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Paper Topic:

The Debate between Rationalism and Empiricism with reference to contemporary views on the matter

Rationalism Vs . Empiricism

Epistemology is a branch of philosophy that studies the nature of human knowledge . It is concerned with deeply abstract issues such as what is consciousness ? what is experience ? what does it mean to know ? how reliable is human perception ? what are the limits of human knowledge and understanding ? The main issue in epistemology during the age of Enlightenment was the method in which knowledge is acquired , and the significance of reasoning and sense perception in the process . There were rationalists , philosophers such as Descartes , Spinoza and Leibniz who

stressed on the role of deductive reasoning based on axiomatic principles . For empiricists such as Bacon and Locke , the origin and basis of knowledge was sense perception . The two dominant approaches to epistemology , rationalism and empiricism , differ sharply with regard to what constitutes the actual source of knowledge

Rationalism says that knowledge can be obtained deductively by reasoning . Empiricism says that knowledge can be attained inductively from sensory experiences . Empiricism put all its emphasis on human observation and experience , and was oriented primarily towards practical research . Rationalism put thought , reason and the process of acquiring knowledge in the focus (Lazerowitz , Ambrose 185

The term "Rationalism " derives from the Latin term ratio "reason , and is generally understood to refers to the view that all truth has its origins in human thought , unaided by any form of supernatural intervention or an appeal to the experience of the senses . The phrase "the autonomy of human thought " is sometimes used to refer to this position , which stresses that human beings , by due and proper use of their natural ability to reason , may develop a series of truths which are universal and necessary . Rationalists posit a special mental faculty known as intellectual intuition (Carruthers 113 . Rationalism often appeals to the notion of "innate ideas " meaning ideas which appear to be naturally implanted within the human mind

The origins of an exclusive appeal to reason lie in a desire to break free from any dependence upon divine revelation for reliable human knowledge of the truth . theless , many rationalist philosophers had religious leanings and argued that the existence of God could be defended purely on rational grounds (Joad 112 . The most important of the rationalists were Descartes and Leibniz , who are generally regarded as the most significant philosophers of rationalist thought . Descartes constructed an argument for the existence of God , which makes no reference to either the experience of the human senses or any truth which is derived from supernatural revelation . Descartes was a skeptic who did not trust the authenticity of sensory perceptions . Descartes refused to allow human experience or sense perception to have any decisive role in the formation of human knowledge . Scientific exploration and investigation of the world held no significance in his approach , as he declared that knowledge derived from sense perceptions could be of no genuine significance . At the same time , the traditional approach to the understanding of God based on divine revelation was also discounted

For Descartes and Leibniz , the...

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