Rationalism or Empiricism?

  1. Philosophy Forum
  2. » Epistemology
  3. » Rationalism or Empiricism?

Get Email Updates Email this Topic Print this Page

Reply Sun 11 May, 2008 05:42 pm
Just a question (and a conversation starter) - who here is a rationalist and who is an empiricist and why?

I consider myself a rationalist, as I see certain shortcomings in the empiricist viewpoint. For example, math is one field of study that empiricism fails us and where only logic and reasoning can carry us forward. I am, however, against the blatant abuse of apriorism, as we often see with the religious (i.e. cosmological argument).
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Sun 11 May, 2008 05:49 pm
@krazy kaju,
krazy kaju wrote:
Just a question (and a conversation starter) - who here is a rationalist and who is an empiricist and why?

I consider myself a rationalist, as I see certain shortcomings in the empiricist viewpoint. For example, math is one field of study that empiricism fails us and where only logic and reasoning can carry us forward. I am, however, against the blatant abuse of apriorism, as we often see with the religious (i.e. cosmological argument).


But,you can be an Empiricist, and think that some knowledge (e.g. mathematical) is a priori. David Hume was. Of course, he thought that a priori knowledge was not knowledge of "real existence" (i.e. existence outside of the mind).
I don't think that the Cosmological argument is an a priori argument. It begins with an empirical premise, there is a universe, and concludes with the empirical conclusion that God exists. You may be thinking of the Ontological argument.
 
krazy kaju
 
Reply Sun 11 May, 2008 05:54 pm
@krazy kaju,
Doesn't the cosmological argument deduce God's existence out of the existence of the universe? Wouldn't this essentially be an a priori argument?

I was under the impression that a priori arguments can have an empirical observation at their base.

As for Hume, I do believe that a priori knowledge is knowledge of "real existence." We can see this today in economics, where many economic theorems have been thought of a priori, not a posteriori. The philosopher/economist Ludwig von Mises wrote on the subject a lot.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Sun 11 May, 2008 06:12 pm
@krazy kaju,
krazy kaju wrote:
Doesn't the cosmological argument deduce God's existence out of the existence of the universe? Wouldn't this essentially be an a priori argument?

I was under the impression that a priori arguments can have an empirical observation at their base.

As for Hume, I do believe that a priori knowledge is knowledge of "real existence." We can see this today in economics, where many economic theorems have been thought of a priori, not a posteriori. The philosopher/economist Ludwig von Mises wrote on the subject a lot.


All deductive arguments are a priori in that deduction is a priori inference. But since the Cosmological argument begins with an empirical premise, it is not considered an a priori argument. On the other hand, the Ontological argument begins with an a priori premise, that God is a being such that no greater can be conceived (a kind of definition) and reaches, by deductive inference, an a priori conclusion (that God is a necessary being). So that not only the inference is a priori (since it is a deductive argument) but its premises and its conclusion are also a priori statements.

A priori knowledge would be knowledge independent of sense-experience. The question, for an Empiricist, would then be, how could a person ever arrive at such knowledge, and how could a person ever confirm that such an a priori proposition was true. How would he be able to justify such a proposition?
 
Arjen
 
Reply Mon 12 May, 2008 01:59 am
@kennethamy,
I think Kennethamy is on the right track trying to clearly set apart the differences between the definitions involved. I do not think he is being very precise though so I am going to follow his lead.

The cosmological argument is based on the thought that everthing must have a beginning; a first mover of sorts (as Aristotle ment it). No obeservation is neede to make it. It is metaphysical in nature. I think the referral that is made in this topic is to pantheism, but I may be mistaken.

The ontological argument is based on the thought that for reason (or actuality) to be possible "something" must have created it ("God"); something must have "created it" ehich must have "come before".

The difference between pantheism and the ontological/cosmological arguments is almost the same as between rationalism and empiricism:

Empiricism is the philosophy that states thought begings with perception. From these perceptions thought-objects are formed and with these thought-objects we can start thinking.

This would form a problem for empiricists for the first thougt-objects to be formed because without thought-objects there can be no thought according to empirism. Rationalism has a solution for that.

Rationalism is the philosophy which states that for thought-objects to be formed we must understand (at least at some level) what it is we are percieving. There is some "a priori" knowledge necessary to form thought-objects. This a priori knowledge is the most basal knowledge of time and space. According to Immaluel Kant this a priori knowledge of space and time consists of his "categoria".

So, where the problem for an empiricist, as kennethamy stated, is:
kennethamy wrote:

how could a person ever arrive at such knowledge, and how could a person ever confirm that such an a priori proposition was true. How would he be able to justify such a proposition?

The question for a rationalist would be:

How can one arrive at knowledge if no knowledge is present to help one understand what we percieve.

This argument assumes that thinking is causal in nature and therefore needs comparing. Until now I have never seen an argument against this apart from empiricists who confuse conclusions they do not conclude themselves with irrationality.

Anyway, to get back to your post "a priori" knowledge points to the thing-in-itself and not to what we percieve.

Hope this helps.
 
dergottthrower
 
Reply Tue 20 May, 2008 11:00 pm
@Arjen,
Quote:
Originally Posted by krazy kaju
Just a question (and a conversation starter) - who here is a rationalist and who is an empiricist and why?


I don't think I'm intellectually mature enough in my study of epistemology to declare that I'm either/or; however, empiricism interests me a bit more than rationalism. What I'm interested in particularly are the views stating all the knowledge we obtain comes to us a posteriori; the knowledge we obtain a priori wouldn't be there without a reasonable amount of knowledge obtained a posteriori. For example, we wouldn't be able to reason using the example of a mountain without first understanding what a mountain is; this is how we understand things a priori. The only way we can come to this understanding is obtaining a reasonable amount of knowledge about mountains through the senses.

Of course, under empiricism, i don't mean to imply direct, or naive, realism, the doctrine that the external world is exactly as it appears to the senses; I understand that, for the most part, the senses alone are unreliable in obtaining genuine knowledge; it is for this reason why our logical deduction skills must be exercised and our obtaining of knowledge a priori must be made aware of. Rather than direct realism, I'd be more interested in studying the -isms of the British Empiricists and others.
 
de budding
 
Reply Wed 21 May, 2008 03:36 am
@dergottthrower,
Seems to me a posteriori is first and formost and a priori is developed from there onwards, like the concept of simple ideas- gold, mountin- developing into complex idea- a golden mountin.

Maths must have been realised a posteriori first- e.g. some stones and some stones is more stones- maths, practically, can only be used for greed... why else would man need to calculate other than to control his possesions and to project and plan for more or less. I always remeber, when I used to ask 'maths is stupid, why do we need maths?', my mum could only ever come up with, 'for working out how much money you need when buying sweets form the shop'

Ostensive learning imprints a lot of raw labels on us at young ages and then there is the instictual stuff like the id which all sounds like it would be ampful to develop the first though-objects.

So I'm an empericist right?

Dan.
 
Doobah47
 
Reply Wed 21 May, 2008 04:10 am
@de budding,
Why the need for a dichotomy? We have no real need for -isms, all they really achieve is short-sightedness - we end up examining the walls of the house (the -ism) instead of looking out the window at the unknown passing by.

I would say that I only find proper reason for any logical theory in empiricism; kind of a catch 22 if you will, in that one must supplant reason y with an empirical y in order to fully comprehend the logic of a circumstance, yet of course empiricism flaws objective logic (1≠1) and logic flaws empiricism (quantum mechanics). Although it must be said that reason can flaw logic too (no statement is absolute), and for the same reason we could find that reason is flawed whilst it flaws empiricism, and of course empiricism is flawed when attempts to flaw flawed reason (consciousness is finite, we cannot perceive everything).

In order to do anything we need both the predictive capabilities that reason brings, and the predilection that empiricism brings (ie I 'know' that one foot in front of the other means walking, and I also know that I prefer walking to falling over).
 
de budding
 
Reply Wed 21 May, 2008 06:00 am
@Doobah47,
[QUOTE]
Why the need for a dichotomy? We have no real need for -isms, all they really achieve is short-sightedness - we end up examining the walls of the house (the -ism) instead of looking out the window at the unknown passing by.
[/QUOTE]

Your right, every -ism is a schism- but language is categorical (and rightly so), it is important to define by differentiation varying systems so that I don't have to reiterate a whole theory or system every time I want to use it to define something else... like the unknown passing by out the window.

So I would account avid dichotomising (real word?) to avid understanding, it may seem close minded at first but is a necessary in my opinion.

Secondly, Is 'proper reason' what you consider 'valid reason'? If so empiricism has gone from a schism to a foundation of understanding of 'logical theory', but then I get lost- I don't understand the 'catch 22' Sad
[QUOTE]
we need both the predictive capabilities that reason brings, and the predilection that empiricism brings
[/QUOTE]

I like the sentiment, but I don't suppose some one could provide an anecdotal example of this dualism in action?

Our preference is induced/developed by empiricism but why is it needed in unison with predictive reason? I find preference can hinder general human progress when it is enforced at every instance of reason- we quickly disregard options/choices because of preference, but this limits new experience which limits options, this can lead to collective assumptions and actions like refusing to eat all vegetables even though you have only ever eater peas and carrots and it just happened you didn't like either of them.

Dan
 
Doobah47
 
Reply Wed 21 May, 2008 09:18 am
@de budding,
It's the notion of either/or that grates with me, I suppose that we can avoid "dichotomising" and still have grasp of understanding - if we say that there are two people (x + y) then one might admit that one person taken at random will either be x or y, but what this 'dichotomising' fails to reveal is the entirity of the existence of x or y, so we can say quite simply that x has black hair and y green, so this person with black hair is x, however our dichotomy has failed to correspond to reality in it's entirity, it corresponds to a categorization made on a very superficial level.

So what I mean is that dichotomies belong with facial recognition as very superficial means of categorizing. There appears to be no word for 'somewhat empirical and somewhat rational and somewhat illogical' which is what happens every time we try to judge an experiment for example - like we know that H2O boils at 100˙c (reason), we can observe the rusting nail doing it's rusting (empiricism), and we can discover the particle of rust on the shoe of the scientist (illogical); and we can do this all at once in one swift cognitive action, yet there is no word for it. So all this garble goes to show that we could do without dichotomy.

Quote:

Our preference is induced/developed by empiricism but why is it needed in unison with predictive reason? I find preference can hinder general human progress when it is enforced at every instance of reason- we quickly disregard options/choices because of preference, but this limits new experience which limits options, this can lead to collective assumptions and actions like refusing to eat all vegetables even though you have only ever eater peas and carrots and it just happened you didn't like either of them.


The dichotomy is what is fault in the comprehension of reason/empiricism unified - I've just spotted a book called "Above the World", which part of me recognizes this as possible? The empirical or the rational, or both or neither?
[/COLOR]
 
Arjen
 
Reply Wed 21 May, 2008 11:07 am
@Doobah47,
Doobah, if you only find proper reason in empiricism, can you explain to me how it is possible that we understand what we percieve?
 
Holiday20310401
 
Reply Fri 20 Jun, 2008 08:33 pm
@Doobah47,
Is god a product of empiricism or rationalism? I don't know why I'm bothering but I feel that some answers will help me prove that God is a silly concept.
 
de budding
 
Reply Sat 21 Jun, 2008 03:43 am
@Holiday20310401,
Holiday20310401 wrote:
Is god a product of empiricism or rationalism? I don't know why I'm bothering but I feel that some answers will help me prove that God is a silly concept.


You don't have to prove that God is a silly concept, that just qualifies it more. It is already a silly concept.

I'm pretty sure its going to be rationlism, althought it was not being able to understand our what our senses presented tp us that prompted things like God via mythology and folk tale.

Dan.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Sun 22 Jun, 2008 12:14 pm
@Holiday20310401,
Holiday20310401 wrote:
Is god a product of empiricism or rationalism? I don't know why I'm bothering but I feel that some answers will help me prove that God is a silly concept.



confirmation bias

[INDENT] "It is the peculiar and perpetual error of the human understanding to be more moved and excited by affirmatives than by negatives." --Francis Bacon
[/INDENT] Confirmation bias refers to a type of selective thinking whereby one tends to notice and to look for what confirms one's beliefs, and to ignore, not look for, or undervalue the relevance of what contradicts one's beliefs. For example, if you believe that during a full moon there is an increase in admissions to the emergency room where you work, you will take notice of admissions during a full moon, but be inattentive to the moon when admissions occur during other nights of the month. A tendency to do this over time unjustifiably strengthens your belief in the relationship between the full moon and accidents and other lunar effects.
This tendency to give more attention and weight to data that support our beliefs than we do to contrary data is especially pernicious when our beliefs are little more than prejudices. If our beliefs are firmly established on solid evidence and valid confirmatory experiments, the tendency to give more attention and weight to data that fit with our beliefs should not lead us astray as a rule. Of course, if we become blinded to evidence truly refuting a favored hypothesis, we have crossed the line from reasonableness to closed-mindedness.
Numerous studies have demonstrated that people generally give an excessive amount of value to confirmatory information, that is, to positive or supportive data. The "most likely reason for the excessive influence of confirmatory information is that it is easier to deal with cognitively" (Gilovich 1993). It is much easier to see how a piece of data supports a position than it is to see how it might count against the position.
 
dominant monad
 
Reply Sun 20 Jul, 2008 06:51 am
@kennethamy,
Im attracted to rationalism, for its raw power that it promises that empiricism cannot. I like the idea that logic alone can find truths about the world, and this is particularly important in testing ideas where scentific empiricism breaks down. Descartes, Leibniz, Spinoza, Malbranche <- geniuses all of them.

Just one example, Leibniz' monadology was written in 1714. Leibniz, a rationalist, had a famous argument with Newton over what a proper form of physics should look like. Newton said it must be absolute, a theory that ticked all the right empirical boxes and made a lot of experimental sense. But Leibniz, through rational thought alone, came to the conclusion that physics must be fundamentally relational in nature, a theory discredited at the time.

Two centuries later, Einstein comes in and says Leibniz was right all along. In fact, Quantum Mechanics is repeatedy affirming surprising truths about the nature of the world that Leibniz found out centuries ago without so much as a microscope, using only his own rational mind. In fact, its my opinion Leibniz will be the famous philsopher of this next century more so than any other.
 
Doobah47
 
Reply Sun 27 Jul, 2008 11:06 pm
@Arjen,
Arjen wrote:
Doobah, if you only find proper reason in empiricism, can you explain to me how it is possible that we understand what we percieve?


The perception passes through the unconscious in reaching our conscious (we do not consciously decipher light waves, the cognition is arrived at before it reaches the conscious), and we do not know how logical the unconscious is. We simply reason what the brain provides to the mind, so the perception is formulated according to some level of reason before we are conscious of it, thus we perceive reason as a conscious action and have previously reasoned perception as an unconscious action.
 
Arjen
 
Reply Mon 28 Jul, 2008 04:41 am
@Doobah47,
Doobah47 wrote:
The perception passes through the unconscious in reaching our conscious (we do not consciously decipher light waves, the cognition is arrived at before it reaches the conscious), and we do not know how logical the unconscious is. We simply reason what the brain provides to the mind, so the perception is formulated according to some level of reason before we are conscious of it, thus we perceive reason as a conscious action and have previously reasoned perception as an unconscious action.

I am quite certrain you need to redifine a number of thise definitions, but that can wait for now. The thing that really disturbes me is that in your theory observation is needed for us to start reasoning. So, again: how come we can already understand what we observe if what we understand is the basis of our understanding?

Holiday20310401 wrote:
Is god a product of empiricism or rationalism? I don't know why I'm bothering but I feel that some answers will help me prove that God is a silly concept.

God is a necessary byproduct of empiricism because empiricism does not allow for creation of any kind; not creation of everything and not the beginning of reasoning. 'God' was needed to be an active part of day to day workings; 'God' knows everything, mind. So, when rationalism emerged and "God' was no longer needed in the sense it had been before the church was quick to burn the pilosophers or make them confess they were wrong. The church made saying that that which is a priori is not restricted to 'God', but exists in every human heretical and punishable by death.

Popular science is doing the same thing today. However instead of punishing such words with death popular science merely ridicules the speaker of such words, effectively ruining the career of the person speaking them. Popular science now is as corrupt as religion was (as of) then. Be aware of such tactics.

I would like to quote Plato to show how long such behavior exists and what is really happening:


For everything that exists there are three instruments by which the knowledge of it is necessarily imparted; fourth, there is the knowledge itself, and, as fifth, we must count the thing itself which is known and truly exists. The first is the name, the second the definition, the third. the image, and the fourth the knowledge. If you wish to learn what I mean, take these in the case of one instance, and so understand them in the case of all.


[...]

But in subjects where we try to compel a man to give a clear answer about the fifth, any one of those who are capable of overthrowing an antagonist gets the better of us, and makes the man, who gives an exposition in speech or writing or in replies to questions, appear to most of his hearers to know nothing of the things on which he is attempting to write or speak; for they are sometimes not aware that it is not the mind of the writer or speaker which is proved to be at fault, but the defective nature of each of the four instruments. The process however of dealing with all of these, as the mind moves up and down to each in turn, does after much effort give birth in a well-constituted mind to knowledge of that which is well constituted. But if a man is ill-constituted by nature (as the state of the soul is naturally in the majority both in its capacity for learning and in what is called moral character)-or it may have become so by deterioration-not even Lynceus could endow such men with the power of sight.

~Plato, The Seventh Letter

p.s. For an elaboration on the words, please click the link.
 
 

 
  1. Philosophy Forum
  2. » Epistemology
  3. » Rationalism or Empiricism?
Copyright © 2020 MadLab, LLC :: Terms of Service :: Privacy Policy :: Page generated in 0.02 seconds on 08/12/2020 at 06:31:24