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Compare the respective approaches of rationalism and empiricism towards a theory of knowledge Rationalism

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Compare the respective approaches of rationalism and empiricism towards a theory of knowledge Rationalism Rene Descartes was the main rationalist. He said he believed he had to doubt everything known to him to really understand knowledge. Rationalism first began in Ancient Greece with two extreme rationalists - Parmenides and Zeno. Rationalists believed in innate ideas - ones that are present at birth, in the mind. When Descartes started his thoughts, it was in the 17th century, during the rise of science. Descartes decided to set up a new system of knowledge to replace the knowledge of the church. This is where Descartes introduced his 'Method of Doubt'. In his 'Method of Doubt', he couldn't question every single object, so concentrated on three main things: * The Senses * Physical Bodies * Maths and The Sciences He said he could doubt all by the following explanations * The Senses - can be deceived - e.g. Optical Illusions, you think you can see something when it's not there * Physical Bodies - dreaming - e.g. do you know you are awake now? Or are you dreaming? * Maths and The Sciences - Descartes couldn't think of a valid reason, so blamed an Evil Demon. ...read more.


John Locke was one who thought that at birth a mind is like a blank slate, and everything knowledge we know, comes through our senses and is presented on this. It is like, we see a horse, we see a horn, and we can put both of them together and form a unicorn in our mind. We can do this with all things from our knowledge that has come from the senses Locke said that all ideas were acquired from experience, and there were two types, i) Ideas of sensation - input from the senses, e.g. seeing, smelling, etc ii) Ideas of reflection - different operations of the mind, e.g. thinking, believing, etc He also believed there were primary and secondary qualities. * Primary - really exist in the bodies themselves, e.g. shape, body and basic impressions * Secondary - produce ideas in the mind, which aren't in the object, e.g. taste, temperature, etc The above ideas were to try and distinguish between appearance and reality. Locke thought knowledge could be of certain types, e.g. black can be contrasted with white. With this, Locke considered three types of knowledge, i) Intuitive This is the most certain form of knowledge, because it is most obvious and hard to doubt, e.g. ...read more.


This is known as induction. We assume that knowledge can be projected into the future, but we have no right to think that. In conclusion, you can see that rationalists and empiricists have very different views. It is easy to see the difference - those who see knowledge comes from the mind and those who see it come from the senses. Although they both have very different views, John Locke - one of the early empiricists - had ideas very similar to those of rationalists. We see that in his description of the three types of knowledge, he states that the knowledge he says the knowledge in which we rely on own senses, is actually less reliable than that of when we use our thoughts - which is a very rationalist thought. Although, further into the future of empiricism, these works of the earliest, have now been seen as the most certain type rather than uncertain as John Locke stated. Empiricists and rationalists, is it absolutely certain, have very different views, but what we really want to know is, which is true to us now? Where does our knowledge come from - our thoughts, or through our senses? Amandeep Gill 12IT - Mr Sutch - Comparing Rationalism and Empiricism 1 ...read more.

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