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Rationalism
Rationalism
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  1. 1. Copyright © 2011 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved. Chapter 4 Rationalism, Empiricism, Kant
  2. 2. Rationalism • Reason—if it follows the right method—can reveal all the deeper truths about the universe (or at least all the truths worth knowing) • We can know essential truths through the power of pure reason • Reason can reveal absolute universal certainties • Anything less than fixed certainty does not qualify as genuine truth
  3. 3. Can Pure Reason Lead Us to Truth? • Rationalists answer in one of three ways: – “Knowledge” based on observations isn’t real knowledge at all. – Observational knowledge as is a “lower form” of knowledge: a type of knowledge that is distinctly inferior to the knowledge gained by pure reason. – The resources of pure reason—unaided by sensory observation—will eventually unlock the deep structure of the universe.
  4. 4. Isaac Newton • Drawing on the work of Copernicus, Galileo, and Kepler, Newton devised simple laws of motion that closed the divide between physics and astronomy. • Newton used careful empirical observation in establishing his principles of motion. – Showed how observations could be part of a mathematical system of basic principles of all motion, both on earth and in the heavens.
  5. 5. Results of Newton’s System • Physics and astronomy were joined in one scientific system – Led to the belief that ultimately all scientific knowledge might be unified into one great system through allegiance to a common scientific method • Mathematics and empirical observation did not have to occupy opposing realms but could exist cooperatively • We might use these methods to discover truths about not only astronomy and physics but also biology, psychology, ethics, politics
  6. 6. Empiricism • Pure reason might give us truths of mathematics and geometry; learning the truth about the world around us also requires that we use the evidence of our senses. • To gain knowledge, we must: – Make empirical observations – Run experiments.
  7. 7. John Locke • 1689: Published his empiricist manifesto, Essay Concerning Human Understanding – Seen as the clearest direct empiricist challenge to Descartes’ rationalism • Argued that we cannot avoid starting with sensory input – All our ideas must ultimately come from experience 7
  8. 8. Innate vs. Learned Structures of Language • Chomsky (1965): Language is too complex for children to learn in just a few years; we must be born with an innate template for language development • Skinner (1966): We should not fall back on claims of innate ideas or innate theories until we have thoroughly examined the possibilities of acquiring language through learned experience
  9. 9. David Hume • Reason and experience may tell us how to accomplish our goals and what paths are most likely to lead us to our desired destination. • Reason can give us no answers as to what goals are worthy of pursuit.
  10. 10. David Hume • There are profound gaps in our understanding of the basic nature of the world. – We speak confidently of knowing causes, but all we really observe is one event regularly followed by another. – We rely on the principle that the future will be like the past, using the principle of induction; this is “begging the question.”
  11. 11. Immanuel Kant • Maintained that to understand the world • around us, we must take account of our own conceptual system. – Our categories and concepts force us to see the world in a certain way – Some of what we see may be due to the categories, concepts, and perspectives we bring to our observation of the world, rather than being part of the world as it really is in itself.
  12. 12. Noumena and Phenomena • Kant distinguishes the noumena from the phenomena: – Noumena denotes reality as it exists in itself, in its essence, independent of our observation of it – Phenomena are what we actually observe, our own perceptions of the world as colored and shaped by our perceptual and conceptual apparatus
  13. 13. Analytic and Synthetic Statements • An analytic statement is true by definition, a statement in which the predicate is contained in the subject. • In a synthetic statement, the predicate is NOT contained in the subject.
  14. 14. A Priori Knowledge • A priori knowledge is knowledge that we can gain purely through reason, without • the need of observation. • Analytic truths are known a priori because they can be known to be true simply by analyzing the concept.
  15. 15. A Posteriori Knowledge • A posteriori knowledge follows or depends on experience observation; it is an empirical knowledge. • Synthetic statements are known as a posteriori.
  16. 16. Kant and A Priori Truths • Are there any synthetic statements that can be known a priori? – Can we have a priori knowledge of facts about the world purely through the use of reason? • Kant argues that there is only one way such truths could be possible: – There are truths that we know with certainty because they are built in to our conceptual and observational capacities.

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