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Views of KnowledgeRationalism
Rationalism- The
belief that reason,
without the aid of
sensory perception, is
capable of arriving at
some knowledge, or
undeniable truths
Rationalism’s Claims
We do not rely on
sensory experience for
some of the
fundamental knowledge
we have
Some of our knowledge
depends solely on our
mental processes
Ex. Mathematicians use
only a pencil, paper
and reason
“A Priori” Knowledge
“A priori” knowledgeunderlies our understanding
of the universe; knowledge
obtained before/without the
All other knowledge depends
on “A priori” knowledge
Most rationalists agree that
some knowledge is obtained
through the senses, but
contend that knowledge can
also be acquired through
reason alone
Eastern Philosophy
Shankara (788-822)
Concept of “sublation”the process of correcting
an error about reality
when it is contradicted by
a different, more correct
understanding of reality
Mirages, dreams and
hallucinations are
corrected by the senses
Ultimate reality is
Other Rationalists
St. Augustine
Rene Descartes
Anne Conway
Benedict Spinoza
Gottfried Leibniz
George Hegel
Descartes: Doubt and Reason
because of the
turbulent times in
which he lived
(Protestant Revolution,
Church beliefs cast
into doubt, Copernicus
& Galileo challenged
Descartes: Doubt & Reason
He had trouble trusting anything and
began to systematically doubt everything
The only truth left was that he exists
Descartes: All genuine knowledge is
derived solely from reason without the aid
of the senses
Descartes used reason alone to explain
the existence of God, the outer world, his
own body and other individuals
Descartes’ Distinctions
We know what things are by “intuition”, or
perception of the mind, but our
perceptions can either be confused or
clear and distinct
CLEAR= know the nature/essence so well
we can identify it
DISTINCT= can distinguish it from other
Innate Ideas
How does the mind arrive
at knowledge without
using the senses?
“Innate ideas”-ideas present
from birth
Examples of innate ideasbasic principles of logic,
math & science; both
propositions and
The shortest distance between 2 points is a
straight line
Every event has a cause
Nothing comes from nothing
Point, line, straight
All these cannot be observed, so they must
come from the mind!
Gottfried Leibniz (1646-1716)
Leibniz-the mind at birth
has inclinations,
tendencies to form
ideas- as people mature,
these tendencies turn
into fully formed ideas
Objections to Rationalism
How can we have knowledge in our minds
if we are not aware of it?
Isn’t to know something to believe it?
How can we believe something without
being aware of it?