Powerful Essays
Empiricists and rationalists have proposed opposing theories of the acquisition of knowledge, which appear unable to coexist. Each theory holds its own strengths but does not demonstrate a strong argument in itself to the questions, “Is knowledge truly possible?” and “How is true knowledge obtained?”. Immanual Kant successfully merged the two philosophies and provided a convincing argument with his theory of empirical relativism, or what some may call constructivism. His theory bridges the gap between rationalism and empiricism and proves that empiricists and rationalists each present a piece of the full puzzle. In order to truly understand Kant’s epistemology, one must first review and understand both empiricism and rationalism on an impartial basis.


Empiricists claim that genuine knowledge comes from experience: a posteriori knowledge. It can be difficult to argue against this point. When asked to explain even the most simple of objects, such as an apple, each description proposed is one that is associated with a previous experience. One might describe an apple to be red, round, hard and sweet. Each of these characteristics are descriptions of prior experiences. If a child who had never tasted anything sweet was asked to describe the flavor of an apple, the child wound be unable to. Without experiencing what ‘sweet’ is, it is not possible to understand it. This is true for any characteristic. If a child were to ask the meaning of the word round, an adequate description would require a explanation of something the child is familiar with in order to understand the relation. For example, “a ball is round”.

Hume draws upon the idea of building knowledge from experiences and introduces the concept of ca...

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...efs of empiricists have explained that people use experiences to understand the world around them. Meanwhile, rationalists have explained that through reason the fundamentals of knowledge can be understood. Kant’s epistemological philosophy has revolutionized philosophy as we know it today. Kant showed that the mind, through its innate categories, constructs our experience along a space-time principle. Therefore, Kant’s theory that true knowledge is obtained by reasoning based upon previous sense experiences seems to adequately address the problems evident in the controversy between rationalism and empiricism.

Works Cited

Gale, T. (2006). Immanual Kant. World of Sociology. Retrieved from

Lawhead, W. (2011). The philosophical journey, an interactive approach, fifth edition. New York: McGraw Hill.
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