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Empiricism: The Key Principles

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Topic: We can be more certain about the knowledge we derive through our senses and reasoning than the knowledge we derive through language and our emotions.

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I agree that we can be more certain about the knowledge we derive through our senses and reasoning than the knowledge we derive though language and our emotions. Deriving knowledge through our senses and reasoning is known as empiricism while deriving knowledge through language and emotions is known as rationalisation. Empiricists, people who believe in empiricism, claim that sense experience is “the ultimate source of all our concepts and knowledge”. On the other hand, rationalists, those who would rather believe in rationalisation, claim that “there are significant ways in which our concepts and knowledge are gained independently of sense experience”. While both of these concepts are not wrong, it boils down to how normal people look at how they learn and experience knowledge. Some people choose empiricism as their method of knowing things while others may prefer rationalisation as their way of knowing things.

Empiricism can be said to be simpler than rationalism, due to the fact that rationalism has one more entity that exists, that which is innate knowledge. Many empiricists feel that innate knowledge is unobservable and inefficacious. The knowledge that was gain is all in the brain, yet, it may just remain there untouched, never used by the person. Empiricism has been used to explain many things in our day-to-day life. The first example would be that of identifying colours. It would be impossible to figure out how colours such as red, blue, yellow, black or white would look like if we are unable to experience and remember them. We would need prior experience and memory to understand and know the colour. Another example of empiricism being out to use would be that of imagination and experience. Perfect triangularity would be near impossible to understand and comprehend if we had no experience with crooked, sensible triangles. If we instead had experience with crooked, sensible triangle, then by using our imagination, we are then able to straighten out what crooked is and understand the concept of perfect triangularity. Yet another example would be that of the advancement of science. A huge part of scientific knowledge is based and founded on empiricist principles, and not only would science not advanced without empiricism, there is unlikely to be science in the first place. Empiricism is a plays a big role in the scientific domain as it allows us to change our theories due to what we have experienced or learnt and then improve on the theories and allows us to see what went wrong.

On the other hand, rationalism does have its upsides and own advantages and benefit. The first example relating to rationalism would be that of maths and logic. Mathematical and logical truths are not based of human beings’ five senses but instead of our ability to reason and connect ideas together to understand the concept of maths and logic. Rationalism also serves to help us get a sense and feeling of what is right and wrong morally. It is impossible to understand morally right and wrong things such as justice, human rights, moral duties with our five senses, experience or empiricism. In the form of language usage, rationalism explains this concept better than empiricism. Toddlers form their own sentences using words or phrases that they have not heard or experienced the words or phrases being put in the order and way before. It is at this stage that they begin to understand the rules and concept of grammar even before they understand what nouns and verbs are. In this case, empiricism is invalid as these toddlers did not experience the knowledge of speech or heard the way things are said in their way and yet they are able to say it in their own way. If we apply empiricism principles here, where we speak the way we speak because we heard other people speak the same way, then these toddlers would not be able to speak the way they speak because they never heard it before.

Both empiricism and rationalism have their own merits and disadvantages. Many philosophers are argued about which is the more dominant way of knowing but both have their own dominance in certain aspects. Like the previously stated examples, in the field of science and imagination, empiricism is the dominant way of knowing things, whereas in areas such as moral rights, rationalism would be the better choice in these aspects.

In my opinion, deriving knowledge from reasoning and senses or empiricism would be the better choice. The reason behind this is because languages and emotion can be easily influences by external factors and thus will be likely to cloud our decision, knowledge and thinking. While some scenarios do require languages and emotions to help us in decision-making and knowledge, most scenarios require us instead to rely on sense perception and reasoning to make decision. In today’s society, there are many things that while we feel emotion that it is the right thing to do as our emotions are upbeat; it may not necessarily be the right or best choice. A case of this would be that of someone who has emotional or psychological problems would be unable to rely on his emotion for knowledge and decision making, as he/she would more often than not due to his/her condition make the wrong decision the same can be said of that for those who do not understand language. On the other hand, sense perception and reasoning can be used by everyone. Even though some people are sense-impaired, such as blind or deaf, they can still use reasoning to gain knowledge and make decisions.

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Even in our daily life, we have found more use for empiricism than rationalism. We do things we do because we have done that in the past and it was the right thing to do. We do things well because we have experience doing it. Everyone gets better at something by repeatedly doing the same thing over and over. It is through their experience than they are able to improve. Also, emotions can get in the way of our goals. It is only through taking out emotions from the equation are we able to gain the most amount of knowledge and make the best decisions.

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