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Nick Smith

Philosophy P

Mr. Buescher

10 October

Rationalism: The Rational Choice

Humanity is eternally bound to its own perspective. Individuals can never leap out of their

perspectives and learn the way that things really are, if they are right in their perceptions and ideas

or completely wrong. The obvious way to observe how things are is using the senses, but these

can be tricked with things like optical illusions, throwing the reliability of the senses into question

somewhat. However, using reason, humans can deduce how the universe acts, and how reality

most likely is. Rationalism is the most reasonable theory of knowledge because it doesnt provide

absolutes, it allows humanity to use knowledge, and it builds upon a priori knowledge.

Rationalism allows for a constantly changing body of knowledge. Since the senses can be

fooled by things like optical illusions and hallucinations, humanity can use its reason to figure out

how things are through circumstantial evidence. Rationalism allows for non-absolutes, and creates

an ever-changing field of human knowledge, subject to update as the means for discovery increase.

These advancements are all results from human reasoning, and further allow humanity to deduce

its surroundings. Since rationalism allows for non-absolutes, it allows people to think, rather than

go off of their senses alone or assume that nothing is knowable. Hallucinations and optical illusions

can prove that human senses arent always one hundred percent reliable, while our understandings

of the universe as it is are mostly derived from reasonable equations and observations derived from

sensory experience. The fact that humanity has made it to the moon and survived is a testament

that we know something about the world in which we live, and that our senses are at least mostly
reliable. Since people also can create and deconstruct things like optical illusions, there is some

proof that they have some understanding of how the universe works. People arent eternally fooled

by the mysterious spinning circles, they can make their own and explain why the circles appear to

be spinning. Using their reason, theyve shown that human senses are reliable, and can be used to

prove other things about the rest of the universe. So, seeing as how people have some proof that

the outside world exists, they have a foundation for their reason to create knowledge.

Neither skepticism nor empiricism allow humanity to use its reason as much as possible.

Skepticism assumes that knowledge is impossible, and that reasoning based upon circumstantial

evidence is unprovable, using things like optical illusions as evidence. However, since in this case

people can deduce that there is something unusual about the illusion, there must have been a point

where something was normal. Rationalism uses reason to figure out that there is something odd

about the image, and deduces the feeling, rather than simply deciding that the very fabric of reality

is an illusion and all knowledge is false. Empiricism, meanwhile, believes that sensory and

circumstantial experience is all there is and all that matters. This can be undermined as well,

however, because to argue, people require logic. Empiricist arguments, where people claim that

no logical truths are required to figure out the true state of the world, themselves require a certain

logic that applies to the person believing the argument. Skepticism and empiricism base

themselves off of the idea that humanity is without the thing that defines it and sets it apart- the

ability to think. The idea of I think, therefore I am is disregarded in favor of the idea that

humanity cannot think, either because it does not have knowledge or all the knowledge available

is laid out before it, and it doesnt need to think.

Finally, rationalism can rely upon a priori ideas, things that are either inborn or so obvious

that they are self-evident. Concepts like We exist in three dimensions or Some things are good,
while others are bad are hardwired into peoples brains from birth. Even though they cannot

properly explain such ideas until later, they know that these concepts exist and act by them. The

idea that a magician is actually altering the very fabric of time and space is preposterous to most

people because the fabric of time and space is inalterable- bunnies and flowers dont just appear

out of hats. Other proofs of a priori experience include the fact that there are certain truths that

nearly, if not all, people are born with and operate by. The idea that happiness is good and must

be pursued is one of these earliest concepts. Other concepts of the world are built not necessarily

from the five senses, but from awareness of the world. Memories of science class tell people that

they live in the Milky Way, current knowledge tells them that they are sitting down, or they can

feel their limbs moving in space. Years and years of these sensory feelings contribute to a priori

proofs that are impossible to defy, as everyone else experiences and can relate to these experiences

and concepts.

Rationalism is the most rational theory of knowledge, as it can use a priori knowledge, it

doesnt provide absolutes, and it allows humanity to use its ability to reason. Rationalism makes

the most sense to me because it appeals to my idea of a happy medium- caught somewhere between

the two extremes of the epistemology spectrum. While I cant prove that I know anything, I also

cant prove that I do know anything. However, I can use my reasoning and my experience to justify

myself and make sense of the world, and this approach makes sense to me.