Concerning rationalism, how important is it to be absolutely certain in fundamental beliefs? Is it even possible to achieve absolute certainty about any beliefs? Why? and Is the basis of this certainty something you can convince another person?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Rationalism is a branch of Western philosophy that says that reason is the chief source and test of knowledge. Individuals who adhere to this philosophy believe that there are inherent truths in nature that a person can understand by using logic, reason, and mathematics. Because of the rationalist's emphasis on reason, they may discount other valid ways of knowing.

As a point of comparison, empiricism is the philosophy that says all knowledge must come from and be tested by sense experience. This is often said to be the opposite of rationalism, because rationalists believe that there are certain truths that can be understood without having to experience them for yourself.

The question that you're posing is one that requires personal reflection. Do you align more with the rationalist or empiricist point of view? The key question you should ask yourself in answering this question is whether you can really know something without experiencing it for yourself.

For example, you might argue that there are mathematic and scientific truths about our universe that are inherently true and don't require us to experience them for ourselves in order to know them to be true. Or you could argue that science relies on experimentation to prove and disprove theories. Perhaps this suggests that even scientists need to "experience" things they believe to be true before they can accept them as fact.

Consider these issues for yourself. There isn't necessarily a right or wrong answer, just say what you think. Good luck!

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team