The debate about whether rationalism or empiricism should carry more weight is an age-old question that only has convincing arguments on one side. Empiricism believes that knowledge comes mainly from people’s sensory experience. It is very important that the ideas stem from experience and evidence that is experienced by each person, and this experience forms ideas. In empiricism, it is very important that evidence is established, and that evidence is particularly valuable if it is generated through an experiment. The information that is gathered through this experience needs to be tested against observations in the natural world, rather than depending more on revelation, intuition or priori reasoning. Rationalism believes that reasoning should be the way in which true knowledge is gained. The very basis of rationalism is intellectual and deductive, rather than being sensory. According to those who believe in rationalism, the way of thinking is based on a truth that reality is logical in its structure. . [Are you asking the question “Write my essay for me?” Get help here.]Rationalism assumes that the intellect is able to grasp the truths about life. Those who believe in rationalism believe in reasoning, and they have confidence that people are able to reason well. In fact, rationalists believe that people are so capable of reasoning that physical evidence and proof aren’t necessary to find truth. In this essay, I will break down the arguments before coming the conclusion that empiricism is the most logical theory of knowledge. Rationalism gives too high of an esteem to people’s deductive powers, while tossing out the fundamental scientific evidence touted by empiricism about the science behind knowledge.
The reason empiricism is so much more logical than rationalism as a knowledge base, is because rationalism is too subjective. There is too much room for error if the person that is trying to find the truth is not correct in their views. Rationalism assumes that the person who is doing the thinking is a rational person. But if that person isn’t rational, they can come to conclusions that don’t conform to proper reasoning. This is where empiricism makes up for where rationalism lacks. Empiricism allows people to test theories on actual science, rather than having the so-called knowledge come from the very subjective mind.
Plato’s Theaetetus is concerned with answering the questions “what is knowledge?”While I don’t believe that his dialogue really answers the questions, it does show several interesting facts with which I agree. Mainly, he brings a lot of insight into perception, in his attempt to debunk the irrationalities associated with rationalism. Theaetetus believes that knowledge is based on perception, and while being encourages by Socrates, he states “It seems to me that one knows something is perceiving the things he knows and so far as I can see present, knowledge is nothing but perception” (151d). Socrates summarizes this thought by saying that any given is to me such as it appears to me, and it is to you as it appears to you, you and I being men (152b). This clearly shows that the truth is in the eye of the beholder. Socrates is saying that a person’s perception is their own truth, and that makes it their reality. However, it can be presumed that Protagoras didn’t mean to say that the wind is not chilly and chilly at the same time. Instead, he is trying to make an epistemological point. Many academics have suggested that the point Protagoras is trying to make is an epistemological view that is in line with what Heraclitus’ metaphysical view that reality is constantly changing (152e). But Socrates doesn’t realize that the wind doesn’t actually change. For example, let’s assume that the outside temperature is -10 degree Celsius. If you go outside, that temperature stays the same. Also, if I go outside the temperature still remains the same. But if you wear warm clothes, you won’t feel as cold as I would feel if I was wearing shorts and a T-shirt. This indicates that the perception one has is guided by what they have equipped in their minds. This consists of experiences and opinions that have shaped how a person thinks, and therefore changes how they experience things (Jowett, 2004).
Furthermore, Socrates has the argument that the Socrates who is ill and the Socrates who is healthy are totally different subjects. In a similar line of thought, the Socrates who is asleep and the one who is awake are also two different subjects. That means that there can be two realities. For example, the ill Socrates might taste the wine and think that it is bitter, but healthy Socrates might consider the wine to be sweet. He is saying that it is through his experience that the truth comes out, and that means different people’s experiences can generate different truths. There is no one way or the other that is considered to be the correct view. It is the same wine, but it is tasted through a different filter, and that filter causes a change in the reality of the wine. If two people are healthy, the same wine will taste the same, he argues (Howe, n.d.). For example, if there are two people tasting the wine and they are both healthy, and one tastes the wine before dinner and the other tastes the wine after dinner, then there isn’t likely going to be a difference in the way that the wine tastes. However, in taking a look at the -10 degrees Celsius temperature, a meteorologist can show that the temperature is actually at that level. This is similar to Galileo proving that the Sun is actually the centre of the solar system, and not the Earth, by revealing that through his telescope. Because we can scientifically prove some of these theories, it is impossible to logically make conclusions through rationalism, rather than through the knowledge gained through the senses. In other words, empiricism is a more rational way of coming to the truth than is rationalism.
In the end, John Locke was right when he said that the source of our knowledge comes directly from the sense experience. He believed that the mind is a “blank slate” when we are born and it is through our experiences that we develop a way of perceiving the world. This means that there aren’t any innate experiences; all of our opinions about any piece of knowledge are direct results of the experiences that we have had. On the other hand, rationalism holds a very strong belief in people’s ability to reason. However, there have been so many pieces of evidence throughout time that would indicate reasoning is not one of mankind’s greatest traits. However, reasoning doesn’t help many people come to grasp things for what they actually are. Rationalism assumes that people possess the innate qualities with which to come to logical determinations, and this is the fundamental way to have knowledge. If the world functioned in the way that rationalists wanted, there would be no need for scientific evidence. But as we have proven more often in modern times, scientific evidence is needed to come to true knowledge. If everything was based on a person’s very subjective beliefs, then there would be no need for forensic scientists at a crime scene, for example. There is nothing rational about rationalism, as it undermines the very foundation of logic. [Need an essay writing service? Find help here.]
Howe. R. (n.d.). Is Knowledge Perception? An Examination of Plato’s Theaetetus. Howe. Retrieved from
Jowett, B. (2004). Selections from Plato’s Theaetetus Converning Knowledge as Perception. UC