definitions, bear this out

Spinozas method begins with reflection on the nature of a given true idea. The given true idea serves as a standard by which the mind learns the distinction between true and false ideas, and also between the intellect and the imagination, and how to direct itself properly in the discovery of true ideas. The correct formulation of definitions emerges as the most important factor in directing the mind properly in the discovery of true ideas. To illustrate his conception of a good definition, Spinoza contrasts two definitions of a circle. On one definition, a circle is a figure in which all the lines from the center to the circumference are equal. On another, a circle is the figure described by the rotation of a line around one of its ends, which is fixed. For Spinoza, the second definition is superior. Whereas the first definition gives only a property of the circle, the second provides the cause from which all of the properties can be deduced. Hence, what makes a definition a good definition, for Spinoza, is its capacity to serve as a basis for the discovery of truths about the thing. The circle, of course, is just an example. For Spinoza, the method is perfected when it arrives at a true idea of the first cause of all things, that is, God. Only the method is perfected with a true idea of God, however, not the philosophy. The philosophy itself begins with a true idea of God, since the philosophy consists in deducing the consequences from a true idea of God. With this in mind, the definition of God is of paramount importance. In correspondence, Spinoza compares contrasting definitions of God, explaining that he chose the one which expresses the efficient cause from which all of the properties of God can be deduced.

In this light, it becomes clear that the geometrical presentation of Spinozas philosophy is not merely a pedagogic preference. The definitions
that appear at the outset of the five parts of the Ethics do not serve merely to make explicit what might otherwise have remained only implicit in Descartes analytic mode of presentation. Rather, key definitions, such as the definition of God, are principles that underwrite the development of the system. As a result, Hobbes conception of the analysis/synthesis distinction throws an important light on Spinozas procedure. There is a movement of analysis in arriving at the causal definition of God from the preliminary given true idea. Then there is a movement of synthesis in deducing consequences from that causal definition. Of course, Descartes analysis/synthesis distinction still applies, since, after all, Spinozas system is presented in the synthetic manner in the Ethics. But the geometrical style of presentation is not merely a pedagogical device in Spinozas case. It is also a clue to the nature of his system.

Leibniz is openly critical of Descartes distinction between analysis and synthesis, writing, Those who think that the analytic presentation consists in revealing the origin of a discovery, the synthetic in keeping it concealed, are in error (L, 233). This comment is aimed at Descartes formulation of the distinction in the Second Replies. Leibniz is explicit about his adherence to the viewpoint that seems to be implied by Spinozas methodology: synthesis is itself a means of discovering truth no less than analysis, not merely a mode of presentation. Leibnizs understanding of analysis and synthesis is closer to the Hobbesian conception, which views analysis and synthesis as different directions of causal reasoning: from effects to causes (analysis) and from causes to effects (synthesis). Leibniz formulates the distinction in his own terms as follows:

Synthesis is achieved when we begin from principles and run through truths in good order, thus discovering certain progressions and setting up tables, or sometimes general formulas, in which the answers to emerging questions can later be discovered. Analysis goes back to the principles in order to solve the given problems only [] (L, 232)

Leibniz thus conceives synthesis and analysis in relation to principles.

Leibniz lays great stress on the importance of establishing the possibility of ideas, that is to say, establishing that ideas do not involve contradiction, and this applies a fortiori to first principles. For Leibniz, the Cartesian criterion of clear and distinct perception does not suffice for establishing the possibility of an idea. Leibniz is critical, in particular, of Descartes ontological argument on the grounds that Descartes neglects to demonstrate the possibility of the idea of a most perfect being on which the argument depends. It is possible to mistakenly assume that an idea is possible, when in reality it is contradictory. Leibniz gives the example of a wheel turning at the fastest possible rate. It might at first seem that this idea is legitimate, but if a spoke of the wheel were extended beyond the rim, the end of the spoke would move faster than a nail in the rim itself, revealing a contradiction in the original notion.

For Leibniz, there are two ways of establishing the possibility of an idea: by experience (a posteriori) and by reducing concepts via analysis down to a relation of identity (a priori). Leibniz credits mathematicians and geometers with pushing the practice of demonstrating what would otherwise normally be taken for granted the furthest. For example, in Meditations on Knowledge, Truth, and Ideas, Leibniz writes, That brilliant genius Pascal agrees entirely with these principles when he says, in his famous dissertation on the geometrical spirit [] that it is the task of the geometer to define all terms though ever so little obscure and to prove all truths though little doubtful (L, 294). Leibniz credits his own doctrine of the possibility of ideas with clarifying exactly what it means for something to be beyond doubt and obscurity.

Leibniz describes the result of the reduction of concepts to identity variously as follows: when the thing is resolved into simple primitive notions understood in themselves (L, 231); when every ingredient that enters into a distinct concept is itself known distinctly; when analysis is carried through to the end (L, 292). Since, for Leibniz, all true ideas can be reduced to simple identities, it is, in principle, possible to derive all truths via a movement of synthesis from such simple identities in the way that mathematicians produce systems of knowledge on the basis of their basic definitions and axioms. This kind of a priori knowledge of the world is restricted to God, however. According to Leibniz, it is only possible for our finite minds to have this kind of knowledge which Leibniz calls intuitive or adequate in the case of things which do not depend on experience, or what Leibniz also calls truths of reason, which include abstract logical and metaphysical truths, and mathematical propositions. In the case of truths of fact, by contrast, with the exception of immediately graspable facts of experience, such as, I think, and Various things are thought by me, we are restricted to formulating hypotheses to explain the phenomena of sensory experience, and such knowledge of the world can, for us, only ever achieve the status of hypothesis, though our hypothetical knowledge can be continually improved and refined. (See Section 5, c, below for a discussion of hypotheses in Leibniz.)

Leibniz is in line with his rationalist predecessors in emphasizing the importance of proper order in philosophizing. Leibnizs emphasis on establishing the possibility of ideas prior to using them in demonstrating propositions could be understood as a refinement of the geometrical order that Descartes established over against the order of subject-matter. Leibniz emphasizes order in another connection vis--vis Locke. As Leibniz makes clear in his New Essays, one of the clearest points of disagreement between him and Locke is on the question of innate ideas. In preliminary comments that Leibniz drew up upon first reading Lockes Essay, and which he sent to Locke via Burnett, Leibniz makes the following point regarding philosophical order:

Concerning the question whether there are ideas and truths born with us, I do not find it absolutely necessary for the beginnings, nor for the practice of the art of thinking, to answer it; whether they all come to us from outside, or they come from within us, we will reason correctly provided that we keep in mind what I said above, and that we proceed with order and without prejudice. The question of the origin of our ideas and of our maxims is not preliminary in philosophy, and it is necessary to have made great progress in order to resolve it. (Philosophische Schriften, vol. 5, pp. 15-16)

Leibnizs allusion to what he said above refers to remarks regarding the establishment of the possibility of ideas via experience and the principle of identity. This passage makes it clear that, from Leibnizs point of view, the order in which Locke philosophizes is quite misguided, since Locke begins with a question that should only be addressed after great progress has already been made, particularly with respect to the criteria for distinguishing between true and false ideas, and for establishing legitimate philosophical principles. Empiricists generally put much less emphasis on the order of philosophizing, since they do not aim to reason from first principles grasped a priori.

A fundamental tenet of rationalism perhaps the fundamental tenet is that the world is intelligible. The intelligibility tenet means that everything that happens in the
world happens in an orderly, lawful, rational manner, and that the mind, in principle, if not always in practice, is able to reproduce the interconnections of things in thought provided that it adheres to certain rules of right reasoning. The intelligibility of the world is sometimes couched in terms of a denial of brute facts, where a brute fact is something that just is the case, that is, something that obtains without any reason or explanation (even in principle). Many of the a priori principles associated with rationalism can be understood either as versions or implications of the principle of intelligibility. As such, the principle of intelligibility functions as a basic principle of rationalism. It appears under various guises in the great rationalist systems and is used to generate contrasting philosophical systems. Indeed, one of the chief criticisms of rationalism is the fact that its principles can consistently be used to generate contradictory conclusions and systems of thought. The clearest and best known statement of the intelligibility of the world is Leibnizs principle of sufficient reason. Some scholars have recently emphasized this principle as the key to understanding rationalism (see Della Rocca 2008, chapter 1).

The intelligibility principle raises some classic philosophical problems. Chief among these is a problem of question-begging or circularity. The task of proving that the world is intelligible seems to have to rely on some of the very principles of reasoning in question. In the 17th century, discussion of this fundamental problem centered around the so-called Cartesian circle. The problem is still debated by scholars of 17th century thought today. The viability of the rationalist enterprise seems to depend, at least in part, on a satisfactory answer to this problem.

The most important rational principle in Descartes philosophy, the principle which does a great deal of the work in generating its details, is the principle according to which whatever is clearly and distinctly perceived to be true is true. This principle means that if we can form any clear and distinct ideas, then we will be able to trust that they accurately represent their objects, and give us certain knowledge of reality. Descartes clear and distinct ideas doctrine is central to his conception of the worlds intelligibility, and indeed, it is central to the rationalists conception of the worlds intelligibility more broadly. Although Spinoza and Leibniz both work to refine understanding of what it is to have clear and distinct ideas, they both subscribe to the view that the mind, when directed properly, is able to accurately represent certain basic features of reality, such as the nature of substance.

For Descartes, it cannot be taken for granted from the outset that what we clearly and distinctly perceive to be true is in fact true. It is possible to entertain the doubt that an all-powerful deceiving being fashioned the mind so that it is deceived even in those things it perceives clearly and distinctly. Nevertheless, it is only possible to entertain this doubt when we are not having clear and distinct perceptions. When we are perceiving things clearly and distinctly, their truth is undeniable. Moreover, we can use our capacity for clear and distinct perceptions to demonstrate that the mind was not fashioned by an all-powerful deceiving being, but rather by an all-powerful benevolent being who would not fashion us so as to be deceived even when using our minds properly. Having proved the existence of an all-powerful benevolent being qua creator of our minds, we can no longer entertain any doubts regarding our clear and distinct ideas even when we are not presently engaged in clear and distinct perceptions.

Descartes legitimation of clear and distinct perception via his proof of a benevolent God raises notorious interpretive challenges. Scholars disagree about how to resolve the problem of the Cartesian circle. However, there is general consensus that Descartes procedure is not, in fact, guilty of vicious, logical circularity. In order for Descartes procedure to avoid circularity, it is generally agreed that in some sense clear and distinct ideas need already to be legitimate before the proof of Gods existence. It is only in another sense that Gods existence legitimates their truth. Scholars disagree on how exactly to understand those different senses, but they generally agree that there is some sense at least in which clear and distinct ideas are self-legitimating, or, otherwise, not in need of legitimation.

That some ideas provide a basic standard of truth is a fundamental tenet of rationalism, and undergirds all the other rationalist principles at work in the construction of rationalist systems of philosophy. For the rationalists, if it cannot be taken for granted in at least some sense from the outset that the mind is capable of discerning the difference between truth and falsehood, then one never gets beyond skepticism.

The Continental rationalists deploy the principle of intelligibility and subordinate rational principles derived from it in generating much of the content of their respective philosophical systems. In no aspect of their systems is the application of rational principles to the generation of philosophical content more evident and more clearly illustrative of contrasting interpretations of these principles than in that for which the Continental rationalists are arguably best known: substance metaphysics.

Descartes deploys his clear and distinct ideas doctrine in justifying his most well-known metaphysical position: substance dualism. The first step in Descartes demonstration of mind-body dualism, or, in his terminology, of a real distinction (that is, a distinction between two substances) between mind and body is to show that while it is possible to doubt that one has a body, it is not possible to doubt that one is thinking. As Descartes makes clear in the Principles of Philosophy, one of the chief upshots of his famous cogito argument is the discovery of the distinction between a thinking thing and a corporeal thing. The impossibility of doubting ones existence is not the impossibility of doubting that one is a human being with a body with arms and legs and a head. It is the impossibility of doubting, rather, that one doubts, perceives, dreams, imagines, understands, wills, denies, and other modalities that Descartes attributes to the thinking thing. It is possible to think of oneself as a thing that thinks, and to recognize that it is impossible to doubt that one thinks, while continuing to doubt that one has a body with arms and legs and a head. So, the cogito drives a preliminary wedge between mind and body.

At this stage of the argument, however, Descartes has simply established that it is possible to conceive of himself as a thinking thing without conceiving of himself as a corporeal thing. It remains possible that, in fact, the thinking thing is identical with a corporeal thing, in other words, that thought is somehow something a body can do; Descartes has yet to establish that the epistemological distinction between his knowledge of his mind and his knowledge of body that results from the hyperbolic doubt translates to a metaphysical or ontological distinction between mind and body. The move from the epistemological distinction to the ontological distinction proceeds via the doctrine of clear and distinct ideas. Having established that whatever he clearly and distinctly perceives is true, Descartes is in a position to affirm the real distinction between mind and body.

In this life, it is never possible to clearly and distinctly perceive a mind actuall
y separate from a body, at least in the case of finite, created minds, because minds and bodies are intimately unified in the composite human being. So Descartes cannot base his proof for the real distinction of mind and body on the clear and distinct perception that mind and body are in fact independently existing things. Rather, Descartes argument is based on the joint claims that (1) it is possible to have a clear and distinct idea of thought apart from extension and vice versa; and (2) whatever we can clearly and distinctly understand is capable of being created by God exactly as we clearly and distinctly understand it. Thus, the fact that we can clearly and distinctly understand thought apart from extension and vice versa entails that thinking things and extended things are really distinct (in the sense that they are distinct substances separable by God).

The foregoing argument relies on certain background assumptions which it is now necessary to explain, in particular, Descartes conception of substance. In the Principles, Descartes defines substance as a thing which exists in such a way as to depend on no other thing for its existence (CSM I, 210). Properly speaking, only God can be understood to depend on no other thing, and so only God is a substance in the absolute sense. Nevertheless, Descartes allows that, in a relative sense, created things can count as substances too. A created thing is a substance if the only thing it relies upon for its existence is the ordinary concurrence of God (ibid.). Only mind and body qualify as substances in this secondary sense. Everything else is a modification or property of minds and bodies. A second point is that, for Descartes, we do not have a direct knowledge of substance; rather, we come to know substance by virtue of its attributes. Thought and extension are the attributes or properties in virtue of which we come to know thinking and corporeal substance, or mind and body. This point relies on the application of a key rational principle, to wit, nothingness has no properties. For Descartes, there cannot simply be the properties of thinking and extension without these properties having something in which to inhere. Thinking and extension are not just any properties; Descartes calls them principal attributes because they constitute the nature of their respective substances. Other, non-essential properties, cannot be understood without the principal attribute, but the principal attribute can be understood without any of the non-essential properties. For example, motion cannot be understood without extension, but extension can be understood without motion.

Descartes conception of mind and body as distinct substances includes some interesting corollaries which result from a characteristic application of rational principles and account for some characteristic doctrinal differences between Descartes and empiricist philosophers. One consequence of Descartes conception of the mind as a substance whose principal attribute is thought is that the mind must always be thinking. Since, for Descartes, thinking is something of which the thinker is necessarily aware, Descartes commitment to thought as an essential, and therefore, inseparable, property of the mind raises some awkward difficulties. Arnauld, for example, raises one such difficulty in his Objections to Descartes Meditations: presumably there is much going on in the mind of an infant in its mothers womb of which the infant is not aware. In response to this objection, and also in response to another obvious problem, that is, that of dreamless sleep, Descartes insists on a distinction between being aware of or conscious of our thoughts at the time we are thinking them, and remembering them afterwards (CSMK III, 357). The infant is, in fact, aware of its thinking in the mothers womb, but it is aware only of very confused sensory thoughts of pain and pleasure and heat (not, as Descartes points out, metaphysical matters (CSMK III, 189)) which it does not remember afterwards. Similarly, the mind is always thinking even in the most dreamless sleep, it is just that the mind often immediately forgets much of what it had been aware.

Descartes commitment to embracing the implications however counter-intuitive of his substance-attribute metaphysics, puts him at odds with, for instance, Locke, who mocks the Cartesian doctrine of the always-thinking soul in his An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. For Locke, the question whether the soul is always thinking or not must be decided by experience and not, as Locke says, merely by hypothesis (An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Book II, Chapter 1). The evidence of dreamless sleep makes it obvious, for Locke, that the soul is not always thinking. Because Locke ties personal identity to memory, if the soul were to think while asleep without knowing it, the sleeping man and the waking man would be two different persons.

Descartes commitment to the always-thinking mind is a consequence of his commitment to a more basic rational principle. In establishing his conception of thinking substance, Descartes reasons from the attribute of thinking to the substance of thinking on the grounds that nothing has no properties. In this case, he reasons in the other direction, from the substance of thinking, that is, the mind, to the property of thinking on the converse grounds that something must have properties, and the properties it must have are the properties that make it what it is; in the case of the mind, that property is thought. (Leibniz found a way to maintain the integrity of the rational principle without contradicting experience: admit that thinking need not be conscious. This way the mind can still think in a dreamless sleep, and so avoid being without any properties, without any problem about the recollection of awareness.)

Another consequence of Descartes substance metaphysics concerns corporeal substance. For Descartes, we do not know corporeal substance directly, but rather through a grasp of its principal attribute, extension. Extension qua property requires a substance in which to inhere because of the rational principle, nothing has no properties. This rational principle leads to another characteristic Cartesian position regarding the material world: the denial of a vacuum. Descartes denies that space can be empty or void. Space has the property of being extended in length, breadth, and depth, and such properties require a substance in which to inhere. Thus, nothing, that is, a void or vacuum, is not able to have such properties because of the rational principle, nothing has no properties. This means that all space is filled with substance, even if it is imperceptible. Once again, Descartes answers a debated philosophical question on the basis of a rational principle.

If Descartes is known for his dualism, Spinoza, of course, is known for monism the doctrine that there is only one substance. Spinozas argument for substance monism (laid out in the first fifteen propositions of the Ethics) has no essential basis in sensory experience; it proceeds through rational argumentation and the deployment of rational principles; although Spinoza provides one a posteriori argument for Gods existence, he makes clear that he presents it only because it is easier to grasp than the a priori arguments, and not because it is in any way necessary.

The crucial step in the argument for substance monism comes in Ethics 1p5: In Nature there cannot be two or more substances of the same nature or attribute. It is at this proposition that Descartes (and Leibniz, and many others) would part ways with Spinoza. The most striking and controversial implication of this propositio
n, at least from a Cartesian perspective, is that human minds cannot qualify as substances, since human minds all share the same nature or attribute, that is, thought. In Spinozas philosophy, human minds are actually themselves properties Spinoza calls them modes of a more basic, infinite substance.

The argument for 1p5 works as follows. If there were two or more distinct substances, there would have to be some way to distinguish between them. There are two possible distinctions to be made: either by a difference in their affections or by a difference in their attributes. For Spinoza, a substance is something which exists in itself and can be conceived through itself; an attribute is what the intellect perceives of a substance, as constituting its essence (Ethics 1d4). Spinozas conception of attributes is a matter of longstanding scholarly debate, but for present purposes, we can think of it along Cartesian lines. For Descartes, substance is always grasped through a principal property, which is the nature or essence of the substance. Spinoza agrees that an attribute is that through which the mind conceives the nature or essence of substance. With this in mind, if a distinction between two substances were to be made on the basis of a difference in attributes, then there would not be two substances of the same attribute as the proposition indicates. This means that if there were two substances of the same attribute, it would be necessary to distinguish between them on the basis of a difference in modes or affections.

Spinoza conceives of an affection or mode as something which exists in another and needs to be conceived through another. Given this conception of affections, it is impossible, for Spinoza, to distinguish between two substances on the basis of a difference in affections. Doing so would be somewhat akin to affirming that there are two apples on the basis of a difference between two colors, when one apple can quite possibly have a red part and a green part. As color differences do not per se determine differences between apples, in a similar way, modal differences cannot determine a difference between substances you could just be dealing with one substance bearing multiple different affections. It is notable that in 1p5, Spinoza uses virtually the same substance-attribute schema as Descartes to deny a fundamental feature of Descartes system.

Having established 1p5, the next major step in Spinozas argument for substance monism is to establish the necessary existence and infinity of substance. For Spinoza, if things have nothing in common with each other, one cannot be the cause of the other. This thesis depends upon assumptions that lie at the heart of Spinozas rationalism. Something that has nothing in common with another thing cannot be the cause of the other thing because things that have nothing in common with one another cannot be understood through one another (Ethics 1a5). But, for Spinoza, effects should be able to be understood through causes. Indeed, what it is to understand something, for Spinoza, is to understand its cause. The order of knowledge, provided that the knowledge is genuine, or, as Spinoza says, adequate, must map onto the order of being, and vice versa. Thus, Spinozas claim that if things have nothing in common with one another, one cannot be the cause of the other, is an expression of Spinozas fundamental, rationalist commitment to the intelligibility of the world. Given this assumption, and given the fact that no two substances have anything in common with one another, since no two substances share the same nature or attribute, it follows that if a substance is to exist, it must exist as causa sui (self-caused); in other words, it must pertain to the essence of substance to exist. Moreover, Spinoza thinks that since there is nothing that has anything in common with a given substance, there is therefore nothing to limit the nature of a given substance, and so every substance will necessarily be infinite. This assertion depends on another deep-seated assumption of Spinozas philosophy: nothing limits itself, but everything by virtue of its very nature affirms its own nature and existence as much as possible.

At this stage, Spinoza has argued that substances of a single attribute exist necessarily and are necessarily infinite. The last major stage of the argument for substance monism is the transition from multiple substances of a single attribute to only one substance of infinite attributes. Scholars have expressed varying degrees of satisfaction with the lucidity of this transition. It seems to work as follows. It is possible to attribute many attributes to one substance. The more reality or being each thing has, the more attributes belong to it. Therefore, an absolutely infinite being is a being that consists of infinite attributes. Spinoza calls an absolutely infinite being or substance consisting of infinite attributes God. Spinoza gives four distinct arguments for Gods existence in Ethics 1p11. The first is commonly interpreted as Spinozas version of an ontological argument. It refers back to 1p7 where Spinoza proved that it pertains to the essence of substance to exist. The second argument is relevant to present purposes, since it turns on Spinozas version of the principle of sufficient reason: For each thing there must be assigned a cause, or reason, both for its existence and for its nonexistence (Ethics 1p11dem). But there can be no reason for Gods nonexistence for the same reasons that all substances are necessarily infinite: there is nothing outside of God that is able to limit Him, and nothing limits itself. Once again, Spinozas argument rests upon his assumption that things by nature affirm their own existence. The third argument is a posteriori, and the fourth pivots like the second on the assumption that things by nature affirm their own existence.

Having proven that a being consisting of infinite attributes exists, Spinozas argument for substance monism is nearly complete. It remains only to point out that no substance besides God can exist, because if it did, it would have to share at least one of Gods infinite attributes, which, by 1p5, is impossible. Everything that exists, then, is either an attribute or an affection of God.

Leibnizs universe consists of an infinity of monads or simple substances, and God. For Leibniz, the universe must be composed of monads or simple substances. His justification for this claim is relatively straightforward. There must be simples, because there are compounds, and compounds are just collections of simples. To be simple, for Leibniz, means to be without parts, and thus to be indivisible. For Leibniz, the simples or monads are the true atoms of nature (L, 643). However, material atoms are contrary to reason (L, 456). Manifold a priori considerations lead Leibniz to reject material atoms. In the first place, the notion of a material atom is contradictory in Leibnizs view. Matter is extended, and that which is extended is divisible into parts. The very notion of an atom, however, is the notion of something indivisible, lacking parts.

From a different perspective, Leibnizs dynamical investigations provide another argument against material atoms. Absolute rigidity is included in the notion of a material atom, since any elasticity in the atom could only be accounted for on the basis of parts within the atom shifting their position with respect to each other, which is contrary to the notion of a partless atom. According to Leibnizs analysis of impact, however, absolute rigidity is shown not to make sense. Consider the rebound of one atom as a result of its collision with another. If the atoms were absol
utely rigid, the change in motion resulting from the collision would have to happen instantaneously, or, as Leibniz says, through a leap or in a moment (L, 446). The atom would change from initial motion to rest to rebounded motion without passing through any intermediary degrees of motion. Since the body must pass through all the intermediary degrees of motion in transitioning from one state of motion to another, it must not be absolutely rigid, but rather elastic; the analysis of the parts of the body must, in correlation with the degree of motion, proceed to infinity. Leibnizs dynamical argument against material atoms turns on what he calls the law of continuity, an a priori principle according to which no change occurs through a leap.

The true unities, or true atoms of nature, therefore, cannot be material; they must be spiritual or metaphysical substances akin to souls. Since Leibnizs spiritual substances, or monads, are absolutely simple, without parts, they admit neither of dissolution nor composition. Moreover, there can be no interaction between monads, monads cannot receive impressions or undergo alterations by means of being affected from the outside, since, in Leibnizs famous phrase from the Monadology, monads have no windows (L, 643). Monads must, however, have qualities, otherwise there would be no way to explain the changes we see in things and the diversity of nature. Indeed, following from Leibnizs principle of the identity of indiscernibles, no two monads can be exactly alike, since each monad stands in a unique relation to the rest, and, for Leibniz, each monads relation to the rest is a distinctive feature of its nature. The way in which, for Leibniz, monads can have qualities while remaining simple, or in other words, the only way there can be multitude in simplicity is if monads are characterized and distinguished by means of their perceptions. Leibnizs universe, in summary, consists in monads, simple spiritual substances, characterized and distinguished from one another by a unique series of perceptions determined by each monads unique relationship vis--vis the others.

Of the great rationalists, Leibniz is the most explicit about the principles of reasoning that govern his thought. Leibniz singles out two, in particular, as the most fundamental rational principles of his philosophy: the principle of contradiction and the principle of sufficient reason. According to the principle of contradiction, whatever involves a contradiction is false. According to the principle of sufficient reason, there is no fact or true proposition without there being a sufficient reason for its being so and not otherwise (L, 646). Corresponding to these two principles of reasoning are two kinds of truths: truths of reasoning and truths of fact. For Leibniz, truths of reasoning are necessary, and their opposite is impossible. Truths of fact, by contrast, are contingent, and their opposite is possible. Truths of reasoning are by most commentators associated with the principle of contradiction because they can be reduced via analysis to a relation between two primitive ideas, whose identity is intuitively evident. Thus, it is possible to grasp why it is impossible for truths of reasoning to be otherwise. However, this kind of resolution is only possible in the case of abstract propositions, such as the propositions of mathematics (see Section 3, c, above). Contingent truths, or truths of fact, by contrast, such as Caesar crossed the Rubicon, to use the example Leibniz gives in the Discourse on Metaphysics, are infinitely complicated. Although, for Leibniz, every predicate is contained in its subject, to reduce the relationship between Caesars notion and his action of crossing the Rubicon would require an infinite analysis impossible for finite minds. Caesar crossed the Rubicon is a contingent proposition, because there is another possible world in which Caesar did not cross the Rubicon. To understand the reason for Caesars crossing, then, entails understanding why this world exists rather than any other possible world. It is for this reason that contingent truths are associated with the principle of sufficient reason. Although the opposite of truths of fact is possible, there is nevertheless a sufficient reason why the fact is so and not otherwise, even though this reason cannot be known by finite minds.

Truths of fact, then, need to be explained; there must be a sufficient reason for them. However, according to Leibniz, a sufficient reason for existence cannot be found merely in any one individual thing or even in the whole aggregate and series of things (L, 486). That is to say, the sufficient reason for any given contingent fact cannot be found within the world of which it is a part. The sufficient reason must explain why this world exists rather than another possible world, and this reason must lie outside the world itself. For Leibniz, the ultimate reason for things must be contained in a necessary substance that creates the world, that is, God. But if the existence of God is to ground the series of contingent facts that make up the world, there must be a sufficient reason why God created this world rather than any of the other infinite possible worlds contained in his understanding. As a perfect being, God would only have chosen to bring this world into existence rather than any other because it is the best of all possible worlds. Gods choice, therefore, is governed by the principle of fitness, or what Leibniz also calls the principle of the best (L, 647). The best world, according to Leibniz, is the one which maximizes perfection; and the most perfect world is the one which balances the greatest possible variety with the greatest possible order. God achieves maximal perfection in the world through what Leibniz calls the pre-established harmony. Although the world is made up of an infinity of monads with no direct interaction with one another, God harmonizes the perceptions of each monad with the perceptions of every other monad, such that each monad represents a unique perspective on the rest of the universe according to its position vis--vis the others.

According to Leibnizs philosophy, in the case of all true propositions, the predicate is contained in the subject. This is often known as the predicate-in-notion principle. The relationship between predicate and subject can only be reduced to an identity relation in the case of truths of reason, whereas in the case of truths of fact, the reduction requires an infinite analysis. Nevertheless, in both cases, it is possible in principle (which is to say, for an infinite intellect) to know everything that will ever happen to an individual substance, and even everything that will happen in the world of an individual substance on the basis of an examination of the individual substances notion, since each substance is an expression of the entire world. Leibnizs predicate-in-notion principle therefore unifies both of his two great principles of reasoning the principle of contradiction and the principle of sufficient reason since the relation between predicate and subject is either such that it is impossible for it to be otherwise or such that there is a sufficient reason why it is as it is and not otherwise. Moreover, it represents a particularly robust expression of the principle of intelligibility at the very heart of Leibnizs system. There is a reason why everything is as it is, whether that reason is subject to finite or only to infinite analysis.

(See also: 17th Century Theories of Substance.)

Rationalism is often criticized for placing too much confidence in the ability of reason alone to know the world. The extent to which one finds t
his criticism justified depends largely on ones view of reason. For Hume, for instance, knowledge of the world of matters of fact is gained exclusively through experience; reason is merely a faculty for comparing ideas gained through experience; it is thus parasitic upon experience, and has no claim whatsoever to grasp anything about the world itself, let alone any special claim. For Kant, reason is a mental faculty with an inherent tendency to transgress the bounds of possible experience in an effort to grasp the metaphysical foundations of the phenomenal realm. Since knowledge of the world is limited to objects of possible experience, for Kant, reason, with its delusions of grasping reality beyond those limits, must be subject to critique.

Sometimes rationalism is charged with neglecting or undervaluing experience, and with embarrassingly having no means of accounting for the tremendous success of the experimental sciences. While the criticism of the confidence placed in reason may be defensible given a certain conception of reason (which may or may not itself be ultimately defensible), the latter charge of neglecting experience is not; more often than not it is the product of a false caricature of rationalism

Descartes and Leibniz were the leading mathematicians of their day, and stood at the forefront of science. While Spinoza distinguished himself more as a political thinker, and as an interpreter of scripture (albeit a notorious one) than as a mathematician, Spinoza too performed experiments, kept abreast of the leading science of the day, and was renowned as an expert craftsman of lenses. Far from neglecting experience, the great rationalists had, in general, a sophisticated understanding of the role of experience and, indeed, of experiment, in the acquisition and development of knowledge. The fact that the rationalists held that experience and experiment cannot serve as foundations for knowledge, but must be fitted within, and interpreted in light of, a rational epistemic framework, should not be confused with a neglect of experience and experiment.

One of the stated purposes of Descartes Meditations, and, in particular, the hyperbolic doubts with which it commences, is to reveal to the mind of the reader the limitations of its reliance on the senses, which Descartes regards as an inadequate foundation for knowledge. By leading the mind away from the senses, which often deceive, and which yield only confused ideas, Descartes prepares the reader to discover the clear and distinct perceptions of the pure intellect, which provide a proper foundation for genuine knowledge. Nevertheless, empirical observations and experimentation clearly had an important role to play in Descartes natural philosophy, as evidenced by his own private empirical and experimental research, especially in optics and anatomy, and by his explicit statements in several writings on the role and importance of observation and experiment.

In Part 6 of the Discourse on the Method, Descartes makes an open plea for assistance both financial and otherwise in making systematic empirical observations and conducting experiments. Also in Discourse Part 6, Descartes lays out his program for developing knowledge of nature. It begins with the discovery of certain seeds of truth implanted naturally in our souls (CSM I, 144). From them, Descartes seeks to derive the first principles and causes of everything. Descartes Meditations illustrates these first stages of the program. By seeds of truth Descartes has in mind certain intuitions, including the ideas of thinking, and extension, and, in particular, of God. On the basis of clearly and distinctly perceiving the distinction between what belongs properly to extension (figure, position, motion) and what does not (colors, sounds, smells, and so forth), Descartes discovers the principles of physics, including the laws of motion. From these principles, it is possible to deduce many particular ways in which the details of the world might be, only a small fraction of which represent the way the world actually is. It is as a result of the distance, as it were, between physical principles and laws of nature, on one hand, and the particular details of the world, on the other, that, for Descartes, observations and experiments become necessary.

Descartes is ambivalent about the relationship between physical principles and particulars, and about the role that observation and experiment play in mediating this relationship. On the one hand, Descartes expresses commitment to the ideal of a science deduced with certainty from intuitively grasped first principles. Because of the great variety of mutually incompatible consequences that can be derived from physical principles, observation and experiment are required even in the ideal deductive science to discriminate between actual consequences and merely possible ones. According to the ideal of deductive science, however, observation and experiment should be used only to facilitate the deduction of effects from first causes, and not as a basis for an inference to possible explanations of natural phenomena, as Descartes makes clear at one point his Principles of Philosophy (CSM I, 249). If the explanations were only possible, or hypothetical, the science could not lay claim to certainty per the deductive ideal, but merely to probability.

On the other hand, Descartes states explicitly at another point in the Principles of Philosophy that the explanations provided of such phenomena as the motion of celestial bodies and the nature of the earths elements should be regarded merely as hypotheses arrived at on the basis of a posteriori reasoning (CSM I, 255); while Descartes says that such hypotheses must agree with observation and facilitate predictions, they need not in fact reflect the actual causes of phenomena. Descartes appears to concede, albeit reluctantly, that when it comes to explaining particular phenomena, hypothetical explanations and moral certainty (that is, mere probability) are all that can be hoped for.

Scholars have offered a range of explanations for the inconsistency in Descartes writings on the question of the relation between first principles and particulars. It has been suggested that the inconsistency within the Principles of Philosophy reflects different stages of its composition (see Garber 1978). However the inconsistency might be explained, it is clear that Descartes did not take it for granted that the ideal of a deductive science of nature could be realized. Moreover, whether or not Descartes ultimately believed the ideal of deductive science was realizable, he was unambiguous on the importance of observation and experiment in bridging the distance between physical principles and particular phenomena. (For further discussion, see Ren Descartes: Scientific Method.)

The one work that Spinoza published under his own name in his lifetime was his geometrical reworking of Descartes Principles of Philosophy. In Spinozas presentation of the opening sections of Part 3 of Descartes Principles, Spinoza puts a strong emphasis on the hypothetical nature of the explanations of natural phenomena in Part 3. Given the hesitance and ambivalence with which Descartes concedes the hypothetical nature of his explanations in his Principles, Spinozas unequivocal insistence on hypotheses is striking. Elsewhere Spinoza endorses hypotheses more directly. In the Treatise on the Emendation of the Intellect, Spinoza describes forming the concept of a sphere by affirming the rotation of a semicircle in thought. He points out that this idea is a true idea of a sphere even if no sphere has ever been produced this way in nature (The Colle
cted Works of Spinoza, Vol. 1, p. 32). Spinozas view of hypotheses relates to his conception of good definitions (see Section 3, b, above). If the cause through which one conceives something allows for the deduction of all possible effects, then the cause is an adequate one, and there is no need to fear a false hypothesis. Spinoza appears to differ from Descartes in thinking that the formation of hypotheses, if done properly, is consistent with deductive certainty, and not tantamount to mere probability or moral certainty.

Again in the Treatise on the Emendation of the Intellect, Spinoza speaks in Baconian fashion of identifying aids that can assist in the use of the senses and in conducting orderly experiments. Unfortunately, Spinozas comments regarding aids are very unclear. This is perhaps explained by the fact that they appear in a work that Spinoza never finished. Nevertheless, it does seem clear that although Spinoza, like Descartes, emphasized the importance of discovering proper principles from which to deduce knowledge of everything else, he was no less aware than Descartes of the need to proceed via observation and experiment in descending from such principles to particulars. At the same time, given his analysis of the inadequacy of sensory images, the collection of empirical data must be governed by rules and rational guidelines the details of which it does not seem that Spinoza ever worked out.

A valuable perspective on Spinozas attitude toward experimentation is provided by Letter 6, which Spinoza wrote to Oldenburg with comments on Robert Boyles experimental research. Among other matters, at issue is Boyles redintegration (or reconstitution) of niter (potassium nitrate). By heating niter with a burning coal, Boyle separated the niter into a fixed part and a volatile part; he then proceeded to distill the volatile part, and recombine it with the fixed part, thereby redintegrating the niter. Boyles aim was to show that the nature of niter is not determined by a Scholastic substantial form, but rather by the composition of parts, whose secondary qualities (color, taste, smell, and so forth) are determined by primary qualities (size, position, motion, and so forth). While taking no issue with Boyles attempt to undermine the Scholastic analysis of physical natures, Spinoza criticized Boyles interpretation of the experiment, arguing that the fixed niter was merely an impurity left over, and that there was no difference between the niter and the volatile part other than a difference of state.

Two things stand out from Spinozas comments on Boyle. On the one hand, Spinoza exhibits a degree of impatience with Boyles experiments, charging some of them with superfluity on the grounds either that what they show is evident on the basis of reason alone, or that previous philosophers have already sufficiently demonstrated them experimentally. In addition, Spinozas own interpretation of Boyles experiment is primarily based in a rather speculative, Cartesian account of the mechanical constitution of niter (as Boyle himself points out in response to Spinoza). On the other hand, Spinoza appears eager to show his own fluency with experimental practice, describing no fewer than three different experiments of his own invention to support his interpretation of the redintegration. What Spinoza is critical of is not so much Boyles use of experiment per se as his relative neglect of relevant rational considerations. For instance, Spinoza at one point criticizes Boyle for trying to show that secondary qualities depend on primary qualities on experimental grounds. Spinoza thought the proposition needed to be demonstrated on rational grounds. While Spinoza acknowledges the importance and necessity of observation and experiment, his emphasis and focus is on the rational framework needed for making sense of experimental findings, without which the results are confused and misleading.

In principle, Leibniz thinks it is not impossible to discover the interior constitution of bodies a priori on the basis of a knowledge of God and the principle of the best according to which He creates the world. Leibniz sometimes remarks that angels could explain to us the intelligible causes through which all things come about, but he seems conflicted over whether such understanding is actually possible for human beings. Leibniz seems to think that while the a priori pathway should be pursued in this life by the brightest minds in any case, its perfection will only be possible in the afterlife. The obstacle to an a priori conception of things is the complexity of sensible effects. In this life, then, knowledge of nature cannot be purely a priori, but depends on observation and experimentation in conjunction with reason

Apart from perception, we have clear and distinct ideas only of magnitude, figure, motion, and other such quantifiable attributes (primary qualities). The goal of all empirical research must be to resolve phenomena (including secondary qualities) into such distinctly perceived, quantifiable notions. For example, heat is explained in terms of some particular motion of air or some other fluid. Only in this way can the epistemic ideal be achieved of understanding how phenomena follow from their causes in the same way that we know how the hammer stroke after a period of time follows from the workings of a clock (L, 173). To this end, experiments must be carried out to indicate possible relationships between secondary qualities and primary qualities, and to provide a basis for the formulation of hypotheses to explain the phenomena.

Nevertheless, there is an inherent limitation to this procedure. Leibniz explains that if there were people who had no direct experience of heat, for instance, even if someone were to explain to them the precise mechanical cause of heat, they would still not be able to know the sensation of heat, because they would still not distinctly grasp the connection between bodily motion and perception (L, 285). Leibniz seems to think that human beings will never be able to bridge the explanatory gap between sensations and mechanical causes. There will always be an irreducibly confused aspect of sensible ideas, even if they can be associated with a high degree of sophistication with distinctly perceivable, quantifiable notions. However, this limitation does not mean, for Leibniz, that there is any futility in human efforts to understand the world scientifically. In the first place, experimental knowledge of the composition of things is tremendously useful in practice, even if the composition is not distinctly perceived in all its parts. As Leibniz points out, the architect who uses stones to erect a cathedral need not possess a distinct knowledge of the bits of earth interposed between the stones (L, 175). Secondly, even if our understanding of the causes of sensible effects must remain forever hypothetical, the hypotheses themselves can be more or less refined, and it is proper experimentation that assists in their refinement.

When citing the works of Descartes, the three volume English translation by Cottingham, Stoothoff, Murdoch, and Kenny was used. For the original language, the edition by Adam and Tannery was consulted.

When citing Spinozas Ethics, the translation by Curley in A Spinoza Reader was used. The following system of abbreviation was used when citing passages from the Ethics: the first number designates the part of the Ethics (1-5); then, p is for proposition, d for definition, a for axiom, dem for demonstration, c for corollary, and s for scholium. So, 1p17s refers to the scholium of the seventeenth proposition of the first part of the Ethics. For the original la
nguage, the edition by Gebhardt was consulted.

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Rationalism | Theopedia

Posted: at 4:45 pm

Rationalism as a philosophy stresses reason as the means of determining truth. Mind is given authority over sense, the w:a priori over the w:a posteriori. Rationalists are usually foundationalists, who affirm that there are first principles of knowledge, without which no knowledge is possible. For a rationalist, reason arbitrates truth, and truth is objective.

Although w:Aristotle (384-322 B.C.) believed that knowledge began in the senses, his stress on reason and logic made him the father of Western rationalism. w:Ren Descartes (1596-1650), w:Benedict Spinoza (1632-1677), and w:Gottfried Leibniz (1646-1716) were the chief modern rationalists.^[1]^ ^ [2]^ ^[3]^

Most worldviews have at least one major rationalist proponent. Leibniz embraced theism.^[4]^ Spinoza held to pantheism.^[5]^ w:Ayn Rand (1905-1977) professed atheism.^[6]^ Most deists held some form of rationalism. Even pantheism is represented by strong rationalistic proponents, such as w:Charles Hartshorne (1897-2000).^ [7]^ Finite godism has been rationally defended by w:John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) and others.^[8]^

The reason that various worldviews all have forms of rationalism is that rationalism is an epistemology, whereas a worldview is an aspect of metaphysics. Rationalism is a means of discerning truth, and most worldviews have exponents who use it to determine and defend truth as they see it.^[9]^

Some ideas are common to virtually all rationalists. These include the following factors, even though some rationlists defend them, modify them, or limit them in ways others do not.

Some rationalists downplay, if not negate, any determinative role of the senses in the knowing process. They stress the rational exclusively. w:Spinoza is an example of this view. Others combine sense and reason, such as Aquinas and w:Leibniz. The former are more deductive in their approach to learning truth; the latter are more inductive and inferential.

A crucial difference among rationalists is found in the scope of reason. Some rationalists, such as w:Spinoza, give reason an all-encompassing scope. It is the sole means of determining truth. Others, such as Aquinas, believe reason is capable of discovering some truths (i.e. the existence of God), but not all truth (i.e. the Trinity).^[11]^ Those in the latter category believe that there are truths that are in accord with reason and some that go beyond reason. Even the latter are not contrary to reason. They simply are beyond the ability of reason to attain on its own. They can be known only from special revelation.

Rationalism as a whole has both positive and negative dimensions for an apologists. Unlimited rationalism that denies all special revelation, obviously is unacceptable for a theist. Nor is any form of rationalism that denies theism in accord with orthodox Christianity.

However, foundationalism's stress on the need for first principles, is both true and valuable. Also valuable is the belief in objective truth. The rationalist's emphasis on the exclusive nature of truth claims is also a benefit to Christian apologetics.

From a Christian perspective, the rationalist theologian Jonathan Edwards made an important distinction: All truth is given by revelation, either general or special, and it must be received by reason. Reason is the God-given means for discovering the truth that God discloses, whether in his world or his Word. While God wants to reach the heart with truth, he does not bypass the mind along the way.^ [12]^ In this modified sense, there is great value in Christian rationalism.

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What is CR? – critical rationalism blog

Posted: March 28, 2016 at 1:44 am

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 (architecture) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Posted: March 21, 2016 at 8:44 pm

In architecture, rationalism is an architectural current which mostly developed from Italy in the 1920s-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]:81-84

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]:92-96

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]:205-9

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]:204-7

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 Triennale.[1]:178-183

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.[7]:178-80[1]:166-72

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]:178-80 Ungers influenced a younger generation of German architects, including Hans Kollhoff, Max Dudler, and Christoph Mckler.[8]

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Use rationalism in a sentence | rationalism sentence examples

Posted: March 12, 2016 at 5:46 pm

His dislike to rationalism in religion also made him one of the numerous opponents of Benjamin Hoadly's Plain Account of the Nature and End of the Sacrament.

The battle of his life was on behalf of personal religious experience, in opposition to the externality of rationalism, orthodoxy or sacramentarianism.

Up to the revolutionary year 1830 his religious views had remained strongly tinged with rationalism, Hegel remaining his guide in religion as in practical politics and the treatment of history.

Pericles also incurred unpopularity because of his rationalism in religious matters; yet Athens in his time was becoming ripe for the new culture, and would have done better to receive it from men of his circle - Anaxagoras, Zeno, Protagoras and Meton - than from the more irresponsible sophists.

Lauder's charge of plagiarism (1750), attacking David Hume's rationalism in his Criterion of Miracles (1752), and the Hutchinsonians in his Apology for the Clergy (1755).

His philosophical standpoint may be characterized as a reaction from the pantheistic tendency of Hegel's idealistic rationalism towards a more pronouncedly theistic position.

Criticism; and a layman, the great Lessing) took the form of " rationalism " within the church - interpreting Bible texts by main force in a way which the age thought " enlightened " (H.

While he thus created a new and more ethical " rationalism," Kant's many-sided influence, alike in philosophy and in theology, worked to further issues.

His general thought was that " rationalism " represents an uprising of the lower reason or " understanding " against the higher or true " reason."

Reference to the articles on Logic, Metaphysics, &c., will show that subsequent criticism, however much it has owed by way of stimulus to Mill's strenuous rationalism, has been able to point to much that is inconsistent, inadequate and even superficial in his writings.

Senn, English Rationalism in the XIXth Century (1906), vol.

Benn, English Rationalism in the 19th Century (London, 1906).

In Eckhart, towards end of 13th century); it is an age which also produced the rationalism of Maimonides.

Lecky, Rationalism in Europe (1865), i.

The germs of Rationalism were unquestionably present in several of Abelard's opinions, and still more so, the traditionalists must have thought, in his general attitude towards theological questions.

Aquinas is on the side of rationalism, Scotus on the side of scepticism.

In Montpellier, where he lived from 1303 to 1306, he was much distressed by the prevalence of Aristotelian rationalism, which, through the medium of the works of Maimonides, threatened the authority of the Old Testament, obedience to the law, and the belief in miracles and revelation.

Hengstenberg and his party in the Evangelische Kirchenzeitung, on account of his rationalism, his life was uneventful.

Indeed, he vigorously attacked rationalism, as distinguished from the rational principle, charging it with being unscientific inasmuch as it ignored the historical significance of Christianity, shut its eyes to individuality and failed to give religious feeling its due.

In 1830 he (with his colleague Wilhelm Gesenius) was threatened with deposition for teaching rationalism, and though he retained his office he lost his influence, which passed to F.

(1860); Romanism and Rationalism (1863); Outlines of Apologetical Theology (1867); The Doctrine of the Presbyterian Church (1876); Unbelief in the i 8th Century (1881); Doctrinal Principles of the United Presbyterian Church (Dr Blair's Manual, 1888) .

He was a convinced opponent of rationalism in religion.

Teller's writings present rationalism in its course of development from biblical supernaturalism to the borders of deistical naturalism.

The creeds and confessions do not formulate any authoritative doctrine of angels; and modern rationalism has tended to deny the existence of such beings, or to regard the subject as one on which we can have no certain knowledge.

Of English Rationalism in the 19th Century (London, 1906), vol.

His critical principles are explained in the preface, where he dwells on the necessity of starting as much as possible from trustworthy contemporary sources, or at least from those nearest to antiquity - the touchstone by which verbal traditions can be tested being contemporary poems. He inclines to rationalism, rejecting the marvellous and recasting legends containing it in a more historical spirit; but he makes an exception in the accounts of the introduction of Christianity into Norway and of the national saint St Olaf.

He must have been a much hated man, for his latitudinarianism offended the high church party and his rationalism the other sections.

He borrows from Kant's "rationalism " the hypothesis of a spontaneous activity of the subject with the deduction that knowledge begins from sense, but arises from understanding; and he accepts from Kant's metaphysical idealism the consequence that everything we perceive, experience and know about physical nature, and the bodies of which it consists, is phenomena, and not bodily things in themselves.

RATIONALISM (from Lat.

Of rationalism is based largely upon the results of modern historical and archaeological investigation.

Rationalism within the Christian Church differs, however, from that which is commonly understood by the term, inasmuch as it accepts as revealed the fundamental facts of its creed.

Thoroughgoing rationalism, on the other hand, either categorically denies that the supernatural or the infinite - whether it exist or not - can be the object of human knowledge (see Agnosticism), or else, in the mouth of a single person, states that he at least has no such knowledge.

(i) Philosophical rationalism is that theory of knowledge which maintains that reason is in and by itself a source of knowledge, and that knowledge so derived has superior authority over knowledge acquired through sensation.

The opposition between rationalism and sensationalism is, however, rarely so simple and direct, inasmuch as many thinkers (e.g.

More generally, philosophic rationalism is opposed to empirical theories of knowledge, inasmuch as it regards all true knowledge as deriving deductively from fundamental elementary concepts.

The attack made by David Hume on the causal relation led directly to the new rationalism of Kant, who argued that it was wrong to regard thought as mere analysis.

(ii) The term "rationalism" in the narrow theological sense is specially used of the doctrines held by a school of German theologians and Biblical scholars which was prominent roughly between 1740 and 1836.

This rationalism within the Church was a theological manifestation of the intellectual movement known as the Enlightenment (Aufklarung), and must be studied in close connexion with the purely philosophical rationalism already discussed.

This is the rationalism known as rationalismus vulgaris, the period of which is practically from 1800 to 1833.

I.; Benn, History of Rationalism (1906).

It is evident that he carried rationalism in religion to an extent that seems hardly consistent with his position as a priest of the English Church.

The history of witchcraft in Europe and its attendant horrors, so vividly painted in Lecky's Rise of Rationalism, are but echoes of this universal refusal of savage man to accept death as the natural end of life.

(3) German 18th-century rationalism (see Apologetics) held that the Biblical writers made great use of conscious accommodation - intending moral commonplaces when they seemed to be enunciating Christian dogmas.

Owen, Skeptics of the French Renaissance (1893); Lecky, Rationalism in Europe (1865).

Benn, History of Rationalism (1906), ii.

The obvious way of avoiding the scepticism into which rationalism is thus driven is to revise the assumptions about the nature and postulates of truth which lead to it.

The attacks of rationalism, aided by Greek philosophy, were repelled and vanquished by the weapons of scholastic dialectic borrowed from the enemy; on most points of dispute discussion was forbidden altogether, and faith in what is written in Koran and tradition was enjoined without question as to how these things were true (bila kaifa).

Seeking to establish for himself a middle position between rationalism and supernaturalism, he declared for a "rational supernaturalism," and contended that there must be a gradual development of Christian doctrine corresponding to the advance of knowledge and science.

His work contained a measure of rationalism sufficient to arouse the suspicion of orthodox theologians, without making any valuable addition to, or modification of, the underlying doctrine.

Yet this appeal to the intelligence is not rationalism: the latter makes reason the supreme authority, rejecting all which does not conform to it; the Bible is treated like any other book, to be accepted or rejected in part or in whole as it agrees with our canons of logic and our general science, while religion submits to the same process as do other departments of knowledge.

The real close, however, is the present day - as the result of the .rationalism and science of the 18th and 19th centuries.

In 1825, with the aid of the Prussian government, he visited the libraries of England and Holland, and on his return was appointed (in 1826) professor ordinarius of theology at Halle, the centre of German rationalism, where he afterwards became preacher and member of the supreme consistorial council.

Here he made it his aim to combine in a higher unity the learning and to some extent the rationalism of J.

The only interest of the piece for us lies in the proof which it furnishes, that at the opening of his life Burke had the same scornful antipathy to political rationalism which flamed out in such overwhelming passion at its close.

It is first of all a system of complete rationalism; it is assumed, in other words, that reason is capable of mapping out the whole system of things.

Neither of these methods could do much for the historical understanding of the phenomena of prophecy as a whole, and the more liberal students of the Old Testament were long blinded by the moralizing unhistorical rationalism which succeeded the old orthodoxy.

He published at various times valuable contributions towards a history of rationalism - Vorgeschichte des Rationalismus (1853-1862), Geschichte des Rationalismus (1865), i.

As has been said, he belonged to the theocratic school, who, in opposition to the rationalism of the preceding age, emphasized the principle of authority, placing revelation above individual reason, order above freedom and progress.

As Carlyle has told in his Life of Sterling, the poet's distinction, in the eyes of the younger churchmen with philosophic interests, lay in his having recovered and preserved his Christian faith after having passed through periods of rationalism and Unitarianism, and faced the full results of German criticism and philosophy.

In 1824 he joined the philosophical faculty of Berlin as a Privatdozent, and in 1825 he became a licentiate in theology, his theses being remarkable for their evangelical fervour and for their emphatic protest against every form of " rationalism," especially in questions of Old Testament criticism.

In the protest against the scheme of "judging truth by counting noses," Shaftesbury recognized the danger of the standard which seemed to satisfy many deists; and in almost every respect he has more in common with those who afterwards, in Germany, annihilated the pretensions of complacent rationalism than with the rationalists themselves.

The compact rational philosophy of Wolff nourished a theological rationalism which in H.

Benn, History of English Rationalism in the zgth Century (1906); i.

He had already attained some repute as a critic, which was enhanced when, after travelling in Germany, he delivered as select preacher at Cambridge, four addresses against rationalism, published in 1825 as The State of the Protestant Religion in Germany.

From these sources they attempted to evolve a philosophy of religion, which would not only refute the views of Hobbes, but would also free theology finally from the errors of scholasticism, without plunging it in the newer dangers of unfettered rationalism (see ETHIcs).

His sagacity discerned that the rationalism by which Bolingbroke and the deistic school believed themselves to have overthrown revealed religion, was equally calculated to undermine the structure of political government.

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Use rationalism in a sentence | rationalism sentence examples

Posted: at 5:44 am

His dislike to rationalism in religion also made him one of the numerous opponents of Benjamin Hoadly's Plain Account of the Nature and End of the Sacrament.

The battle of his life was on behalf of personal religious experience, in opposition to the externality of rationalism, orthodoxy or sacramentarianism.

Up to the revolutionary year 1830 his religious views had remained strongly tinged with rationalism, Hegel remaining his guide in religion as in practical politics and the treatment of history.

Pericles also incurred unpopularity because of his rationalism in religious matters; yet Athens in his time was becoming ripe for the new culture, and would have done better to receive it from men of his circle - Anaxagoras, Zeno, Protagoras and Meton - than from the more irresponsible sophists.

Lauder's charge of plagiarism (1750), attacking David Hume's rationalism in his Criterion of Miracles (1752), and the Hutchinsonians in his Apology for the Clergy (1755).

His philosophical standpoint may be characterized as a reaction from the pantheistic tendency of Hegel's idealistic rationalism towards a more pronouncedly theistic position.

Criticism; and a layman, the great Lessing) took the form of " rationalism " within the church - interpreting Bible texts by main force in a way which the age thought " enlightened " (H.

While he thus created a new and more ethical " rationalism," Kant's many-sided influence, alike in philosophy and in theology, worked to further issues.

His general thought was that " rationalism " represents an uprising of the lower reason or " understanding " against the higher or true " reason."

Reference to the articles on Logic, Metaphysics, &c., will show that subsequent criticism, however much it has owed by way of stimulus to Mill's strenuous rationalism, has been able to point to much that is inconsistent, inadequate and even superficial in his writings.

Senn, English Rationalism in the XIXth Century (1906), vol.

Benn, English Rationalism in the 19th Century (London, 1906).

In Eckhart, towards end of 13th century); it is an age which also produced the rationalism of Maimonides.

Lecky, Rationalism in Europe (1865), i.

The germs of Rationalism were unquestionably present in several of Abelard's opinions, and still more so, the traditionalists must have thought, in his general attitude towards theological questions.

Aquinas is on the side of rationalism, Scotus on the side of scepticism.

In Montpellier, where he lived from 1303 to 1306, he was much distressed by the prevalence of Aristotelian rationalism, which, through the medium of the works of Maimonides, threatened the authority of the Old Testament, obedience to the law, and the belief in miracles and revelation.

Hengstenberg and his party in the Evangelische Kirchenzeitung, on account of his rationalism, his life was uneventful.

Indeed, he vigorously attacked rationalism, as distinguished from the rational principle, charging it with being unscientific inasmuch as it ignored the historical significance of Christianity, shut its eyes to individuality and failed to give religious feeling its due.

In 1830 he (with his colleague Wilhelm Gesenius) was threatened with deposition for teaching rationalism, and though he retained his office he lost his influence, which passed to F.

(1860); Romanism and Rationalism (1863); Outlines of Apologetical Theology (1867); The Doctrine of the Presbyterian Church (1876); Unbelief in the i 8th Century (1881); Doctrinal Principles of the United Presbyterian Church (Dr Blair's Manual, 1888) .

He was a convinced opponent of rationalism in religion.

Teller's writings present rationalism in its course of development from biblical supernaturalism to the borders of deistical naturalism.

The creeds and confessions do not formulate any authoritative doctrine of angels; and modern rationalism has tended to deny the existence of such beings, or to regard the subject as one on which we can have no certain knowledge.

Of English Rationalism in the 19th Century (London, 1906), vol.

His critical principles are explained in the preface, where he dwells on the necessity of starting as much as possible from trustworthy contemporary sources, or at least from those nearest to antiquity - the touchstone by which verbal traditions can be tested being contemporary poems. He inclines to rationalism, rejecting the marvellous and recasting legends containing it in a more historical spirit; but he makes an exception in the accounts of the introduction of Christianity into Norway and of the national saint St Olaf.

He must have been a much hated man, for his latitudinarianism offended the high church party and his rationalism the other sections.

He borrows from Kant's "rationalism " the hypothesis of a spontaneous activity of the subject with the deduction that knowledge begins from sense, but arises from understanding; and he accepts from Kant's metaphysical idealism the consequence that everything we perceive, experience and know about physical nature, and the bodies of which it consists, is phenomena, and not bodily things in themselves.

RATIONALISM (from Lat.

Of rationalism is based largely upon the results of modern historical and archaeological investigation.

Rationalism within the Christian Church differs, however, from that which is commonly understood by the term, inasmuch as it accepts as revealed the fundamental facts of its creed.

Thoroughgoing rationalism, on the other hand, either categorically denies that the supernatural or the infinite - whether it exist or not - can be the object of human knowledge (see Agnosticism), or else, in the mouth of a single person, states that he at least has no such knowledge.

(i) Philosophical rationalism is that theory of knowledge which maintains that reason is in and by itself a source of knowledge, and that knowledge so derived has superior authority over knowledge acquired through sensation.

The opposition between rationalism and sensationalism is, however, rarely so simple and direct, inasmuch as many thinkers (e.g.

More generally, philosophic rationalism is opposed to empirical theories of knowledge, inasmuch as it regards all true knowledge as deriving deductively from fundamental elementary concepts.

The attack made by David Hume on the causal relation led directly to the new rationalism of Kant, who argued that it was wrong to regard thought as mere analysis.

(ii) The term "rationalism" in the narrow theological sense is specially used of the doctrines held by a school of German theologians and Biblical scholars which was prominent roughly between 1740 and 1836.

This rationalism within the Church was a theological manifest
ation of the intellectual movement known as the Enlightenment (Aufklarung), and must be studied in close connexion with the purely philosophical rationalism already discussed.

This is the rationalism known as rationalismus vulgaris, the period of which is practically from 1800 to 1833.

I.; Benn, History of Rationalism (1906).

It is evident that he carried rationalism in religion to an extent that seems hardly consistent with his position as a priest of the English Church.

The history of witchcraft in Europe and its attendant horrors, so vividly painted in Lecky's Rise of Rationalism, are but echoes of this universal refusal of savage man to accept death as the natural end of life.

(3) German 18th-century rationalism (see Apologetics) held that the Biblical writers made great use of conscious accommodation - intending moral commonplaces when they seemed to be enunciating Christian dogmas.

Owen, Skeptics of the French Renaissance (1893); Lecky, Rationalism in Europe (1865).

Benn, History of Rationalism (1906), ii.

The obvious way of avoiding the scepticism into which rationalism is thus driven is to revise the assumptions about the nature and postulates of truth which lead to it.

The attacks of rationalism, aided by Greek philosophy, were repelled and vanquished by the weapons of scholastic dialectic borrowed from the enemy; on most points of dispute discussion was forbidden altogether, and faith in what is written in Koran and tradition was enjoined without question as to how these things were true (bila kaifa).

Seeking to establish for himself a middle position between rationalism and supernaturalism, he declared for a "rational supernaturalism," and contended that there must be a gradual development of Christian doctrine corresponding to the advance of knowledge and science.

His work contained a measure of rationalism sufficient to arouse the suspicion of orthodox theologians, without making any valuable addition to, or modification of, the underlying doctrine.

Yet this appeal to the intelligence is not rationalism: the latter makes reason the supreme authority, rejecting all which does not conform to it; the Bible is treated like any other book, to be accepted or rejected in part or in whole as it agrees with our canons of logic and our general science, while religion submits to the same process as do other departments of knowledge.

The real close, however, is the present day - as the result of the .rationalism and science of the 18th and 19th centuries.

In 1825, with the aid of the Prussian government, he visited the libraries of England and Holland, and on his return was appointed (in 1826) professor ordinarius of theology at Halle, the centre of German rationalism, where he afterwards became preacher and member of the supreme consistorial council.

Here he made it his aim to combine in a higher unity the learning and to some extent the rationalism of J.

The only interest of the piece for us lies in the proof which it furnishes, that at the opening of his life Burke had the same scornful antipathy to political rationalism which flamed out in such overwhelming passion at its close.

It is first of all a system of complete rationalism; it is assumed, in other words, that reason is capable of mapping out the whole system of things.

Neither of these methods could do much for the historical understanding of the phenomena of prophecy as a whole, and the more liberal students of the Old Testament were long blinded by the moralizing unhistorical rationalism which succeeded the old orthodoxy.

He published at various times valuable contributions towards a history of rationalism - Vorgeschichte des Rationalismus (1853-1862), Geschichte des Rationalismus (1865), i.

As has been said, he belonged to the theocratic school, who, in opposition to the rationalism of the preceding age, emphasized the principle of authority, placing revelation above individual reason, order above freedom and progress.

As Carlyle has told in his Life of Sterling, the poet's distinction, in the eyes of the younger churchmen with philosophic interests, lay in his having recovered and preserved his Christian faith after having passed through periods of rationalism and Unitarianism, and faced the full results of German criticism and philosophy.

In 1824 he joined the philosophical faculty of Berlin as a Privatdozent, and in 1825 he became a licentiate in theology, his theses being remarkable for their evangelical fervour and for their emphatic protest against every form of " rationalism," especially in questions of Old Testament criticism.

In the protest against the scheme of "judging truth by counting noses," Shaftesbury recognized the danger of the standard which seemed to satisfy many deists; and in almost every respect he has more in common with those who afterwards, in Germany, annihilated the pretensions of complacent rationalism than with the rationalists themselves.

The compact rational philosophy of Wolff nourished a theological rationalism which in H.

Benn, History of English Rationalism in the zgth Century (1906); i.

He had already attained some repute as a critic, which was enhanced when, after travelling in Germany, he delivered as select preacher at Cambridge, four addresses against rationalism, published in 1825 as The State of the Protestant Religion in Germany.

From these sources they attempted to evolve a philosophy of religion, which would not only refute the views of Hobbes, but would also free theology finally from the errors of scholasticism, without plunging it in the newer dangers of unfettered rationalism (see ETHIcs).

His sagacity discerned that the rationalism by which Bolingbroke and the deistic school believed themselves to have overthrown revealed religion, was equally calculated to undermine the structure of political government.

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Continental Rationalism (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

Posted: February 12, 2016 at 3:46 am

The seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries saw the heyday of metaphysical system-building, but the expression continental rationalism primarily connotes rather a set of epistemological views. By contrast to British empiricism, which traces all knowledge to sensory experience, these views emphasize a reliance on reason (ratio in Latin, hence rationalism), the resources of which are taken to be sufficient in some sense for what we know. Thus, a signature doctrine of rationalism is the doctrine of innate ideas, according to which the mind has built into it not just the structure of knowledge but even its content. Nonetheless, among the philosophers comprising the extension of the expression, metaphysical issues, particularly the ontology of substance, occupy the central place. Certainly, this is true of Leibniz and Spinoza, but also of Malebranche and other Cartesians, and even of Descartes when properly understood.

If there seems to be a gap between the connotation of the term and its denotation, this can be overcome somewhat by thinking of it in terms of Plato's divided line, which establishes a parallel between objects known and the means by which they are known. In fact, the order of objects, the ordo essendi ranging in importance down from the Good to other forms, to individual things, and to images, and the order of knowing, the ordo cognoscendi, ranging from intuition of various sorts down to sensory experience, is itself to be found in various versions among the later rationalists. The important point, in any case, is that, for the continental rationalists as for Plato, the epistemological distinctions are grounded in ontological distinctions. Or, to put it terms that reflect rationalist thinking on a number of issues, there is only a distinction of reason between the two orders. The orders of being and knowing are not really distinct; they differ only in our ways of thinking about them.

There is a good explanation of the close connection seen by the rationalists between the epistemological and ontological orders, one that also accounts for their notable reliance on reason. It derives from their answer to what Leibniz called the grand metaphysical question: why is there something rather than nothing at all? There is something because there must be something; there cannot be nothing (and this way of putting it shows the ultimate debt of the rationalists to a tradition that goes back to Parmenides). Reality, or at least some part of it has necessary existence, and that necessity is something like logical necessity. With this answer, a whole philosophical outlook falls into place. First of all, any significant role for sensory experience falls away, since what exists can be known a priori by logic alone. Causal connections tend to be viewed as logical connections; a principle of sufficient reason falls out which tends to be read as a matter of logical deduction. One result is that there is an impulse toward monism: if the ultimate cause must exist, then that for which it is the sufficient reason must also exist, and just how the two can be distinguished becomes problematic (again, the Parmenidean antecedent is clear).

This outlook was not articulated as such by any rationalist except, perhaps, Spinozaindeed most were concerned to avoid such consequences of their views. But the outlook does capture the intuitions behind the metaphysical systems they elaborated. And it certainly draws the contrast between them and the empiricists, who tended toward tychism, the view that the world is largely, or even entirely, a product of chance. On the empiricist account, the universe consists of many independent individuals, which, if they are connected, are so only accidentally, reducing causation to nothing more than a matter of constant conjunction. (This physical, metaphysical and logical atomism is in the tradition of Democritus, Epicurus and Lucretius). Under such circumstances, only experience of the world can provide knowledge of it.

While such a juxtaposition of rationalism with empiricism may be useful as an interpretive tool, it should be borne in mind that such schematic outlooks are constructions in retrospect. British philosophers in the relevant historical period were far less disconnected from the continent than they are today. (Recall Passmore's report in this regard of the newspaper announcement of fog on the English channel: continent isolated.) In the period presently under consideration, philosophical crossings from Britain were frequent and fruitful. In particular, Locke, Berkeley and Hume all crossed the Channel. In contrast, the rationalists stayed on the continent, both literally and figuratively.

The early modern period of philosophy, including continental rationalism, is generally, and correctly, supposed to have been driven by the new science to a radical departure from the Aristotelianism of the late medieval or renaissance period immediately preceding it. The mechanization and mathematization of the world demanded by the inertial physics of a moving Earth led to a revolutionary philosophy better described, at least in its rationalist version, as Platonic, or even Pythagorean. Even so, Aristotelian concepts and terminology persisted. Both were appropriated and deployed to deal with the new problems. The principal Aristotelian concept taken over by the rationalists was the concept of substance.

Aristotle's term ousia is usually translated as substance. What exactly Aristotle meant by the term is a thorny matter, much debated in the literature. His account of substance in the Categories holds individual things, which he terms proper substances, to be paradigmatic of substance. On this account, substance is best understood by analogy with a grammatical subjectit takes a predicate, and is not predicable of anything further. Thus, while animal is predicable of horse, and horse of Bucephalus, Bucephalus stands by himself, impredicable of, and hence, numerically different from anything else. Much of Aristotle's account in the Metaphysicswritten years laterseems to accord with this. However, Metaphysics (1017b1026) complicates the story. Aristotle there describes four uses of the term. He concludes by reducing these to two broad senses(1) substance as hypokeimenon, the ultimate substratum, which is not predicated of anything further; and (2) substance as formthat which makes each thing the kind of thing that it is. Indications within the text suggest that, by the time that he was giving the lectures that are collected in the Metaphysics, Aristotle regarded not individual things but the matter of which these individual things are formed, as the ultimate subject of predication. On this conception, there is some sense in which Bucephalus is himself predicable of matter. Thus, while the substance of the Categories serves as a principle of individuation, the substance of the Metaphysics is more complicated, serving both to individuate Bucephalus and Seabiscuit and to capture the connection or sameness that holds between them.

That substance should be called upon to account for both difference and sameness in the world indicates an inherent tension in the concept. Certainly, the two senses of the term substance were in tension during the seventeenth century. The momentum of rationalist argument was to resolve the tension by folding the first sense into the second: there is no real differentiation in the world, only the appearance of difference. Seventeenth century rationalists assigned to substance three roles of connection. Substance was taken (1) to connect attributes as attributes of the same thing at a time (a given shape and a given size as the shape and size of the same thing), (2) to connect them over time (the later shape and size, perhaps different from the earlier, as nonetheless the shape and size of the very same thing), and (3) to connect them as somehow related to the thing as a certain kind of thing (for the Cartesians, shape and size would indicate the thing to be of the kind extended). However, Spinoza alone among the continental rationalists fully embraced the conception of substance as a fundamental connection between things. The other members of the movement struggled to retain a notion of substance as individuator, but did so with varying degrees of success.

The rationalism of the most famous of the rationalists is problematic on two counts. First, Descartes is known as the father of modern philosophy precisely because he initiated the so-called epistemological turn that is with us still. Since Descartes, philosophy has been especially concerned with the theory of knowledge, both in itself and as it affects other areas of philosophy. Ethics, for example, has often been concerned with how the good might be known rather than with what the good might be. With his fundamental objective of achieving certainty for his beliefs, Descartes has thus been principally responsible for the incomplete characterization of rationalism as not just etymologically but essentially connected to the claims of reason. While Descartes certainly sought to justify the claims of reason and relied upon them, even for him there are corresponding ontological views that are no less important to his system.

The second problematic aspect of Descartes's rationalism is more difficult to resolve. Descartes was a radical voluntarist who thought that all truth, including what we take to be necessary truth, depends on the will of God. Care needs to be taken in how this view is expressed, for Descartes did not hold simply that what we take to be necessary in fact is contingent. He held that actually necessary truth depends on God's unconstrained will, such that even propositions that are logically contradictory might simultaneously be true. Reason itself thus seems no longer reliable, and experience would seem to be the only way of determining which of the worlds even beyond logic such a powerful and unconstrained God has created. Not many of the rationalists, even among the Cartesians, followed Descartes in this radical voluntarism, and some in recent times have seen the view as ultimately incoherent. Even so, Descartes seems to have taken the view as the basis at least of his physics, and perhaps of his whole system. Indeed, on some accounts, it was this doctrine of created truth that enabled Descartes to frame the most radical doubt hitherto conceived, when in the Meditations he entertained the possibility that he was always deceived by a mendacious deity, even when considering what appeared to him most obviously true, to wit, the existence of the simplest things that are the subjects of arithmetic and geometry. (Against this view, Margaret Wilson, 105114, observes that, in Meditation 1, God need only have the power to deceive me about the eternal truths, not to create them.) While a doubt (and a doctrine) this radical might lead one to despair of ever achieving sure knowledge, for Descartes, it was the catalyst for his discovery of the cogito, and with it, his first indubitable truththe truth of his own existence.

At every stage of Descartes's argument in the Meditations, there are ontological implications: the mind's independence of sensory perceptions (perceptions whose reliability is ultimately upset by the possibility that he is dreaming), the literally unimaginable sort of thing that a physical object such as a piece of wax must be, the existence of a veracious God, who provides a guarantee for the reliability of reason, and finally the existence of a physical world consisting of extended things. Arnauld immediately suggested to Descartes that his argument contained a circle: we can rely on reason only if we know that God exists, but we know that God exists only by relying on reason. Thus, Descartes has established the certainty only of his own existence, but nothing beyond that. Descartes thought that he had a response to this criticism, but whether he did, and how cogent it is as a rebuttal, have been perennial questions of debate among Descartes scholars. One way to understand Descartes's procedure is that while he does not claim to prove even that he exists, he does claim to show that it is unreasonable to think otherwise. That is, he shows that the argument of the skeptic fails because the consistent application of reason leads to the view not that reason is unreliable, but precisely the opposite. The skeptic might be right, but he is unreasonable. Descartes thus emerges at least as a bootstrap rationalist, in a way that mirrors the non-absolute status of his necessary truths. The rationalist connection between the orders of being and knowing is thus preserved.

But what sense can be made of the doctrine of created truth? By what kind of causality did God create the eternal (necessary) truths? In response to this very question Descartes replied that God did so in just the way that He created everything else, that He is the total and efficient cause not only of the existence of created things, but also of their essence. The eternal truths are just this essence of created things. As before, Descartes did not elaborate his answer, but, once again, he provided enough elsewhere for us to do so. It is clear that for Descartes, as for many other theologically orthodox thinkers, the existence of things results from an unconstrained exercise of God's omnipotent will to create ex nihilo. What Descartes might be saying, then, is that an eternal truth or essence is also something that is created ex nihilo. The eternal truths might thus be instances of what Descartes called substance.

In the Principles, Descartes defined substance as a thing that exists such that its existence does not depend on any other thing. He immediately added that, strictly speaking, the term applies only to God, who, as uncreated, alone depends on nothing else to exist. However, he allowed that in an extended sense it applies to things that depend only on God's creation and continuing conservation. These created substances are really distinct from other substances insofar as they are conceivable apart from each other. They do not require a subject of inherence, and are thus ontologically, if not causally, independent. These created substances are distinguished from other things, such as qualities, which not only depend on God causally, but also depend ontologically on other things, ultimately on created substances, as subjects of inherence. In this sense, a created substance for Descartes is like the hypokeimenon of Aristotle, playing both its roles, as individuator and bearer of qualities. However, with his definition of the real distinction, he built in an unintended tendency toward monisma tendency that Spinoza exploited. For Descartes, one thing is really distinct from another just in case it can be conceived apart from that other. But, if this test of independence is applied to causal relations, it produces the result that there is but one substance, God.

What types of things counted as created substances for Descartes? Clearly, he takes an individual mind to be a created substance. If a mind did not have this status, then Descartes's argument for its immortality, that it can be conceived apart from all else except God, and a fortiori from the body, would collapse. Beyond minds, however, an ambiguity appears. Although there are texts in which Descartes speaks of individual things like a piece of wax as substances, there are others that indicate that there is but a single extended substance, of which individual things are the modes. At a minimum, there is an asymmetry in his treatment of minds and material things, perhaps reflecting the tension between a hypokeimenon, accounting for difference, and the other sense of ousia, accounting for sameness. To say that Peter and Paul are substances is to say that their minds are numerically distinct; but to say that a piece of wax and piece of wood are substances might be to say that they are both extended things.

However many instances of each kind there might be, there is a dualism of two kinds of substance, according to Descartes: thinking things, or minds, and extended things, or bodies. This dualism generated two well-known problems, resolved by Descartes with only partial success. His polite critic, Elisabeth of Bohemia, wanted to know how in voluntary action the will, which is a property of the unextended mind, could have an effect on the body, given that, according to Descartes's mechanistic physics, a material thing can be affected only by what is in contact with it. Descartes replied with a rather mysterious account of how the mind and body formed a unique kind of composite.

Descartes's effort to resolve a second difficulty is more promising, and also exemplifies the rationalistic character of his thought. The problem is to show how the mind can know something such as a material thing that is different in kind from it, given a long-standing principle that only like can know like. He rejected this essentially Aristotelian principle, but still had to give an account of such knowledge. From scholastic sources, Descartes was able to construct a theory of ideas according to which to know something is to have an idea of it, the idea being the very thing known in so far as it is known. He saw the term idea as ambiguous: taken materially, it has formal reality, as a mode of the mind; taken in another sense, it has objective reality, as the thing represented. But there is no real distinction between these realities, only a rational distinction. They are really the same thing considered differently. A welcome epistemological upshot of this rationalist gambit is that Descartes has no skeptical problems generated by ideas standing as a tertium quid between the knower and what is known.

This result is indicated by Descartes's use of the term, picked up and emphasized by Malebranche, according to which there are no false ideas; every idea in this sense is materially true in that it has an object, and that is the object it appears to have. This conception of an idea is the basis for Descartes of what has been called the transparency of mind: I cannot be mistaken that I am thinking about what I am thinking about. Malebranche (whose entire philosophy was colored by his struggles with Descartes's theory of ideas), in fact, later erected such incorrigible intentionality into the fundamental principle of his epistemology. Meanwhile, Descartes's view that material or formal reality and objective reality are only rationally distinct might be taken to mean that minds are intrinsically intentional. A mind just is the sort of thing whose states are about something else. Arnauld extended this thesis, which adumbrates later thinkers such as Brentano, to include all mental phenomena, even sensations.

The battle between the Cartesians and their opponents in the latter half of the seventeenth century was one of the great struggles in the history of philosophy, but it was one in which the lines were not clearly drawn. For, although those in the Cartesian camp claimed the banner of Descartes, there were as many differences among them as between them and their opponents. Perhaps the most important difference among them hinged on whether or not they accepted Descartes's doctrine of created truth. Desgabets and his student Rgis were the most important among the few who did accept the doctrine. Along with their acceptance of the doctrine, however, came nascent tendencies toward empiricism. On the other hand, Malebranche, the most notable among the Cartesians who rejected the doctrine of created truth, developed a philosophical system with a purer rationalistic character than Descartes's own. Descartes had advised his followers to follow not him but their own reason. Malebranche, like other heterodox Cartesians, justified his differences from Descartes as the result of following this injunction. On his view, his rejection of the doctrine of created truth followed from his commitment to other, deeper views in Descartes. He thus represented himself as more Cartesian than Descartes himself.

The philosophy of Malebranche is sometimes portrayed as a synthesis of Descartes and Augustine, but a more precise way to put this relation is that Malebranche used Augustine to rectify shortcomings he perceived in the philosophy of Descartes. Chief among these was Descartes's theory of ideas, which, according to Malebranche, not only fails to reflect human beings' proper dependence on God, and, moreover, leads inevitably to skepticism. Initially, Malebranche thought that he agreed with Descartes's theory, but in the long debate over the nature of ideas he had with Arnauld, who held a close version of Descartes's theory, Malebranche came to see a need for a different account.

Not implausibly, Arnauld took Descartes's claim about the ambiguity of the term idea to mean that idea, or perception, refers to one and the same thing, a thing which stands in two different relations. Insofar as it is related to what is known, it is called an idea; insofar as it is related to the mind, it is called a perception. This (act of) perception he took to be related to the mind as a mode of it. It is at this point that Malebranche detected the threat of skepticism. What we know, indeed what we know in the most important instances of knowledge, is universal, necessary, and infinite, as in the case of certain mathematical knowledge. But nothing that is the mode of a particular, contingent and finite mind can be universal, necessary or infinite. If ideas were modes of the mind, then we would not have such knowledge; but since we do have such knowledge, ideas must be something else. Malebranche argued that the only being in which such ideas could exist is God. Following Augustine, he took ideas to be the exemplars in the mind of God after which He creates the world. This construal had the additional advantage for Malebranche of guarding against skepticism because, although idea and object are no longer identical, they are nonetheless necessarily connected as exemplar and exemplum. Even so, it remained true for Malebranche that, when we look at a material thing, what we in fact see is not that thing but its idea. This is the core of his view of vision of all things in God, which he welcomed as an indication of human beings' dependence on the deity. The immediate vehicle whereby we have such knowledge is a particular, contingent, and finite mode of the mind; but the universal, necessary, and infinite object of that mode can exist only in some other kind of being. How are these ideas known to the mind if they are not in it, at least not as modes of it? Although ideas are not innate to the mind, for that would make them modes of it, they are nonetheless always present to it. In seeking to know, whether we realize it or not, we are consulting Reason, which Malebranche identifies with the second person of the Trinity, the logos of neo-Platonic theology. Our effort to know is a natural prayer that Reason always answers. Malebranche was thus a majuscule rationalist.

As for individual substances, Malebranche clearly thought that every material thing and every mind is a substance in the sense of a hypokeimenon. But when pressed late in his life to show how this status for them comported with the rest of his system, how they could be anything but modes of a single substance, in short how he avoided the drift into Spinozistic monism, he was in fact hard pressed. In the Search After Truth, Malebranche clearly committed himself to the view that everything is either a substance or a mode. In addition, he accepted Descartes's criterion for a substance that it be conceivable apart from everything else. However, he maintained that any given portion of extension is conceivable apart from the rest of extension and is thus a substance. (Descartes did not think this, otherwise void space would be possible for him.) Since extension is conceptually divisible to infinity, Malebranche is committed to an infinite number of extended substances. Apart from the whole of extension, moreover, every substance contains an infinite number of substances, of (each of) which it is a mode. It is also a part of an infinite number of substances, which are modes of it. The explanatory value of the concept of substance would seem to have been lost with such results as these. Malebranche's view seems to be a degenerate version of Descartes's texts to the effect, surprising but coherent, that there is but one material substance, res extensa, whose modes are particular material things. Here the effect is to reverse the Aristotelian logic of substance. To say of x, a particular thing, that it is extended E, is to say not that a substance x has a property E, but that x is a mode of res extensa.

These difficulties in accounting for substance on Malebranche's part seem to derive from his Platonism. As a Platonist, he was interested less in substance as the hypokeimenon, which accounts for difference, than in its other sense of ousia, which accounts for sameness. Thus, Malebranche's skid to Spinozism is greased even when he talks about mind, the essence of which is thoughtnot this or that thought, but substantial thought, thought capable of all sorts of modifications or thoughts. Since the same substantial thought is had by all possessed of a mind, Malebranche's view smacks even of the single intellectual soul for all men of the Latin Averroists. In this sense too, then, his heterodoxy as a Cartesian is part and parcel with his deep commitment to rationalism, and in particular with his rationalistic reduction of phenomenal difference to real sameness.

The final rationalistic aspect of Malebranche's thought that deserves attention here is his theory of causation. For Malebranche, a cause is that between which and whose effect there is a necessary connection. On his view, the causal connection that is characterized by this kind of necessity is that between God's will and its effects. Thus, for Malebranche, only God has causal efficacy. What we take to be real causesfor example the motion of a billiard ball that collides with another that then begins to moveare in fact only occasional causes, the occasions for the operation of the only real cause. Given Malebranche's combined rationalistic and theological commitments, none of this is surprising. The surprise, or at least irony, comes when Malebranche's arguments that natural causeseven and especially human volitionscannot be real causes cross the channel and are deployed by Hume. The radical empiricist account of causation that Hume gave in terms of constant conjunction is just Malebranche's rationalist occasionalism without the role assigned to God. For Hume, Malebranche's occasional causes are the only causes.

The centrality of substance for the continental rationalists is further borne out by the importance of that concept for Spinoza, especially within his Ethics. Spinoza devoted the entire first part of that work to a consideration of substance, or, as he also termed it Deus sive Natura (God, in other words, Nature). The remaining parts trace the consequences of his conception of substance for epistemology, psychology, physics, and ethics. While Spinoza's account of substance is quite rightly regarded as a development and working-out of Descartes's metaphysics, there are also (as with Descartes and Malebranche) considerable, and important, differences between the two. What is important for our present purposes, however, is that, (as with Malebranche) Spinoza's departures from Descartes are almost always the manifestation of a form of rationalism purer than Descartes's own. Most radically, Spinoza replaced Descartes's substance pluralism with a monistic account modelled on Cartesian extended substance. Just as, in some places, Descartes treats bodies are mere modes of a single extended substance, so, for Spinoza, all individualsboth bodies and mindsare modes of a single substance.

Spinoza arrived at this position by way of a decidedly un-Cartesian account of attributes. While Descartes held that two substances of the same type can share the same principal attribute, Spinoza rejected this. Any two substances, argued Spinoza, must be distinguished either by their attributes (Spinoza dropped the modifier principal.) or by their modes. But, since modes are themselves both ontologically and causally dependent on the substances of which they are affections, they cannot be the individuating principle for them. Thus, it must be the attributes themselves that individuate substances (and not just types of substances, as Descartes argued). Similarly, while Descartes held that each substance is characterized by one and only one principal attribute, Spinoza invoked the principle of plenitude to show that substance must have infinite attributes. Based on a variation of the ontological argument, he maintained that substance is pure, utterly unlimited being. It must therefore, he argued, possess infinite attributes, in the dual sense of possessing unlimited attributes and of possessing all attributes. Since substance is characterized by infinite attributes, and since no two substances can share a single attribute, there can be only one substance.

Spinoza's one substance is at the farthest possible remove from Aristotle's proper substances. Whereas, for Aristotle, individual things such as Bucephalus, are paradigmatic substances, Spinoza denies their substantiality. But does this mean that, unlike Aristotelian proper substances, which are not predicable of anything else, Spinoza's finite modes are predicable of substance? Scholars are divided on this point. Curley has argued that Spinoza retains the conception of the substance-mode distinction as a distinction between independent and dependent being, but rejects the view that the substance-mode distinction correlates to the distinction between a subject of predication and its predicate. Bennett, however, argues that Spinoza does indeed regard finite modes as predicable of substance, or, as he puts it, as adjectival on the world. Bennett characterizes Spinoza's account of substance as a field metaphysic in which individual things are simply clusters of qualities within regions of space. Just as a blush is merely a confluence of properties on a region of a face, so the faceindeed, the person whose face it isis a confluence of properties on a region of substance.

Whether or not Spinoza rejected the predicability of finite modes, it is clear that he did not regard them as either causally or conceptually independent in the way that is requisite for substance. For Spinoza, substance is in itself and is conceived through itself, whereas a mode is in something else and is conceived through something else. The in itself/in something else aspect of these two definitions captures Descartes's conception of causal independence, while the conceived through itself/through something else aspect refers to Descartes's conceivability-apart criterion for ontological independence. Descartes, it will be recalled, regarded divine substance as both causally and ontologically independent, but created substances as ontologically, but not causally, independent, since they depend on God's creative (and conservative) power for their existence. It is in this sense that, for Descartes, the term substance is used equivocally for God and created substances. Spinoza, however, denied that substance is an equivocal term. In so doing, he eliminated two asymmetries in Descartes's metaphysicsthat between divine and created substance, and that between extended and thinking substance. For Spinoza, finite minds are not themselves substances, but rather modes of thinking substance. That is, for Spinoza, at the most fundamental level, all minds reduce to the thinking substance of which they are affections.

Spinoza's account of the eternal verities marks a similar rationalistic advance over Descartes's metaphysics. For Spinoza, God is just substance simpliciter. He lacks volition and personality; his only characteristics are pure being, infinity, necessity and activity. While Spinoza agreed with Descartes that God is the cause of all things, he regarded him not as a transeunt cause, creating the universe from the outside through an act of will, but as an immanent cause, from whom the universe unfolds out of his own necessity. For Spinoza, all things therefore follow by logical (and not merely causal) necessity from God's eternal and infinite nature. In this sense, not only mathematical truths but indeed such apparently contingent facts as Caesar's having crossed the Rubicon are necessary truths for Spinoza. The difference between them is not the necessity of the truths themselves but rather the route that we take to arrive at them. While mathematical truths, for instance, are deducible by reason alone, Spinoza recognized that the finitude of human understanding prevents, or at least impedes, our similarly deducing empirical facts about the world. In contrast with the empiricists, who regard cause and effect as mere constant conjunction, for Spinoza, the relationship between cause and effect has the force of a logical entailment; empirical facts are themselves necessary truths. The universe is thus, in principle at least, perfectly intelligible to reason.

For Spinoza, as for Descartes, the metaphysical commitment to substance underwrote a rationalist epistemology that strongly privileges reason and intuition over sensation and imagination. The distinctive character of Spinoza's epistemological rationalism is rooted in his principle that the order and connection of ideas is the order and connection of things. For Descartes, the mind and the body are, though intimately connected, radically heterogeneous. How it is that the mind comes to know things about the physical world therefore remains, despite his best efforts, a somewhat murky business. By rejecting the substantiality of both minds and bodies, and by regarding them both as modes of a single substance, Spinoza obviated this difficulty. For Spinoza, the mind and the body are the very same thing conceived in two different ways. Persistent clusters of qualities in space are bodies. The ideasor, in Descartes's terminology, the objective realityof these bodies are minds. Just as a single body has a corresponding objective reality, so collections of bodies characterized by various relations also have a corresponding objective reality with isomorphic parts and relations. Since there is no gap between minds and bodies, there is therefore no difficulty in principle in perceiving the physical world. On Spinoza's account, we perceive the physical world in two ways(1) by perceiving the actions of our own bodies, and (2) by perceiving the effects of other bodies on ours. Thus, when one's body runs, the correlative ideas are in one's mind. Likewise, when someone steps on one's toe, the physical effects on the toe likewise have their counterparts in the mind's ideas.

Despite the necessary connection the mind has with the body, argued Spinoza, sensation and imagination are inherently limited. The idea of substance qua substance must be a perfect unity. However, the idea which constitutes the human mind is complexnot a unity but a plurality of ideas. That idea is therefore confused, rather than clear and distinct. Clear and distinct understanding, on Spinoza's account must partake of the unity of the idea of substance, and not of the fragmentary nature of the idea of the human body and its affects. This cognitive unity is achieved in two waysthrough reason (which Spinoza termed knowledge of the second kind) and through intuition (knowledge of the third kind). When we cognize through sensation and imagination (knowledge of the first kind), we try to grasp many ideas at once, and thereby produce confusion. Reason and intuition, by contrast, provide us with access to just one ideathe substantial unity underlying our body and our mind. Reason does this from the fact that we have common notions and adequate ideas of the properties of things, while intuition proceeds from an adequate idea of the formal essence of certain attributes of God. To understand the substantial unity that is the necessary cause of our body and our mind is to grasp them sub specie aeternitatis.

This epistemological ideal forms the core of Spinoza's rationalistic ethicsand, hence, on one plausible account, the core of his Ethics. Spinoza's monism entails that the sort of individuals that Aristotle regarded as primary substances are distinguished not by their own substantial unity, but by their conatustheir striving to persist. Thus, self-preservation is not just one possible goal of ethical agents; it is the very thing that makes those agents individuals. Our essence, and our ethical task, is thus to be active, whereas, by contrast, to be passive threatens our persistence. The mind persists through activity and is threatened by passivity. It is therefore in our self-interest to pursue adequate ideas through knowledge of the second and third kinds. The more we join our minds with God through adequate knowledge of things under the form of eternity, the less we are affected by external things and, hence, by our own passions, which are nothing but our passivity in the face of forces external to us. Adequate knowledge of God gives us equanimity and calm, and literally ensures our persistence. Ethical virtue is thus fundamentally epistemological. For Spinoza, the most rationalist of figures discussed here, the good life is the utterly rational life.

As we have seen, rationalist epistemology is grounded in a metaphysical commitment to substance. The concept of substance allowed the rationalists to reduce all complexity and plurality to an underlying simplicity and unity, versus the empiricists, who, in their skepticism about substance, were committed to regarding reality as fundamentally plural and complex. Spinoza's metaphysics marked the culmination of this rationalist momentum. In Leibniz, the last great continental rationalist, we see its final movement. Leibniz, like other rationalists before him, regarded quotidian things as phenomena that ultimately reduce to perfectly simple substances. However, for Leibniz, there is an infinite number of these simple substances, each of them causally and perceptually isolated from all of the others. Leibniz reasoned that this is the best of all possible worlds because it balances the maximal possible complexity with the maximal possible order. In thus privileging neither unity nor plurality, neither simplicity nor complexity, and in striking the balance that he did on purely rational principles, Leibniz exemplified a more complex, more comprehensive and, ultimately, more mature rationalism than that of his predecessors.

For Leibniz, at the most fundamental level, reality is characterized by simple substances, or monads. Since there are composites, Leibniz argued, there must be simple substances that, together, constitute these composites. Being simple, monads have neither parts, nor extension, nor form, nor divisibility. Leibniz saw them as the true Atoms of nature. While Leibniz thus retained a strong commitment to substance, he resisted rationalism's synechistic momentum by rehabilitating substance's Aristotelian role as an individuator. However, while, for Aristotle, Bucephalus is a proper substance, Leibniz regarded Bucephalus not as a substance but as himself comprising a collection of simple substances. Leibniz agreed with Aristotle's characterization of substance as the grammatical subject of predication and not itself predicable of anything else. However, he complained that this account does not go far enough. For Leibniz, the essence of substance lies not in the fact that it is the subject of predication, but in the fact that every possible predicate may be asserted or denied of it. In this way, every individual substance has a complete concept, a conception so complete (that is, so fully determinate) that every fact about the substance, and about its situation in the universepast, present or futurefollows from it analytically. In fact, Leibniz offered a statement of this very principle as his Principle of Sufficient Reason.

Leibniz's insistence that every individual substance has a complete concept entailed that, unlike Spinoza, he regarded Cartesian thinking substance and not Cartesian extended substance as paradigmatic of substance. Descartes' extended substance (like Spinozistic substance) is, on Leibniz's account, not a substance at all since it does not afford a principle of individuation. Leibniz argued that, whereas a real substance has a complete concept, the Cartesian notion of extended substance is an abstraction arrived at through an incomplete concept. Matter on its own is insufficient to form or to constitute a substance. For Leibniz, a body could never be a candidate for substance since bodies are susceptible to alteration and are infinitely divisible. We can thus never arrive at a body of which it can be said, Here really is an entity. Moreover, whereas Cartesian extended substance is totally inert, Leibniz insisted that activity is the hallmark of substance. Anything that acts is a substance; every substance constantly and uninterruptedly acts. For Leibniz, this position follows from God's perfection. God's planning of the universe was so perfect that it only required to be set in motion by him. True substances (that is, entia per se) are active and self-causing. On Leibniz's account, God would lack all dignity were he the sole cause in the universethat is, if occasionalism or interventionalism were necessary. God's perfect planning avoids the necessity for (continual or continuous) extraordinary concourse. Thus, God's perfection entails that all substances are active; passive extension is only matter, not substance.

The activity, or appetition, that Leibniz regards as characterizing the monads is intimately bound up with his Principle of Sufficient Reason. For Leibniz, a monad contains its whole history because each monadic state (except for those statescreation is paradigmatic of thesethat are the result of divine causation) has its sufficient cause in the preceding state. In turn, the present state is the sufficient cause of all succeeding states. Despite this emphasis on the inherent activity of substance, Leibniz, like Spinoza, rejected the possibility of transeunt causation among substances. Monads are windowless and neither admit nor emit causal influence. Moreover, being thus windowless, monads can no more receive perceptions from the world than they can any other external causation. Rather, a monad's perceptions are built-in at creation. By pre-established harmony, these perceptions perfectly align with the universe's infinite monadic states. This entails that while there is no genuine transeunt causation at the monadic level, a kind of pseudo-causation results from monads' harmonized perceptions of each other as their respective appetitions convey them through successive changes. For Leibniz, causal relations thus reduce to logical relations in that every change in a substance follows from its concept.

While Leibniz's view that every substance has a complete concept reinforces the centrality of reason in his epistemology, in doing so, it seems to undercut human and even divine volition, and thereby to slide toward Spinozism. If every fact about Julius Caesar, and indeed, every other fact about the universe is rationally deducible from the Roman Dictator's complete concept, then it would seem that only one course for the universe is possible. However, this is not a step that Leibniz was willing to take. Were there no distinction between contingent and necessary truths, argued Leibniz, fatalism would be true, and human liberty of the will would be impossible. Leibniz sought to avert this result by distinguishing between hypothetical and absolute necessity. Absolute necessity, he argued, is governed by the principle of contradiction. Something is absolutely necessary if its negation is logically impossible. Hypothetical necessity, on the other hand, describes a state of affairs that is necessary ex hypothesithat is, just in case a particular antecedent holdsbut not logically necessary. On Leibniz's account, the fact that Caesar crossed the Rubicon is only hypothetically necessary; it follows necessarily from the existence of the individual substance that is Caesar, but its denial is not logically impossible. According to Leibniz, God at creation conceived of an infinite array of possible worlds. The myriad contingent facts of each of these worlds are only hypothetically necessary. That is, they would only be necessary if God were to instantiate that world. Since the present world is the one that God chose to instantiate, all of the contingent facts of this world are certain. However, they are nonetheless contingent since their negation implies no absurdity. That is, there was no logical impossibility preventing Caesar from deciding not to cross the Rubicon. In this sense, his willand, indeed, human will generallyis free. Leibniz's argument for hypothetical necessity has an obvious antecedent in Descartes's doctrine of created truth. However, unlike Descartes, Leibniz limited the doctrine's scope to contingent truths. He nonetheless hoped to avoid Spinozist necessitarianism. Whether or not he succeeded in doing so is a matter of debate in the literature.

Inasmuch as it characterizes the universe as composed of a plurality of individual existences, none of which has any genuine causal efficacy over any other, Leibniz's position shows considerable affinities with Hume's empiricism. However, while Hume inferred from this the importance of empirical experience, Leibniz instead took this ontology to preclude adventitious knowledge. He thus remained committed on metaphysical grounds to the doctrine of innate ideas. In his rejection of transeunt causation among substances, Leibniz rejected the notion that we can learn new things about the world in the sense of gaining new ideas that do not already exist in our souls. On Leibniz's account, the temporal coincidence of a certain phenomenon with one's learning of the phenomenon was pre-established at creation in the same way that all monadic states were. Leibniz admitted that it is idiomatically acceptable to speak about acquiring knowledge via the senses. However, he regarded all sensory reports as reducible to, and explicable as, descriptions of logical relations. Leibniz's theory of knowledge thus relegates the Aristotelian idea of human beings as blank slates who learn through induction to a mere faon de parler. By contrast, he strongly endorsed Plato's doctrine of recollection to the extent that it locates all knowledge in ideas already residing in the soul. Socrates's exchange with Meno's slave boy, argued Leibniz, shows that the soul already possesses the ideas upon which truths about the universe depend, and needs only to be reminded of them.

On Leibniz's account, substances have built into them perceptions of the whole universe. Every substance, he argued, is a mirror of the whole universe to the extent that everything that has ever happened or existed or will ever happen or exist are included in its complete concept. The perceptions of all substances, he maintained, thus resemble God's infinite perception in their unlimited scope. It is with respect to clarity and distinctness that the perceptions of created substance fall short of God's. For Leibniz, the best of all possible worlds is that world that balances the maximal possible complexity with the maximal possible order. The existing world satisfies this through the infinite variety of perspectives taken by the monads. By the principle of order, each monad reflects the very same world as do the other monads. However, by the principle of complexity, the monads reflect the world from an infinite number of unique perspectives. This infinite variety in perspectives entails that each monad reflects all of the others with varying degrees of clarity and distinctness. In this way, the universe is replete with an infinite number of different representations of God's works. Among these, only God's perceptions are universally clear and distinct. While the complexity requirement for the best of all possible worlds would seem to preclude in principle the possibility of human beings achieving knowledge of the universe sub specie aeternitatis, Leibniz made a special exception for human souls. On Leibniz's account, all monads have low-level perceptions, of the kind that we experience when we are in a stupor. However, the souls of living things have, over and above this, feelings and memories. Human souls have, besides this, through divine election, the power of reason. It is reason that allows us to understand the universe as a system, through the use of models and idealizations, and thereby to grasp the eternal truths. In this way, argued Leibniz, human minds are not only mirrors of the universe of created things, but indeed mirror God himself. While the rise of British empiricism, and of Kant's critical philosophy marked the end of continental rationalism as a movement, Leibniz's elegant vision was a fitting paean to the movement and, indeed, to the power of human reason.

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Continental Rationalism (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

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