Empiricism Versus Rationalism: Descartes and Hume

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Rationalism and empiricism have always been on opposite sides of the philosophic spectrum, Rene Descartes and David Hume are the best representative of each school of thought. Descartes’ rationalism posits that deduction, reason and thus innate ideas are the only way to get to true knowledge. Empiricism on the other hand, posits that by induction, and sense perception, we may find that there are in fact no innate ideas, but that truths must be carefully observed to be true.
Unlike one of empiricism’s major tenets, Tabula Rasa, or blank slate, Descartes believed that the mind was not a blank slate, but actually came pre-loaded, if you will, with ideas, which are part of our rational nature and that our rational nature allows us to grasp . Descartes begins his journey deep within his own mind by claiming that all truths can be conceived by thinking about them. He calls his method cogito or pure reasoning. His famous words “I think, therefore I am,” describes the way that he thinks the mind is the true reality with the rest of reality being an extension. His example to prove thi...

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