Rationalism and Empiricism

1485 Words6 Pages
Rationalism and Empiricism

Rationalism and Empiricism are most likely the two most famous and intriguing schools of philosophy. The two schools deal specifically with epistemology, or, the origin of knowledge. Although not completely opposite, they are often considered so, and are seen as the "Jordan vs. Bird" of the philosophy world. The origins of rationalism and empiricism can be traced back to the 17th century, when many important advancements were made in scientific fields such as astronomy and mechanics. These advancements were most likely the basis for a sudden philosophical argument: What do we truly know? People wondered whether science was really giving us knowledge of reality. The quest for the answer to this question led to the development of these two schools of philosophy. Two of the most famous philosophers of epistemology are Rene Descartes and David Hume, the former being a rationalist, and the latter an empiricist. In this paper I will attempt to give an understanding of both rationalism and empiricism, show the ideas and contributions each of the men made to their respective schools, and hopefully give my personal reasoning why one is more true than the other.

Rationalism was developed by several important philosophers all around the 17th century. Descartes, Spinoza, and Leibnitz are all given credit for developing rationalism. Rationalism is the idea that reason and logic are the basis of knowledge. It says that knowledge is innate, and that it cannot come from sources such as the senses. Rationalists believe that we are all born with a means of obtaining truth and knowledge. Empiricism also came about in the 17th Century, mostly through the ideas of the philosophers Locke and Bacon. Although...

... middle of paper ...

... I have to give rationalism the edge. I would have liked to been able to choose one of the schools to believe in, but at least it seems that I am in the majority when I say that I am somewhere in between. In fact, Francis Steen, from the University of California, says, "the distinction between empiricism and rationalism has become largely meaningless, like two aspects of the same coin that have fused into a sphere."


Works Cited

Descartes, Rene. Discourse on Method and Meditations on First

Philosophy. Trans. Donald A. Cress. Hacket Publishing

Company, Inc. 1998.

Hume, David. An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding. Antony

Flew, ed. Chicago. Open Court Publishing Company. 1988.

Steen, Francais F. Empiricism Vs. Rationalism. Department of English,

University of California, Santa Barbara. Mar 20, 2001
Open Document