Characteristics of rationalism and representatives


Philosophical current that emerged in the seventeenth century that maintains that the only source of knowledge is human reason. In this article we will impart you the Characteristics of rationalism.

Rationalism is a philosophical current that emerged in the seventeenth century  that maintains that the only source of knowledge is human reason . This is opposed by empiricism, which states that it can only be known through sensory experience.

According to rationalism, the only true knowledge is that which is achieved through reason , without the intervention of experience or sensitivity.

The founder of rationalism was René Descartes . His interest in laying the foundations for a new way of constructing knowledge places him as one of the protagonists of the Scientific Revolution . In general, it is considered that from his thought modern philosophy began.

Descartes questioned the method used up to that time to produce knowledge. This method was based on the criterion of authority typical of the Middle Ages , by which something is true only by the fact of being affirmed by certain authorities such as the Bible, God, or within medieval philosophical thought, the thought of the Greek philosopher Aristotle. . In addition, medieval philosophy operated through syllogisms and therefore did not create new knowledge, but deductively reached conclusions from premises considered true.

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Characteristics of rationalism

The main characteristics of rationalism are the following:

  • The Cartesian rationalism , proposed by Descartes, sought to achieve a knowledge that was true beyond all doubt . The method proposed by Descartes was to doubt everything that was taken for granted . Cartesian doubt has 3 characteristics: it is methodical, that is, it is the method or way to reach the truth; it is universal, since it applies to everything known, and it is hyperbolic, because it is taken to the extreme and everything is doubted.
  • It maintains that sensitive data misleads us . The only way to access the truth is through rational speculation .
  • He conceives of reason as a structure of innate ideas that underlie human thought. Among them, the most important are those of substance and causality .
  • Consider mathematics the perfect science, because all its postulates are purely rational.
  • By pretending to know reality only through reason, rationalism supports the assumption that the structure of reality is rational and therefore knowable and explainable through universal laws .
  • It is not a unitary line of thought. From the thought of Descartes different philosophical systems developed.

Representatives of rationalism

The main representatives and authors of rationalism are the following:

  • René Descartes (1596-1650) : French philosopher and scientist, founder of rationalism.
  • Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677) : Dutch philosopher of Sephardic origin. His most important work is Ethics demonstrated in a geometric manner.
  • Gottfried Leibniz (1646-1716) : German thinker who covered multiple aspects of knowledge.

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Rationalism and empiricism

Rationalism and empiricism are the two initiating currents of modern philosophy . Arising in the context of the Scientific Revolution, which began in the seventeenth century , both support the possibility of human knowledge. However, they differ in the method through which it is known.

Empiricism arose as opposition to rationalism and maintains that the only form of knowledge comes from experience, which can be both sensory (through the senses) and internal.

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