What is meant by "rationalism"?
Define the term.
1 Answer | Add Yours
One approach to studying the world is to give highest value to “Rationalism”, by which is meant man’s ability to think (see Descartes), especially to apply the mental exercises of cause-and-effect, logic, and taxonomy (the ordering of elements in a group by some criterion or criteria). The mind can do other things as well, such as imagine, dream, observe, create, etc. In terms of human behavior, there are (at least) two schools of thought: the rationalists, who see human personality and social behavior as the product of environmental experiences, and view humans as responsible for their actions, and those who see the most important influences on human behavior as inborn, biological or even chemical. These philosophers see all people and things in the world as possessing “innate” properties—a stone has the “innate” property of hardness, let us say, and a stone like a soapstone is a deviation from this “innate” property. The trouble with this theory, according to Rationalists, is that it merely observes similar properties and then deduces that the property is “innate” while ignoring exceptions—not logical. In the case of inanimate objects, the belief is fairly harmless, but in the case of “higher”, living species, it can be dangerous. Are dogs “innately” group/pack animals? Perhaps. But are they “innately” vicious? Not so clear. Do humans have free will “innately”? In law, it becomes very contentious (what is “responsibility”?) In literature, characters can often be divided into the two types, or can be seen as struggling with a balance between their reasoning capabilities and their “innate” sensibilities.
Join to answer this question
Join a community of thousands of dedicated teachers and students.Join eNotes