There are two strands of rationalism:
- Knowledge is the faculty of reason. (deductive arguments)
- We have innate knowledge and ideas
Rationalists believe that, either way, our knowledge is a priori (before experience).
i.e. we can know 2 + 2 = 4 prior to experience.
Rationalists believe in:
- analytic statements
- necessary truths
- deductive reasoning (look on my other notes)
A priori knowledge (taken from the mark scheme of
- Intuition: rational insight, grasping the truth of a proposition, ‘seeing’ it to be true by ‘the light of reason’ (or, possibly, having a clear and distinct idea that…). This might be connected to logically necessary truths;
- Through understanding the meanings of terms in analytic statements which are true by definition (or in which the concept of the predicate is contained within the subject). This may also be linked to necessity;
- There may also be references to synthetic a priori knowledge (Kant and mathematics) and/or to contingent a priori knowledge (Kripke);
- Deduction or demonstration: deriving further conclusions from intuited or necessarily true premises through valid argumentation; & syllogisms
- Innate knowledge: knowledge not learned through either sense experience or intuition and deduction (Plato, Meno - slave boy.
• Descartes’ clear and distinct ideas – which might be linked to innate ideas, intuition or demonstration – that, eg God can be known to exist a priori, the internal angles of a triangle = two right angles, etc;
• Kant’s view that the truths of mathematics – eg that 7 + 5 = 12 – are a priori, necessary and synthetic (and, possibly, that moral principles are a priori);
Plato was a substance dualist - believing that the soul and the body were two separate and distinct substances
Although the body is mortal, the soul is immortal and on the death of the physical body, the soul will be released into a spiritual world of Forms before being reborn in another body.
In the world of Forms, the soul absorbs knowledge, which is regained after rebirth.
Thus, we a born with innate knowledge within us, and we simply have to learn how to access it through contemplation and reflection
· Anything that is not physical, is stored in our mind; innate. E.g. grass is green. It is actually colourless, the mind is stored with a perception of colour – Descartes