Table of Contents
The case for Rationalism and Empiricism.
Hume discerned between the 'synthetic' knowledge that Empiricism provides, and 'analytic' knowledge, or intuition that Rationalism offers. Science, and most modern thought, has been based on these two sources. How well are they founded?
- Rationalism is necessary. We can not switch off our rationality. Empiricism hás been denied, by non-realists.
- The utilitarian arguments for Rationalism and Empiricism are overwhelming, as evidenced by the successes of science and technology. These successes are the reason Rationalism and Empiricism are generally accepted.
- Both Rationalism and Empiricism appear, prima facie, to meet the requirements of consistency, objectivity and univocation. However, there is one cloud on the horizon: the aforementioned openness of rationality to inconsistency, especially in the higher realms of mathematics, quantum mechanics or cosmology.
the origins of Rationality
Intuition has been described as "innate knowledge", which would make the following hypothesis plausible: that evolution has supplied us with a distilled knowledge of millions years of empirical experience. Intuition might be identified as this distilled empirical knowledge.
What would the process of distilling knowledge be? Induction seems to be the only candidate. Throughout evolution, we have found that one rock and another rock are two rocks. By induction, we have learned that one plus one makes two. This rule is now part of our intuition.
This hypothesis for Rationality concurs with the doubts that Quine expressed about a distinction between analytic and synthetic knowledge. If this hypothesis is correct, we might expect that our intuition fails when we step outside of the mundane, into higher realms. This is precisely my interpretation of the paradoxes of Russell, Olbers and Schrödinger.
If we can not trust Rationalism to be consistent, we have been dealt a very bad hand indeed; for the demand of consistency is based on the law of contradiction, which is in turn part of Rationalism itself.
To live in a consistent world, equipped with an inconsistent mind; a torment worthy of Tantalus. Exclusivity
I can not think of a single argument from Rationalism and/or Empiricism that would preclude other alternative sources like Fundamentalism or Authoritarianism as invalid. Thus, the scientific sources are not exclusive, or even special. That being said, we need to investigate whether those alternative sources meet our six demands.