Knowledge Acquisition: Empiricism Vs Rationalism Essay

2204 words - 9 pages

For this critical analysis essay, I am writing on the following discussion post: "Rationalism is more via[b]le than empiricism in regards to knowledge. Empiricism may have the data and research to support its claims, but Rationalism strives to prove its evidence through reason. Using the example in our text book, the number 2 can never be greater than the number 3 - it is just plain illogical and does not make any sense to think or state that. Our reason for defending this claim is that using our priori, or from the former, states that we do not physically have to experience the number 3 being greater than the number 2 (the nature of numbers is gray area). Using our existing knowledge of the ...view middle of the document...

An example of this concept can be seen in facts and trivia. Most facts, whether in history, political science, and other liberal arts, must be researched before being able to be verified. For example, if one were to ask when World War II started and ended, one would have to look up the exact dates in a textbook or reliable website. And on the chance that someone already knew the answer to this question, it can be assumed that they have memorized this information because of past experience, such as being asked that question before by someone else, or having memorized the dates for a test. Information like this is known as contingent truths. According to the Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy, these are truths that are indeed true, but could have just as equally been false ("Necessary/Contingent Truths," n.d.).
The opposite is true for necessary truths, which are more commonly found in Rationalism. It is logically impossible for a necessary truth to be false. A common example of a necessary truth involves numbers. It is logically impossible for one to say that the number 9 is smaller than the number 3. These are facts that are true and do not need evidence from observations. These type of truths go with "a priori" evidence, which means that a person knows these kinds of truth from logic and reason, not from experience. This is the fundamental basis of Rationalism, which states that knowledge is mostly obtained from reason.
The author of discussion post in question has more of a Rationalist perspective, and feels that the approach is a more practical theory of knowledge acquisition than Empiricism. He accurately explains the difference between the two theories ("Empiricism may have data and research... but Rationalism strives to provide its evidence through reason"). He uses a great example from our textbook that is similar to the example I mentioned for necessary truths: numbers. From his example, he is trying to show that evidence and knowledge can be obtained from reason and logic alone. He also talks about mathematics and our use of its theories over time. His viewpoint is that there are indeed pieces of knowledge that are not based on empirical theories, and have stood the test of time. His reasoning is that if they have lasted this long, then they must be correct and therefore, a priori type of knowledge is best. The author forms a good explanation to his viewpoint on why he prefers Rationalism and has a solid conclusion.
Although his discussion post was very interesting and different from what many people felt in this topic, there are a few issues with his reasoning. The first issue I noticed is through the actual example he provided about numbers. The example was correct regarding the nature of numbers being considered "a priori" evidence. However, I feel that numbers are not always considered "a priori". For example, if one were to teach a child about numbers, they would learn through experience. I remember when I was younger, I had an...

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