See E. Heimann, Reason and Faith in Modern Society (1961); T. F. Torrance, God and Rationality (1971); R. L. Arrington, Rationalism, Realism, and Relativism (1989).
Philosophical view that regards reason as the chief source and test of knowledge. Rationalism has long been the rival of empiricism, the doctrine that all knowledge of matters of fact ultimately derives from, and must be tested by, sense experience. As against this doctrine, rationalism holds reason to be a faculty that can lay hold of truths beyond the reach of sense perception, both in certainty and in generality. In stressing the existence of a “natural light,” rationalism also has been the rival of systems claiming esoteric knowledge, whether from mystical experience, revelation, or intuition, and has been opposed to various irrationalisms that tend to stress the biological, the emotional or volitional, the unconscious, or the existential at the expense of the rational.
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Rationalism is often contrasted with empiricism. Taken very broadly these views are not mutually exclusive, since a philosopher can be both rationalist and empiricist (Lacey 286–287). Taken to extremes the empiricist view holds that all ideas come to us through experience, either through the five external senses or through such inner sensations as pain and pleasure, and thus that knowledge is essentially based on or derived from experience. At issue is the fundamental source of human knowledge, and the proper techniques for verifying what we think we know (see Epistemology).
Proponents of some varieties of rationalism argue that, starting with foundational basic principles, like the axioms of geometry, one could deductively derive the rest of all possible knowledge. The philosophers who held this view most clearly were Baruch Spinoza and Gottfried Leibniz, whose attempts to grapple with the epistemological and metaphysical problems raised by Descartes led to a development of the fundamental approach of rationalism. Both Spinoza and Leibniz asserted that, in principle, all knowledge, including scientific knowledge, could be gained through the use of reason alone, though they both observed that this was not possible in practice for human beings except in specific areas such as mathematics. On the other hand, Leibniz admitted that "we are all mere Empirics in three fourths of our actions" (Monadology § 28, cited in Audi 772).
Socrates did not publish or write any of his thoughts, but he was constantly in discussion with others. He would usually start by asking a rhetorical (seemingly answerable) question, to which the other would give an answer. Socrates would then continue to ask questions until all conflicts were resolved, or until the other could do nothing else but admit to not knowing the answer (which was what most of his discussions ended with). Socrates did not claim to know the answers, but that did not take away the ability to critically and rationally approach problems. His goal was to show that ultimately our intellectual approach to the world is flawed, and we need to transcend this in order to obtain a true knowledge of what things are.
Neoplatonism took definitive shape with the philosopher Plotinus, who claimed to have received his teachings from Ammonius Saccas, a dock worker and philosopher in Alexandria. Plotinus was also influenced by Alexander of Aphrodisias and Numenius. Plotinus's student Porphyry assembled his teachings into the six Enneads.
Subsequent Neoplatonic philosophers included Hypatia of Alexandria, Iamblichus, Proclus, Hierocles of Alexandria, Simplicius of Cilicia, and Damascius, who wrote On First Principles. Born in Damascus, he was the last teacher of Neoplatonism at Athens. Neoplatonism strongly influenced Christian thinkers (such as Augustine of Hippo, Boethius, Pseudo-Dionysius, John Scotus Eriugena, and Bonaventura). Neoplatonism was also present in medieval Islamic and Jewish thinkers such as al-Farabi and Maimonides, and experienced a revival in the Renaissance with the acquisition and translation of Greek and Arabic Neoplatonic texts.
Descartes therefore argued, as a result of his method, that reason alone determined knowledge, and that this could be done independently of the senses. For instance, his famous dictum, cogito ergo sum, is a conclusion reached a priori and not through an inference from experience. This was, for Descartes, an irrefutable principle upon which to ground all forms of other knowledge. Descartes posited a metaphysical dualism, distinguishing between the substances of the human body ("res extensa") and the mind or soul ("res cogitans") . This crucial distinction would be left unresolved and lead to what is known as the mind-body problem, since the two substances in the Cartesian system are independent of each other and irreducible.
Leibniz developed his theory of monads in response to both Descartes and Spinoza. In rejecting this response he was forced to arrive at his own solution. Monads are the fundamental unit of reality, according to Leibniz, constituting both inanimate and animate things. These units of reality represent the universe, though they are not subject to the laws of causality or space (which he called "well-founded phenomena"). Leibniz therefore introduced his principle of pre-established harmony, in order to account for apparent causality in the world.
A Note on the Debate over 'Economic Rationalism' in Australia: An Application of Albert Hirschman's Rhetoric of Reaction
Jun 22, 2002; Abstract: Applies Albert Hirschman's 'rhetoric of reaction' to the post-1980 controversy over 'economic Rationalism', that...