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Rationalism Vs Empiricism Essay

In this paper I will discuss the similarities and differences between Rene Descartes and John Locke, David Hume and Plato. They believe in rationalism or empiricism respectively. Rationalist believed that an important group of fundamental concepts are known intuitively through reason, opposite to experience. For rationalist, the knowledge is innate and that it can?? t come from sources such as the senses. They are well known as Descartes, Plato. Empiricist argued that all ideas tracer ultimately back to experiences, such as sense perceptions and emotion. ?°No ideas or concepts without impression or sense.?

± (Hume?? s dictum) And our minds begin as blank. For empiricists, knowledge can only process the ideas experience gives us. Knowledge is also founded on contingent truths (those that can be false and true); necessary truths are only good for organizing our ideas, as in mathematics, but that is all. There are no innate ideas in empiricism; all of our ideas are built up from our experience. They are well known as Hume, Lock and Berkeley. All of them try to find answers to the same metaphysical and epistemological questions. Some of these questions are ? °What is knowledge?? ± ?

°Is there certainty knowledge?? ± and ? °Does God exist?? ± As a rationalist, Descartes believes that reason forms the basis of our knowledge and an important group of fundamental concepts. Descartes says these concepts are innate ideas, the most important of theses including the ideas of oneself, infinite perfection, and causality. In the ? °Discourse on Method and the Meditations? ±, Descartes says ? °I must rid my self of all the opinions I had adopted up to then, and begin afresh from the foundation, if I wished to establish something firm and constant in the sciences?

± (Descartes 95). Descartes through a series of doubts to supposes that there is some kind of evil deceiver that leads him to a state of universal doubt. He believes that we should ask what it would mean to know about reality, and to examine what reality meat. He thinks that unless we know first whether our belief-itself is justified we can?? t conclude anything about reality. To determine whether our beliefs are justified, we have to be able to trace them back to a statement, belief, or proposition that can not be doubted Descartes is suspicious of thinking has come to believe.

Therefore, he begins doubting of everything because he wants to become mature enough to deal with this great task. According to Descartes we can?? t be sure that we really exist. After all, we could be dreaming the entire thing. In the first meditations Descartes have realized that he is often convinced when he is dreaming that he is sensing real object. He feels certain that he is awake and sitting by the fire, but reflects that often he has dreamed this very sort of thing and has been convinced by it. Descartes also not should about that mathematical proposition such as 2+2=4 or triangle has 3 side are true or not.

It may see as to us as true might they be false. But one thing he believed that exists is what we are thinking. Thinking proves that we exist at least as a mind or thinking thing regardless of possession of body. The body is not an essential part of self because we can doubts its existence in a way that we can?? t doubts the existence of mind. Therefore he says that I know one thing clearly and distinctly, namely, that I exist because I think. He said ? °So after considering everything very thoroughly, I must finally conclude that this proposition I am, I exist, is necessary true every time that I pronounce I or conceive it in my mind.?

± Descartes also mention that all things in the world are substance. Since the substance are ideas that are not base on the sensation, they are must be innate idea. In his third meditation he says, ? °I know that even bodies are not? ­perceived by the senses, or by the faulty of imagination, but by the intellect alone? ± (Descartes 69). He believed that for every human, we all have innate ideas in our soul. This definitely follows the definition of a rationalist. We know that block of wax to be the same things even though their sensible appearances might change dramatically.

In order to be certain that we are not deceived when we claim to know something, of there is such a god, we can have knowledge, since the senses can not be trusted to prove that god exist, only a roof based on the principle of the fact that ? ° I think? ±, therefore, ? °I exist.? ± But the ? °I? ± who exists could be obviously imperfect because ? °I? ± doubt everything. If I were perfect I would not doubt. To know that I am imperfect in virtue of myself, therefore there must be a perfect substance god who exists in term of which my own imperfect existence is intelligible.

According to Descartes god is supreme, eternal, infinite, omniscient, and the universal creator of all things. Therefore, god is an infinite, which means god is real. He also thinks that god is independent and immutable. We can believe that are external to the mind. However, since only those object that know in the terms of mathematical properties not those imagines by use of the sense can be known clearly and distinctly, the only knowledge we can have then is of things understood as function of law of physic.

The objects we see are not the object that we know, because what we know is intelligible only in term of the clarity and precision of physics. Information provides by the sense can?? t therefore be the basis of knowledge. Hume is the empiricism philosopher who believes that all knowledge comes from experience or what he called ? °perceptions.? ± These perceptions can put into two categories: impression and ideas. Hume draws a distinction between impression and thought or ideas. Impression is more forceful, livelier and vivid perception for the beliefs in the existence of a corresponding objective reality.

Idea is simply copies of impression. Therefore, ideas are derive from the sensory experience. Hume also claims two kinds of knowledge relations of ideas and matters of fact or reasoning gain from perceptions. Both Hume and Descartes agree there is certain knowledge. For Hume, the relations of ideas are certain. The relations of ideas are known simply by the operation of though. They are true in the nature of the ideas themselves. Hume says, ? °Propositions of this kind are discoverable by the mere operation of though.? ± (Hume 71) They are ? °intuitively and demonstrably? ± certain. For example, it is mathematical true for ?

°2+2=4? ±. The matters of fact are known by observation, memory and cause/effect reasoning. ?°The contrary of every matter of fact is still possible to be true if no contradiction is involved.? ± (Hume 71) Hume tries to discover the source of the ideas of cause and effect. Hume says that for all effects there is a cause and not all cause is responsible for the effects occurrences. Hume says that we do acquire the idea of cause and effect by remembering past occasions when this kind of cause was followed by this kind of effect. Memory only gives us information about the events in the past.

It doesn??t tell us that the same things are going to happen again. Since there is nothing about the cause itself that tell us the effect will follow, the knowledge of causes and effects relation is not received a priori. We have to learn the event will follow by another experience. To Hume, people take simple idea turn into complex idea. For example, we need to learn how to spell words first then we can put them into sentences. Both Descartes and Hume made excellent arguments for their beliefs, and both schools of philosophy became quite popular, and have been ever since. As an empiricist John Locke rejects Descartes??innate ideas.

Locke believes that if we did have innate ideas, it would be impossible for us to not be aware of them or to perceive them. If innate ideas were imprinted upon us then it would be impossible for us to be ignorant of them (Locke 56-57). If there are innate ideas, then they should be same present in everyone (Locke 59). Locke uses the example of children and idiots to show that not all ideas are same and therefore, there isn?? t innate idea. If there were innate ideas then everyone would have them from birth, and it is obvious to Locke that children and idiots do not have these same ideas (Locke 59-62).

Since there is no same consent, then the ideas are not innate. As an empiricist, Locke believes that experience is the basis of all knowledge. He believes that we should not demand certainty when all we will get is probability (Locke 57-58). He argued that our mind is a blank paper when we were born. There is nothing inside our mind. He reduced the knowledge into two fountains which are sensations which provides knowledge of external world and reflection which provided knowledge of the mind. The first fountain of knowledge is the senses, which are all the ideas that we consider sensible qualities.

He says that all of the ideas that come into our mind through sense perceptions are called sensations. These sensations can also be called external senses such as taste, smell, heard, touch, saw and etc… The second fountain of knowledge is reflection, or perceptions of the operations of our own minds. Reflection has to do with considering the operations within your own mind and seeing how it affects your mind and comes into your understanding. He then says that sensation and reflection are the only two ways that ideas can come into the mind.

Experience is important, and without it, we might not have any ideas at all. He says that everyone that is born with a physical body gains ideas through sensation experiences and that adventitious ideas are simple sensations. Light, colors, sounds and tangible qualities come into the mind through the senses. In order to have an idea of something, such as colors; you must have an experience of it. People have different levels of knowledge. One reason is that people have different experiences. Some people might have more or less experiences, or different levels of intensity of the experience.

Some experiences have little affects on people, and some have large affects. The second reason is that people have different attentiveness of their perceptions. Some people pay more or less attention to their perceptions, giving them different levels of experience. Lock and Descartes both talk about the God. To Locke, he believes that our idea of God comes from experience. We get the idea of God by reflecting and reasoning upon existence, duration, pleasure and knowledge. We imagine a perfect amount of what is good.

These simple ideas of infinity, power, wisdom, existence and duration are enlarged and applied to God. We can continue to enlarge these characteristics and apply them to God. As a rationalist, Plato?? s main focus was the relationship between the ideal concept of knowledge and the human conditions for attaining knowledge (the “culture of knowledge”) in Plato’s epistemology. At the outset, Plato seems to define knowledge by reference to ontological categories: knowledge is getting in epistemic touch with the ideas. Our epistemic modes, limited by perception as we are, seem most deficient compared to this ideal.

However, closer examination of this issue, as the conference-papers brought out, shows that Plato had a more positive understanding of (what we are calling) the “culture of knowledge” and that he was aware of the interdependence of the ideal and the culture of knowledge. For Plato, knowledge seems to be the ideal outcome of educational and philosophical procedures available to us. This ideal surpasses any of the stages we may actually reach. Also, we need a grasp of the ideal before we embark on the philosophical quest for knowledge.

Therefore, the concept of knowledge cannot just consist in an extrapolation of our epistemic practices. On the other hand, since the point of an ideal concept of knowledge is to motivate us towards philosophical enquiry and guide us in this enquiry, it must be a concept that we can grasp in our “deficient” condition. In the conclusion, I feel that the rationalism is more agreeable but I also agree some of the empiricism. The reason that I agree with rationalism because I think we must have some idea in our mind when we was born.

I think that there should be something inside our mind which gives us a force to experience our first experiment. The something inside our mind I believe that is our innate ideas which give by the god. I also believe that experience give our knowledge. We don?? t anything when we were born. We gain different knowledge through the learning and perceptions. The experiences do give our knowledge but not like the innate knowledge which gives by god can never be false. So, I think that we without the innate ideas we can?? t gain other knowledge.


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