The Ideals of Rationalism

1188 WordsSep 15, 20135 Pages
The Rationalists are right to claim that knowledge is a priori and depends primarily on reason. Discuss. There is not one definition of rationalism because it means so many different things. The Rationalists believe that knowledge is gained a priori or independently of experience. You know that 4 + 3 = 7, and that this won’t change wherever or you go to another country or to the moon. Knowledge of the world is gained through rational intuition (clear and distinct idea) and reasoning & understanding. A priori knowledge can be a hundred percent certain and is necessarily true. A priori can be divided into four types: Prior to experience, which means that you have the knowledge before any experience. This is innate knowledge.…show more content…
Descartes’ Wax example is a good example of how our a priori knowledge depends on reason. You know about wax, that it is yellow, doesn’t have any smell, hard, solid, tasteless and scratchable etc. and that it gets squashy and lighter when warmed up. These sense experiences alone cannot account for our understanding because it is just a stream of incoming data. This proves that the mind must have innate abilities to form understanding when sense data is fed into it. It is the same with another example of Descartes about people in the street seen from above. His claims are that our sense experience tells us that there are hats and coats moving below. Our reasoning and understanding tells us they are people. In my opinion Rationalists are not always right to claim that knowledge is a priori and depends primarily on reason. In my opinion, you need to experience certain things before you can reason and understand it. For instance, if you haven’t been to the Isle of Wight Festival, but you know what kind of music the bands are playing and you know what people are going, it doesn’t make you know what the festival is like. This makes me closer to empiricism. On the other hand, though empiricism says that you know that 3 + 4 = 7 because you were taught this, I believe you have this is a priori knowledge primarily because of reason. I believe the
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