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© Michael Lacewing Rationalism and empiricism Michael Lacewing

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1 © Michael Lacewing Rationalism and empiricism Michael Lacewing

2 Epistemology How do we know what we know? Types of knowledge –Acquaintance: I know Oxford well. –Know how: I know how to ride a bike. –Propositional: I know that elephants are grey. Belief v. knowledge –Knowledge has a justification or evidence

3 Reason and experience The terms rationalist and empiricist can be applied to –theories of knowledge –theories of concept acquisition –theories of justification –historical schools of thought Why choose reason or experience? –Most rationalists allow knowledge from experience. –All empiricists use reasoning to establish conclusions.

4 Reason and experience Experience: just sense experience? What about religious experience? Reason: just reasoning? What about intuition?

5 A clear distinction Rationalism: we can have substantive a priori knowledge of how things stand outside the mind. Empiricism: we cannot.

6 Substantive knowledge Substantive knowledge is knowledge of a synthetic proposition. Trivial knowledge is knowledge of an analytic proposition. –An analytic proposition is true or false in virtue of the meanings of the words. –Not all analytic propositions are obvious: In five days time, it will have been a week since the day which was tomorrow three days ago - true or false?

7 A priori knowledge A priori: knowledge that does not require (sense) experience to be known to be true (v. a posteriori) It is not a claim that no experience was necessary to arrive at the claim, but that none is needed to prove it.

8 Two quick points Empiricists do not claim there is no a priori knowledge; they deny there is substantive a priori knowledge. Rationalists (except for Plato) do not claim sense experience can never provide knowledge.


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