The main tenets of both rationalistic and empiricist epistemologies?

Essay by earapianUniversity, Bachelor'sA-, November 2014

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What are the main tenets of both rationalistic and empiricist epistemologies? The history of philosophy has undergone many battles over many various issues. One of the most significant battles has been involving the foundations of our knowledge. Epistemology is the study of philosophy that focuses on how we acquire knowledge and how we are able to differentiate the truth from fiction. Although there are various thoughts on epistemology, the main debate lies between rationalism and empiricism where it is questioned whether we acquire knowledge a priori or a posteriori. A priori knowledge is knowledge that we can have "prior to experience". One can acquire knowledge without the need of observations but through reason and empirical evidence (ex. all squares have four sides). A posteriori knowledge, on the other hand, is knowledge that can be acquired only after having certain experiences. Observations must be maid to gain knowledge (ex. It is raining outside).

These opposing arguments are those made by rationalists and empiricists in terms of how we acquire knowledge. Rationalism is the position in epistemology that holds that knowledge is acquired through reason and without the aid of our senses. Rationalism holds that innate ideas exist, which allows us to know things a priori. One of the best examples of this would be mathematics. In mathematics, we can uses rational thought and reason to figure out equations and construct proofs, so with rationalism, it is possible to have knowledge without having experiences. There is the knowledge of logic and laws that are based on reasoning that allow us to obtain knowledge. The main philosophers associated with rationalism are Plato, Rene Descartes, and Baruch Spinoza. Plato argued against relativism. He saw many flaws of the senses, saying that the world is changing and we cannot have certainty in our...