The term rationalism refers to a philosophical current that highlights the preponderance of reason with regard to the search for truth. In fact, although there is no antagonism, the rationalist prefers to use reason rather than the senses as a means of determining realities. This trend has a heritage from antiquity and has intensified at certain times in history. However, as with any overly biased assessment, there are also renowned critics in the field of philosophy. Rationalism has a good influence on the development of the scientific method used in the research field .
One of the first characters to give reason supremacy over the senses was the Greek philosopher Socrates. Thus, in Plato’s dialogues one of the first exponents of rationalism can be seen. For the philosopher, reality was defined by the world of ideas, material experience being a simple reflection of imperfection. In the Allegory of the Cave this statement can be understood; in this way, human beings remain inside the cave, where shadows of other men are projected, who, beyond the wall, keep a fire burning. This deformed and limited view is man’s view of reality over the senses. The other world, the real one, is constituted by ideas.
With the advent of Christianity, many of the statements of rationalism were left aside. What is certain is that for Aristotle, reason has always had an enormous credit in Christian theology, although rationalism as a philosophical current attributes an exaggeration to this emphasis.
The rationalist philosopher par excellence is Descartes, who with his famous phrase largely summarized this position. “I think, therefore I am” is a statement that explains the need to establish in existence the possibility of reasoning. Thus, it can be said that the ability to think is the most solid on which one can sustain the truth of the statement. This type of attitude was widely criticized by Kant, although he placed great importance on reason and considered it inseparable from the testimony of the senses.
Rationalism had a great influence on the evolution of sciences by notably influencing the making of the scientific method , especially with regard to the logical structure it has. Thus, a theory can never be verified despite being always confirmed by the inability to be able to deduce a general statement from particular statements.