Empiricism vs. Rationalism

Empiricism vs. Rationalism
Many philosophers consider Descartes to be the founder of modern philosophy because he believed in rationalism. Descartes and other rationalists believe that rationality is the primary source and test of knowledge. To be a rationalist, one must think in at least one of the three arguments. The intuition/deduction thesis, inherent intelligence thesis, and innate idea thesis are among them. The intuition/deduction thesis contends that intuition is a type of analytical insight. That deduction should be viewed as a mechanism through which we reach conclusions from intuited propositions using valid arguments, with the conclusion having to be true if the propositions are true. The innate knowledge thesis reaffirms the existence of knowledge gained, independently of experience. The innate concept thesis asserts that some of our concepts are part of our rational nature and not gained from experience. On the other hand, David Humes, and other empiricists believe that all knowledge must originate from sense experience. My stand I that rationalism is more realistic, easy to perceive, and more superior as compared to empiricism. Therefore, the main objective of this article is to analyze the two concepts and make a conclusion on which one is more favorable.
The quest for knowledge is a puzzling problem. We continue to try to understand ourselves, the world around us, and the way we can even be certain of the things we purport to know. Descartes tries to address these questions in his quest for knowledge, for himself, and in the hope of challenging empiricism. His search for knowledge starts with a claim of the doubt (Grundmann, and Joachim 527). Descartes doubts his body, his senses, and everything he has experienced throughout his life. The main reason for starting with doubt was to give scientific inquiry a chance to take its course. For Descartes to map out a scientific procedure, he came up with six meditations as methods. By introducing doubt, Descartes moves the Inquirer towards the removal of any error, thereby giving certainty to knowledge (Fink 20). In the second meditation, Descartes poses the question of whether he exists. His response was, “I exist.” Alternatively “I think, therefore I am.” It is important to note that even in doubting his existence and the possibility of being deceived, he still thinks. Therefore, doubt becomes the foundation on which all knowledge rests. His reasoning process was deductive. Through his meditations, Descartes can show that no independent concept, arbitrary judgment, or sense experience, can fully furnish knowledge, other than the undoubted and clear perception by the mind (Hossain 4). He is of the opinion that the perception of material things must be clear and distinct if they are to exist, and therefore any knowledge of material things founded on sense experience or empiricism is lacking.
On the other hand, David Hume and other empiricists believe that all knowledge must originate from sense experience (Malmgren 267). David Hume insists that the basis of human beings’ knowledge of facts about the world around us should be in our experience. According to Hume, to analyze a certain term, we only need to understand the meaning of the term, without necessarily learning anything about whether there exists anything in the world that the term describes (Humes 709). For example, by saying that a particular flower is red, we are simply adding a little information, which is impossible to know by simply knowing that something is a flower, hence the idea of appealing to experience ( Malmgren 292). Therefore, we are synthesizing two ideas, with one not already implied within the meaning of the other. According to Hume, all analytical judgments are a priori while all synthetic judgments are a posteriori. What he implies is that a meaningful statement can be known as true or false by definition or through experience. Therefore, statements such as ‘there is God’ are meaningless statements, as they are not true by definition, and not based on sense experience. In his assertions, Hume believes that the cause of our ideas must be materialistic substances (Humes 801). Therefore, since we can say “ there is no God” without any form of contradiction, and because the notion of God is not by any sense experience, God is not the cause of anything.
I completely support Descartes’s rationalistic theory and disagree with David Home’s theory of empiricism. The only way one can understand the world around him is by reasoning. We must first subject ourselves to a little sense of doubt, because with a claim of doubt, we start to inquire more, by deriving conclusions from intuited proposition. The derivation of conclusions can only be from valid arguments. It is important to highlight that even by doubting ourselves, we are still in the process of thinking, making reasoning a chief source and test of knowledge.
On the other hand, empirical theory bases its argument on sense experience. According to Hume’s argument, one has to experience an event to be truly knowledgeable of the event. However, one question arises when trying to defend the theory. Does it mean that without experience we have no knowledge? Do I have to experience war to be knowledgeable on issues of war? The empirical theory is therefore limited in its definition of what constitutes knowledge and test of knowledge. For example, it would seem completely useless to sit exams if we base our arguments on the empirical theory since by experiencing a lecture, a student is automatically knowledgeable. However, by basing our arguments on rationalism, through tests and exams, the lecturer gives the students the opportunity to think critically, inquire, and after that deduce and come up with the best possible solution. Therefore, rationalism is more convincing and practical as compared to empirical theory, which is shallow and seeks to deprive humanity of rational abilities.
Works Cited
Fink, Charles. God, the way, and the self. A multicultural introduction to philosophy.
Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company, 2002.
Grundmann, Thomas, and Joachim Horvath. Thought experiments and the problem of deviant
realizations. Philosophical Studies, vol. 170, no. 3, 2014, pp. 525-533.
Hume, David. An inquiry concerning human understanding. Hacket Publishing Company, Inc.
Hossain, Anayet. A Critical Analysis of Empiricism. Open Journal of Philosophy, vol. 4, no. 3,
2014, pp. 1-6.
Malmgren, Anna-Sara. Rationalism and the content of intuitive judgments. Mind, vol. 120, no.
478, 2011, pp. 263-327.

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