Source 1: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
The dispute between rationalism and empiricism concerns the extent to which we are dependent upon sense experience in our effort to gain knowledge. Rationalists claim that there are significant ways in which our concepts and knowledge are gained independently of sense experience. Empiricists claim that sense experience is the ultimate source of all our concepts and knowledge.
Rationalists generally develop their view in two ways. First, they argue that there are cases where the content of our concepts or knowledge outstrips the information that sense experience can provide. Second, they construct accounts of how reason in some form or other provides that additional information about the world.
Empiricists present complementary lines of thought. First, they develop accounts of how experience provides the information that rationalists cite, insofar as we have it in the first place. (Empiricists will at times opt for skepticism as an alternative to rationalism: if experience cannot provide the concepts or knowledge the rationalists cite, then we don't have them.) Second, empiricists attack the rationalists' accounts of how reason is a source of concepts or knowledge.
Source 2: About - Rationalism
Rationalism is the philosophical stance according to which reason is the ultimate source of human knowledge. It rivals empiricism according to which the senses suffice in justifying knowledge. In a form or another, rationalism features in most philosophical tradition; in the Western one, it boasts a long and distinguished list of followers, including Plato, Descartes, and Kant.
The Case for Rationalism
How do we come to know objects, through the senses or through reason? Descartes brought some of the strongest arguments to believe that the latter option is the correct one. Consider polygons (i.e. closed, plane figures in geometry). How do we come to recognize features of polygons; for example, how do we know that something is a triangle? The senses here may seem to play a key role: we see that a figure has three sides. But, now imagine to have two figures in front of you, the first with a thousand sides and the other with a thousand and one sides. Which is which? Well, presumably the senses will not suffice in providing an answer to this question: you will need reasoning (e.g. counting) in order to tell them apart.
For Descartes, reason is involved in all of our knowledge. This is because the nuances of the objects we encounter are far more than we can detect by the senses alone. Consider looking at a person waving at you for ten seconds: what you see are literally hundreds of different images; how do you know that they belong to one and the same gesture? And how do you know they belong to one and the same person? Now suppose that the person you are looking at is yourself in the mirror: how do you know you are looking at one person?
Reason alone can explain puzzles such as the one above. Other authors offered different arguments, such as Plato’s allegory of the cave or Spinoza’s arguments for God’s existence in the Ethics.
Source 3: About - Empiricism
Empiricism is the philosophical stance according to which the senses are the ultimate source of human knowledge. It rivals rationalism according to which reason is the ultimate source of knowledge. In a form or another, empiricism features in most philosophical tradition. In Western philosophy, empiricism boasts a long and distinguished list of followers in all ages; probably, the most fertile period for this trend happened during the early modern period, with the so-called British empiricists, whose rank includes authors of the caliber of John Locke and David Hume.
The Centrality of Experience
Empiricist claim that all ideas that a mind can entertain have been formed through some experiences or – to use a slightly more technical term – through some impressions; here is how David Hume expressed this creed: "it must be some one impression that gives rise to every real idea" (A Treatise of Human Nature, Book I, Section IV, Ch. vi). Indeed – Hume proceeds in Book II – "all our ideas or more feeble perceptions are copies of our impressions or more lively ones". Under this characterization, empiricism is the claim that all human ideas are less detailed copies of some experience or other
Empiricists seem to have several cases on their side, cases where a person’s lack of experience precludes her from possessing an adequate idea. Consider pineapples, a favorite example among early modern writers. How can you explain the flavor of a pineapple to someone who never has never seen one such fruit? Here is what John Locke says about this case in his Essay:
"If you doubt this, see whether you can by words give anyone who has never tasted pineapple an idea of the taste of that fruit. He may approach a grasp of it by being told of its resemblance to other tastes of which he already has the ideas in his memory, imprinted there by things he has taken into his mouth; but this isn’t giving him that idea by a definition, but merely raising up in him other simple ideas that will still be very different from the true taste of pineapple." (An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Book III, Chapter IV)
There are of course countless cases analogous to the one cited by Locke. They are typically exemplified by claims such as: "You can’t understand what it feels like …" Thus, if you never gave birth, you don’t know what it feels like; if you never dined at the famous Spanish restaurant El Bulli, you don’t know what it was like; and so on.
My Conclusion: Unless you have a different definition of what knowledge is I think Empiricism is ridiculous, and is mostly driven by the modern view that because of advances in science, technology, and logic, we are smarter than humans were 500 years ago, and therefore we can know more. A Rationalist would say nay, a human 500 years ago could know just as much as a human can know now.
Originally posted by Wang Tang
By smarter I mean in the scientific sense... we have much more information at our disposal
However, being smarter does not translate to having more knowledge,