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Rationalism: The Path to Knowledge

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posted on Mar, 5 2013 @ 10:36 PM
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Abstract

The driving question behind this piece is: To what extent can we have knowledge? This is one of the fundamental questions of epistemology, the study of knowledge. To answer this, we must first determine what constitutes knowledge. Knowledge is commonly accepted as a true justified belief. Most things we say we “know” are actually just beliefs or justified beliefs because the criteria for something being true is very strict. Rationalists believe we can have knowledge of the true nature of reality primarily through a priori thought and reason. Empiricists say experience is the source of all knowledge, and that this physical reality is the only reality. Before you read on, ask yourself, where do you stand? Are you a Rationalist or an Empiricist, something in between, or something completely different?



Introduction

If you are reading this, chances are you are skeptical in some way of the world we live in. There are many things in this world to question, ranging from our government’s intentions to religious beliefs to the reliability of our senses to perceive physical reality. This skepticism has led people to several views of knowledge and existence, two of which are Rationalism and Empiricism.

Rationalism was prominent during the Enlightenment, most famously supported by Descartes. Over the past few centuries the general trend in philosophy has been to go from a Rationalist-dominated field to an empiricist-dominated field. A big reason why is there has been a multitude of technological advances since the Enlightenment. These advances have changed our worldview to make us more confident in our understanding of the world around us. These technological advances, in conjunction with advances in logic and theoretical physics, have planted the idea in the modern philosopher’s head that he can know more about the true nature of reality than Rationalists could during the Enlightenment.

I do not buy it.

The Trend Towards Empiricism

The fact is the modern human mind is essentially the same as it was during the Enlightenment. In the modern age we have more information, but we do not have more knowledge. Information is made up of various forms of empirical data ranging from beliefs to statistics to theories. However, having more information does not constitute having more knowledge. Commonly accepted criteria for something to be knowledge is it is a true justified belief. In order to fulfill the criteria for being true, it cannot be doubted. Everything in the field of science is based on inductive reasoning… experiments are conducted to establish scientific theories and laws that have a high probability of being true. However, any conclusions based on inductive reasoning cannot fulfill the “true” criteria for knowledge, only conclusions based on deductive reasoning can.

For example, we have significant physical evidence that points to the fact that evolution is true. We have information on genetic mutations, fossils, and live ecosystems that all seem to point to evolution being true. However, through science we have arrived at the conclusion that evolution is true through induction… in other words, there is always a possibility that evolution is not true. For all we know the Bible’s creation story could be true and the Earth could be only 5000 years old… or maybe all of these different kinds of living things have always existed and never actually had to evolve into what they are now. What we claim to know about our past could simply be an illusion, just like our physical reality could very well be an illusion because our senses can deceive us.

The Basics of Rationalism

Unlike Empiricists, Rationalists discover truths about the nature of existence through introspection and deductive reasoning. Rationalists use introspection to tap into our pool of a priori knowledge. This a priori knowledge is knowledge that is accessible to all people once they are properly trained and educated. Notice, to attain knowledge it is required to use deductive reasoning, not inductive reasoning, because there is always an element of doubt in inductive reasoning.



Descartes famously used reason to tap into his a priori knowledge when he said “I think, therefore I am.” What he meant by this is a man’s existence is logically deduced from the fact that he thinks.

Descartes' Legacy



After this initial deduction Descartes got ahead of himself while pursuing his goal of uniting Christian faith and reason. He claimed to know certain aspects of the will of God, when in reality it is impossible to use this claim for deductive reasoning. He claimed to know the will of God through the Bible, but the Bible is only a physical entity, so really he was only inductively reasoning about God’s will, but convinced himself he was using deductive reasoning.

Partially as a result of Descartes’ misguided deductions following his first initial deduction, philosophers and scientists passed over Descartes’ Rationalism thinking that science held the answers to the true nature of reality. People have taken Descartes’ initial discovery as a stroke of genius, and then continued on with their own beliefs in science and Empiricism, not realizing what the implications of Descartes’ discovery really were.

Just because Descartes failed to properly follow his Rational method, that does not mean Rationalism is not viable. I don’t know if the pattern is different here on ATS, but in my personal life I have never met another fellow Rationalist. I have met many Empiricists and many people with incoherent beliefs, and a few Constructivists and Skeptics, but never a Rationalist.

If we continue Descartes’ deductions from where he left off, we can know more about the true nature of reality than 500 years of scientific discovery can tell us… because no matter how far we get with science, it is still an Empiricist method, and only uses inductive reasoning.

I am working on some Rational deductions starting from Descartes’ “I think, therefore I am.” My method is a combination of logical reasoning and introspection. Here is a short preview:

1) I think therefore I am
1.1) What I perceive of the world may be real or it may be an illusion
1.2) Either way, the world around me exists
1.21) The real world exists
1.22) Illusions also exist, they just aren’t real
1.221) Similarly, imaginary numbers exist in Math, they just aren’t real
1.3) The only thing that doesn’t exist is nothingness

Conclusion

What you will notice about the true nature of reality is there is not a lot we can actually know. It is the job of a Rationalist to discover what we can and cannot know. As a Rationalist, I don't delude myself into believing I know more than I can know.



You'll also notice that science and Rationalism are not entirely compatible. A Rationalist may study science, but he will know that science cannot tell him about the true nature of reality, only about the nature of physical reality. In the pursuit of true knowledge, Rationalism is more compatible with Eastern methods of thought which focus on introspection and contemplation.

The nature of our reality is that there is a massive realm of possibility that we can never comprehend. Empiricists ignore this facet of the nature of reality, insisting the physical world is all there is, and that there is no need to consider the realm of possibility. Does that not raise a red flag for anyone else?
edit on 5-3-2013 by Wang Tang because: above top secret




posted on Mar, 5 2013 @ 11:07 PM
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Spot on! Good read! I am a fellow rationalist. I use to cross examine theories, religious beliefs and teachings. Now i simply take what I know as something i simply know. Knowing is being aware of. Just because you know, does not make it right or wrong, it just makes it existing to your point of view. Edision knew he could make a light bulb, but a light bulb did not exist prior to him Knowing it. Knowing is the raw ingredient to creational existence. I can know how to do something at any time, any moment of my life. It takes the substance of that knowing to exist first before your able to transform knowing into the information of such. So simply put, anything can be known. But the process of turning pure knowing into reality information is the key to creation.

Key to Creation:
1. Know What - Mind
2. ??? - Transformation from knowing to information. Life is merely a language being spoken. We can go to a foreign country and know that we are hungry and need food, but if we dont know how to say or display our hungry, we may never get food. To manifest your knowing, one must learn the language. Step 2 is the translation of knowing to Information with the language of reality. (Sorry but i have yet to completely dicipher the language of reality.) - Translation
3. Know How - Reality



posted on Mar, 5 2013 @ 11:16 PM
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Very good thread. S&F. I study evidence used to prove interpretations a lot and find many flaws because people see things that fit their beliefs. I can't add more, what is toted as reality is mostly just belief. All the technology and evidence doesn't do much if it is misinterpreted much of the time. Then misapplied evidence is used to prove future evidence and ten ticks down it's a big mess. Occasionally chaos sets it on the right path though and it becomes real even though everything was messed up along the way. I can't figure out how that works



posted on Mar, 5 2013 @ 11:20 PM
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reply to post by Wang Tang
 


Interesting read I enjoyed it and have noticed the extreme skew towards empiricism however at the same time we have witnessed the rise of psychology. Psychology applies a form of empiricism but like all empiricism it is subject to the interpretation of the human mind.

Radioactive decay rates vary with the sun's rotation: research
phys.org...

Modern physics has already deemed that the laws of physics manifested altogether at once with the big bang. Who is to say the laws of physics have not fluctuated historically prior to man's ability to describe them empirically and measure them with instruments?

But just the idea that physics appeared out of nowhere, or some other dimension, strikes me as just as much a leap of faith as saying the universe was created in a week. Then comes the question of where did the other dimension(s) come from which becomes a circular pursuit.


Let me just mention I find it absolutely hilarious that C14 dating is limited to about 6000 years which coincides with the fundamentalist view that the Earth is only 6000 years old. Ahahahahahaha I wonder how many ulcers that has caused to both sides of the argument?

EDIT
Also I don't understand the reasoning behind the creationists their number of six thousand years. Where in the biblical scriptures does it say that the day man was created they were cast out of heaven? The scriptures say that when mankind ate of the fruit of knowledge of good and evil they were cast out of heaven, but where does it say how long they were in heaven prior to that. The scriptures also state that heaven is a different realm than this material one. Too many assumptions for my liking, far too many assumptions and you know what they say about assumptions . . . 'the mother of all F-ups.'
edit on 5-3-2013 by FriedBabelBroccoli because: 101



posted on Mar, 5 2013 @ 11:21 PM
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reply to post by Wang Tang
 


Dear Wang Tang,

The truth cannot be fully known because we are incapable of knowing everything. We believe that this reality exists and our experience of it means that for us it does even if the specifics are not exact. If I have a dream, that dream truly happened and existed if only in my mind and if only for a minute. So, what happens while we are in this experience is that we make choices and define ourselves, we determine what we believe is right and wrong and when we will be selfish or help others expecting nothing in return. Faith is action based on belief. If we do not act on our beliefs then they are merely lies that we tell ourselves to make us believe that we are good people.

We wish a formula for knowing how to absolutely make the best decisions and absolutely know the truth; but, the truth is everyone acts on faith. One can stand by while another is being killed in front of them and do nothing to help and justify it by saying that they are the only thing they know exists, that this is all an illusion. That would be terribly immoral because the person had nothing to lose if they attempted to help by the same logic.



posted on Mar, 5 2013 @ 11:34 PM
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reply to post by AQuestion
 


I agree with you, the truth cannot be fully known. Any Rationalist would agree with you on that. Part of being a Rationalist is recognizing what you can't know, and accepting that the realm of possibility is much bigger than the realm of physical reality.

The truths that a Rationalist can know have to do with the nature of reality and existence. I'm not sure how a Rationalist would go about deducing moral codes of right and wrong from the nature of reality, but I suppose it's possible. Personally, I have not Rationally deduced any moral codes for myself, and I don't know of any Rationalist who effectively has, and I don't claim to know what is right and what is wrong for anyone other than me.



posted on Mar, 5 2013 @ 11:41 PM
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That is a good point about Psychology. It seems scientists are divided on Psychology. On one hand it is a very useful and practical field. On the other hand its method of collecting data is not precise, so psychological findings often don't hold as much weight as other scientific discoveries. The problem with psychology is you can find correlation after correlation, but it's very hard to attribute causation based off of experiments that are likely to be littered with human error.



posted on Mar, 5 2013 @ 11:54 PM
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reply to post by Wang Tang
 


Dear Wang Tang,



The truths that a Rationalist can know have to do with the nature of reality and existence. I'm not sure how a Rationalist would go about deducing moral codes of right and wrong from the nature of reality, but I suppose it's possible. Personally, I have not Rationally deduced any moral codes for myself, and I don't know of any Rationalist who effectively has, and I don't claim to know what is right and what is wrong for anyone other than me.


As I said, your argument is a cop out. A Rationalist can understand that shoving a needle in the eye of another just to see what happens is wrong. We are not talking about Rationalism, we are talking about Wikipedia - Solipsism. A true Rationalist would accept that everything cannot be known and then live their life based on the assumptions that they find the most likely. That is faith. The only truly rationale way to approach life.



posted on Mar, 6 2013 @ 12:28 AM
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Originally posted by AQuestion

As I said, your argument is a cop out. A Rationalist can understand that shoving a needle in the eye of another just to see what happens is wrong. We are not talking about Rationalism, we are talking about Wikipedia - Solipsism. A true Rationalist would accept that everything cannot be known and then live their life based on the assumptions that they find the most likely. That is faith. The only truly rationale way to approach life.


Skepticism is the position that everything cannot be known. Skepticism

Rationalism is "a method in which the criterion of truth is primarily intellectual and deductive." Rationalism

Solipsism is the idea that I can only be sure that my mind exists, I cannot know anything else. Solipsism

It's pretty clear that I am a Rationalist. Look at my deductions.



posted on Mar, 6 2013 @ 12:32 AM
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reply to post by Wang Tang
 


Dear Wang Tang,

You say



Skepticism is the position that everything cannot be known. Skepticism Rationalism is "a method in which the criterion of truth is primarily intellectual and deductive." Rationalism Solipsism is the idea that I can only be sure that my mind exists, I cannot know anything else. Solipsism It's pretty clear that I am a Rationalist. Look at my deductions.


and you claim that you can only know right or wrong for you. Do you not see the contradiction. Is there only right and wrong for you? More likely you believe right and wrong and based on how you are effected by a thing and that is not Rationalism.



posted on Mar, 6 2013 @ 12:41 AM
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Originally posted by AQuestion

and you claim that you can only know right or wrong for you. Do you not see the contradiction. Is there only right and wrong for you? More likely you believe right and wrong and based on how you are effected by a thing and that is not Rationalism.


Thank you, you bring up a good point. But there is no contradiction.

I don't say I can only know right or wrong for me. I say that I only know right or wrong for me. Maybe one day I will be able to know right and wrong for everyone. Unfortunately I am not as accomplished a Rationalist as Descartes was so you will have to wait for the rest of my deductions on moral Rationalism. I am still working on completely understanding epistemological Rationalism, so that may be a while.



posted on Mar, 6 2013 @ 12:48 AM
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Originally posted by Wang Tang

Originally posted by AQuestion

and you claim that you can only know right or wrong for you. Do you not see the contradiction. Is there only right and wrong for you? More likely you believe right and wrong and based on how you are effected by a thing and that is not Rationalism.


Thank you, you bring up a good point. But there is no contradiction.

I don't say I can only know right or wrong for me. I say that I only know right or wrong for me. Maybe one day I will be able to know right and wrong for everyone. Unfortunately I am not as accomplished a Rationalist as Descartes was so you will have to wait for the rest of my deductions on moral Rationalism. I am still working on completely understanding epistemological Rationalism, so that may be a while.


Dear Wang Tang,

If I understand you correctly, you believe you can know the truth; but, do not know it today. Then what evidence do you have that you can know everything and know all truths? Who do you point to that you believe did know all the truth? As for Descartes, I shall ask the most basic question that he did not. If the only thing you were was emotion and that was all you knew, wouldn't you still know you existed? Thinking is how we escape from being purely emotional, it does not stop us from being emotional. To deny that we have emotions is ignorant (I am not accusing you of denying we have emotions), to fail to attempt to understand them and direct them is selfishness.



posted on Mar, 6 2013 @ 12:57 AM
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Originally posted by AQuestion

Dear Wang Tang,

If I understand you correctly, you believe you can know the truth; but, do not know it today. Then what evidence do you have that you can know everything and know all truths? Who do you point to that you believe did know all the truth? As for Descartes, I shall ask the most basic question that he did not. If the only thing you were was emotion and that was all you knew, wouldn't you still know you existed? Thinking is how we escape from being purely emotional, it does not stop us from being emotional. To deny that we have emotions is ignorant (I am not accusing you of denying we have emotions), to fail to attempt to understand them and direct them is selfishness.



Today, I know certain epistemological truths about reality, knowledge, and existence through Rationalism. I do not claim to be able to know the truth of everything. I claim that it is possible for a Rationalist to know some moral truths, but I do not know them at the time.

Emotion is part of thought, I have learned this through introspectively studying my thought process. A 'thought' is not an object, it is not simply an idea, it is the entire process by which you take an abstract concept and turn it into an idea. Emotion is a part of this process.

You may not buy into what I'm saying at the moment... if you don't, ask yourself this: what is thought? what is emotion? Are they really exclusive?



posted on Mar, 6 2013 @ 01:06 AM
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reply to post by Wang Tang
 


Dear Wang Tang,

The truth exists whether you personally know it or not. That would be rationalism, you do not create the truth, you only come to understand it and you can never know it completely.



Today, I know certain epistemological truths about reality, knowledge, and existence through Rationalism. I do not claim to be able to know the truth of everything. I claim that it is possible for a Rationalist to know some moral truths, but I do not know them at the time. Emotion is part of thought, I have learned this through introspectively studying my thought process. A 'thought' is not an object, it is not simply an idea, it is the entire process by which you take an abstract concept and turn it into an idea. Emotion is a part of this process. You may not buy into what I'm saying at the moment... if you don't, ask yourself this: what is thought? what is emotion? Are they really exclusive?


If today you can be wrong then how can you know, today, anything for certain? Are you capable of making mistakes? If you cannot accept that you are capable of making mistakes then you are incapable of correcting them when you do.

As for your statement regarding emotions, please define both. A thought, for me, is the use of symbols (sounds, letters, images...) to represent our definition of a feeling. That is feeling is either pleasant or not; but, it exists whether we have a language to explain it or not. If you would define these things differently then we can go of further and I never said they were exclusive, we use two different words because they have two different meanings.



posted on Mar, 6 2013 @ 01:09 AM
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reply to post by Wang Tang
 


Dear Wang Tang,

By the way, it is clear that you have asked yourself some of the tougher philosophical questions and I give you kudos for that.



posted on Mar, 6 2013 @ 01:18 AM
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Emotion

Emotion is very difficult to define, and unfortunately I do not have a clear conception of it ready like I do of thought. The best I can do is to define it as sensations and feelings from within my body... these sensations and feelings are intertwined with inner mental workings but I cannot quite identify how that works yet. What I do know is emotion is present in the initial stages of thought, and is often the source/cause for the thought process to begin.

Thought

Here is my handy thought diagram, I drew this out regarding the way I understand thought as a process.




posted on Mar, 6 2013 @ 01:24 AM
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reply to post by Wang Tang
 


Dear Wang Tang,

Emotion is the abstract concept, it is the feeling that causes us to question it, understand it and define it. Emotion is the beginning of being, not thought. Thought is the result of emotions. If you had no emotion then you would have no thoughts because there wouldn't be a reason to. If you had only joyous emotions then there would still be no reason for having thought. It is only pain that is the catalyst for growth and we overcome that by using thought to define our emotions.



posted on Mar, 6 2013 @ 01:24 AM
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reply to post by Wang Tang
 


Dear Wang Tang,

Emotion is the abstract concept, it is the feeling that causes us to question it, understand it and define it. Emotion is the beginning of being, not thought. Thought is the result of emotions. If you had no emotion then you would have no thoughts because there wouldn't be a reason to. If you had only joyous emotions then there would still be no reason for having thought. It is only pain that is the catalyst for growth and we overcome that by using thought to define our emotions.



posted on Mar, 6 2013 @ 01:40 AM
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To be able to embrace the flux within rational thought, the irrationality of its demanding dryness, that which lies partway between the two modes is a truer position...

Experience is a great teacher...a scene that both the rational and the irrational appear in...

A quality thread!

A99



posted on Mar, 6 2013 @ 08:00 AM
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Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us.

The idea of using rational and logical deductions is very appealing to me. All too often, do people believe something just because others believe it; an argumentum ad populum. And though my mind wonders this way, I feel that if you are coming from a truly "logical" approach, you can't deduce that you know anything.

It could be more-or-less improbable that this reality is merely a dream, but it is still a possibility. Even the solipsistic view of life could be wrong. It is true that I think, and because I think, surely my I must exist, but this is only using the rationality of my limited mind. There could be other rules that apply to the Universe that I cannot fathom. Trying to imagine the size the Universe. Looking at 3 sides of 3-dimensional object. There are many things we cannot do or comprehend. And the ability to not exist, yet think, could be one of them.

I don't know anything, and I don't even know that.






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