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Reply to at least two other student Discussion postings in at least 100 words. For this Discussion, you must post first before you will see the postings of your classmates. 

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  • What did you learn from the other student’s post?
  • What can you add to their Discussion post?


Rationalism vs. Empiricism

The dispute between rationalism and empiricism has been taken to concern to the extent to which we are dependent upon experience in our effort to gain knowledge of the external world. There are three major experiences humans can do which are, sense experience, involving our five world-oriented sense, and reflective experience which is the conscious awareness of our mental operations (Stanford, 2004). The distinction between the two is drawn primarily by reference to their objects, which are the sense experience allows us to acquire knowledge of external objects, whereas our awareness of our mental operations is responsible for the acquisition of knowledge of our minds.

Now, let us jump right into rationalism. Rationalists vary the strength of their understanding of warrant. Some people take warranted beliefs to be beyond the slightest doubt ad claim that intuition provide beliefs of this high epistemic status (Stanford, 2004). Others on the other hand are more conservatively, as belief beyond a reasonable doubt and claim that intuition provide beliefs of that caliber (Stanford, 2004). Most forms of rationalism involve notable commitments to other philosophical positions. One of the commitments is to the denial of skepticism for at least some area of knowledge. However, many times we try to claim to know some truths by intuition or deduction or to have some innate knowledge, we obviously reject skepticism with regard to those truths.

Moving on to Empiricism and how the two differ from each other. Empiricism has the same intuition/deduction thesis, but it is in a more restricted sense than the rationalists, which means this thesis applies only to relations of the contents of our minds, not also about empirical facts which are learned from the external world. So, insofar as we have knowledge in the subject, our knowledge is gained but not only triggered by our experiences, but they are sensorial or reflective (Stanford, 2004). Now, experience is our only source of knowledge because what you get through experiences is emotions, thoughts, and feelings, which then all trigger the bad reasoning or good reasoning behind the next time you choose to do it or experience it. So, they reject the corresponding version of the Superiority of reason thesis which is the reason alone that does not give us any knowledge, it certainly does not give us superior knowledge. This is a great example of what we are talking about, when people have not experienced what others have experienced, it is hard to feel any sympathy or relate to them because they simply have not experienced it. I used to judge other parents (sometimes) on their parenting because of certain things they would “allow” until I had my own child and realized how wrong I was before I had my own.

Finally, let us get in to Critique of Pure Reason. For, rationalism he draws the idea that pure reason is capable of significant knowledge but rejects the idea that pure reason can tell us anything about things in themselves and with empiricism he draws the idea that knowledge is essentially knowledge from experience but rejects the idea that we can infer no necessary and universal truths from experience which is also Hume’s conclusion.


“Epistemology is the theory of knowledge, especially with regard to its methods, validity and scope. It is the investigation of what distinguishes justified belief from opinion”. The word comes from the Greek words “episteme” or knowledge, understanding or acquaintance and “logos” or account, argument or reason. Epistemology is the study of the origins of our knowledge and asks questions such as “Do we know things?”, “How do we know things?” and “When do we know things?”. This theory attempts to explain whether knowledge is naturally occurring or if it is a process based on the everyday experiences that people have. Both rationalists and empiricists had their own unique and different approaches to epistemology. Rationalists believed that knowledge is best gained through our rational capabilities or our intellectual reasoning while empiricists on the other hand believed that knowledge is gained from our experiences of the senses. Some famous rationalists were Plato and Descartes who believed that genuine knowledge is discovered by using our “reasoning abilities, independent of sense experience.” (Chaffee). These different approaches to epistemology were a big reason behind Aristotle’s disagreement with Plato. Aristotle on the other hand, was an empiricist who believed that we gain knowledge through using reason. After many years and many philosophers including John Locke, Bishop George Berkeley and David Hume (also known as the “British empiricists”), trying to figure things out, they all collectively agreed that there was no way to prove that this external reality existed apart from our personal experience of it. At the end of the day, this responsibility  was left to German philosopher Immanuel Kant. Immanuel Kant made such an impact in the history of philosophy that philosophies today are either pre-Kantian or post-Kantian (Chaffee). It seemed as if Kant had come right in time as the biggest controversy was happening in the history of philosophy. He had began to address the previous philosophies and was ready to establish a new theory of knowledge that would serve as a basis for modern science. This theory though, had to also include “a priori knowledge” (Chaffee) which Kant considered metaphysical as it is based on reason, independent of sense experience and also math, logic, knowledge of the self and more. In Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, Kant investigates how the human mind constructs a knowable word. He starts off using scientific knowledge about how the mind actively works to construct reality as an active passive process, which is known as perception. According to Kant, the mind selects, organizes, and interprets experience to construct a unified view of the world. In this, he acknowledges both rationalistic and empiricist ideals by acknowledging that yes, knowledge comes from experience but not ALL knowledge. He supports this by talking about the minds role in perspective and the science behind it all and both the aposteriori experience and the a prior knowledge in humans.

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