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Empiricism, Rationalism, and The Scientific Method

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Nathan Markham

on 1 May 2013

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Transcript of Empiricism, Rationalism, and The Scientific Method

Rationalism Some propositions are knowable by intuition alone.

We have knowledge of some truths as part of our rational nature.

Knowledge is gained a priori, independently of experience.

Some knowledge could not have been gained through sense experience.

Reason is superior to experience as a source of knowledge. Empiricism We have no source of knowledge other than sense experience.

Sense experience is our only source of ideas.

Empiricists may assert that the rationalists are correct to claim that experience cannot give us all knowledge.

Rationalism and empiricism need not conflict. The Scientific Method The union of rationalism and empiricism is traditionally represented as the scientific method.

The scientific method emphasizes evidence, especially as discovered in experiments.

All hypotheses and theories must be tested against observations of the natural world.

Both natural and social sciences use working hypotheses that are testable by observation and experiment.

When taken together, Rene Descartes and Francis Bacon were germinal for the modern scientific method. Knowledge Is knowledge innate
or
only gained from experience? Empiricism, Rationalism, and The Scientific Method Life Science - Winter 2013 The dispute between rationalism and empiricism concerns how much we are dependent upon sense experience to gain knowledge.

Rationalists claim that there are significant ways that our concepts and knowledge are gained independently of sense experience.

Empiricists claim that sense experience is the ultimate source of all of our concepts and knowledge. Rationalism and empiricism are a part of epistemology, the branch of philosophy devoted to studying the nature, sources and limits of knowledge. This debate leads to many of the major philosophical questions, such as the existence of God, the mind body problem, ethics, and the question of free will. Rationalism
and
Empiricism Nathan Markham Some examples of what rationalists take to be knowable by intuition are mathematics, ethical truths, metaphysical claims, such as that God exists, that we have free will, and that our mind and body are distinct substances. According to some rationalists knowledge can be:

Gained from an earlier existence

God provided us with knowledge at creation

Knowledge is part of our nature through evolutionary natural selection Rationalists: Descartes, Leibniz, Spinoza, Kant
Empiricists: Locke, Berkeley and Hume Humans adapt their past experiences of things to perform experiments upon and test the pragmatic values of such experience. The value of such experience is measured by scientific instruments, and the results of such measurements generate ideas that serve as instruments for future experimentation. Transcendental Idealism Immanuel Kant (1724–1804)

To the rationalists, pure reason is flawed when it goes beyond its limits and claims to know those things that are necessarily beyond the realm of all possible experience: like the existence of God, free will, and the immortality of the human soul.

To the empiricist he argued that while it is correct that experience is fundamentally necessary for human knowledge, reason is necessary for processing that experience into coherent thought. He therefore concludes that both reason and experience are necessary for human knowledge. Descartes' method required:
(1) accepting as "truth" only clear, distinct ideas that could not be doubted

(2) breaking a problem down into parts

(3) deducing one conclusion from another

(4) conducting a systematic synthesis of all things. Descartes based his entire philosophical approach to science on this deductive method of reasoning. Bacon said that a true science progressed "in a just scale of ascent, and by successive steps not interrupted or broken, we rise from particulars to lesser axioms; and then to middle axioms, one above the other; and last of all to the most general"

Bacon's method required:
(1) accumulating a store of particular empirical observations
(2) from these inductively inferring lesser axioms
(3)from these inductively inferring middle axioms
(3) and then proposing the most general of notions, each in progressive steps. The most obvious difference in methodology between Descartes and Bacon was related to their procedures for reasoning. Descartes began with intuitively derived principles that were taken as the premises in the standard deductive method of reasoning, but Bacon began with empirical observations that were used to inductively deduce higher axioms. Descartes' method was a "top down" approach, whereas Bacon's was "bottom up." www.wikipedia.com
http://plato.stanford.edu
http://www.thingsrevealed.net/dscrtbacn.htm
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120309103701.htm The debate between rationalism and empiricism is joined Reason might inform us of the relations among our ideas, but those ideas themselves can only be gained, and any truths about the external reality they represent can only be known, on the basis of sense experience.
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