300 - Rationalism vs Empiricism - Summary and History

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Rationalism vs. Empiricism – History and Summary What is reality really like? A current running through much of the philosophical thinking around the time of Socrates and Plato was that there is a difference between how the world appears and how it is. Our senses reveal one layer of reality but it is our minds that penetrate deeper. The world of appearances is a world in flux but underneath there must be a stable reality. For there is much that is unchanging. We recognise kinds of things – badgers, daffodils, mountains – and whilst members of these kinds are born, change and die, and differ from one another in ever so many ways, the kind-defining essence doesn't change. We see here the key rationalist idea that knowledge is a priori…show more content…
The synthetic truths are the contingent truths. So what happens to interesting necessary truths, such as God exists or nothing exists without being caused to exist? Hume argued that if these weren't analytic – and they aren't – they aren't necessary. We feel that they are necessary and this is all necessity is: a psychological property. When we say that X caused Y, we think we have said something about the universe. We think we have seen an example of a law of nature (e.g. the water in the bucket froze because it was cold exemplifies the law water freezes at 0oC). Science investigates these laws. Hume said that causation was "all in the mind". We see one thing after another and when we've seen instances of a regularity enough, we develop the feeling that one thing must be followed by the other. Hume, like Locke, emphasised how all we can be certain of are our impressions – how the world seems. Scientists are really investigating how the world appears: they can never be certain that the world really is the way it appears. So, empiricism seems to lead straight to scepticism about the external world. Kant objected strongly to this. Science really is studying the external world and there really is an external world for it to investigate. Kant brought about a revolution in philosophy (he called it a "Copernican revolution). He argued that the empiricists and rationalists were both right and wrong. The Empiricists

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