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  FROM INTERNET ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA Rationalism In philosophy, rationalism is the epistemological view that regards reason as the chief source and test of knowledge or any view appealing to reason as a source of knowledge or  justification . Coherence theory of truth A coherence theory of truth states that the truth of any (true) proposition consists in its coherence with some specified set of propositions. The coherence theory differs from its principal competitor, the correspondence theory of truth, in two essential respects. Methodic doubt  Methodic doubt, in Cartesian philosophy, a way of searching for certainty by systematically though tentatively doubting everything. First, all statements are classified according to type and source of knowledge — e.g., knowledge from tradition, empirical knowledge, and mathematical knowledge. Then, examples from each class are examined. If a way can be found to doubt the truth of any statement, then all other statements of that type are also set aside as dubitable. The doubt is methodic because it assures systematic completeness, but also because no claim is made that all — or even that any — statements in a dubitable class are really false or that one must or can distrust them in an ordinary sense. The method is to set aside as conceivably false all statements and types of knowledge that are not indubitably true. The hope is that, by eliminating all statements and types of knowledge the truth of which can be doubted in any way, one will find some indubitable certainties. Innate ideas Innate ideas are ideas or knowledge prior and independent of sense experience. For Plato, knowledge of the Forms derives from innate ideas which are accessible to memory. In Descartes, all principles of science and knowledge are founded on clear and distinct ideas, or incorrigible truths, which are innate in the mind and which may be captured by the method of reason. Innate ideas came to be the focus of attack by empiricist philosophers who sought to argue that the mind is at first a tabula rasa only subsequently informed by sense experience. The classic objection to innate ideas occurs in Locke’s essay concerning Human understanding, where it is argued that if there were ideas innate in the mind then we would expect to find them expressed by infants and untutored savages. But experience conclusively shows that it is not the case. A priori ideas A priori knowledge, in Western philosophy since the time of Immanuel Kant, knowledge that is independent of all particular experiences, as opposed to a posteriori knowledge, which derives from experience. The Latin phrases a priori (“from what is before”) and a posteriori (“from what is after”) were used in philosophy srcinally to distinguish between arguments from causes and arguments from effects. A Posteriori The term a posteriori is used in philosophy to indicate inductive reasoning. The term is Latin,  meaning “from what comes after”, referring to that which comes after experience. Something that is known a posteriori is known based on logic that is derived from experience. Reason can be involved in an a posteriori statement, but that reason still stems from an assumption made empirically, rather than one derived from an abstract truth. Skepticism Skepticism, also spelled scepticism, in Western philosophy, the attitude of doubting knowledge claims set forth in various areas. Skeptics have challenged the adequacy or reliability of these claims by asking what principles they are based upon or what they actually establish. They have questioned whether some such claims really are, as alleged, indubitable or necessarily true, and they have challenged the purported rational grounds of accepted assumptions. In everyday life, practically everyone is skeptical about some knowledge claims; but philosophical skeptics have doubted the possibility of any knowledge beyond that of the contents of directly felt experience. The srcinal Greek meaning of skeptikos was “an inquirer,” someone who was unsatisfied and still looking for truth. Cogito, ergo sum Cogito, ergo sum, (Latin: “I think, therefore I am) dictum coined by the French philosopher René Descartes in his Discourse on Method (1637) as a first step in demonstrating the attainability of certain knowledge. It is the only statement to survive the test of his methodic doubt. The statement is indubitable, as Descartes argued in the second of his six Meditations on First Philosophy (1641), because even if an all-powerful demon were to try to deceive him into thinking that he exists when he does not, he would have to exist in order for the demon to deceive him. Therefore, whenever he thinks, he exists. Furthermore, as he argued in his replies to critics in the second edition (1642) of the Meditations, the statement “I am” (sum) expresses an immediate intuition, not the conclusion of a piece of reasoning (regarding the steps of which he could be deceived), and is thus indubitable. However, in a later work, the Principles of Philosophy (1644), Descartes suggested that the cogito is indeed the conclusion of a syllogism whose premises include the propositions that he is thinking and that whatever thinks must exist. Evil Genius The Meditations is characterized by Descartes’s use of methodic doubt, a systematic procedure of rejecting as though false all types of belief in which one has ever been, or could ever be, deceived. His arguments derive from the skepticism of the Greek philosopher Sextus Empiricus (fl. 3rd century ce) as reflected in the work of the essayist Michel de Montaigne (1533  – 92) and the Catholic theologian Pierre Charron (1541  –1603). Thus, Descartes’s apparent knowledge based on authority is set aside, because even experts are sometimes wrong. His beliefs from sensory experience are declared untrustworthy, because such experience is sometimes misleading, as when a square tower appears round from a distance. Even his beliefs about the objects in his immediate vicinity may be mistaken, because, as he notes, he often has dreams about objects that do not exist, and he has no way of knowing with certainty whether he is dreaming or awake. Finally, his apparent knowledge of simple and general truths of reasoning that do not depend on sense experience —such as “2 + 3 = 5” or “a square has four sides”— is also unreliable, because God could have made him in such a way that, for example, he goes wrong every time he counts. As a way of summarizing the universal doubt into which he has fallen, Descartes supposes that an “evil genius of the  utmost power and cunning has employed all his energies in order to deceive me.”   Materialism Materialism, also called physicalism, in philosophy, the view that all facts (including facts about the human mind and will and the course of human history) are causally dependent upon physical processes, or even reducible to them. Cartesian Dualism The central claim of what is often called Cartesian dualism, in honor of Descartes, is that the immaterial mind and the material body, while being ontologically distinct substances, causally interact. Mind  –  body dualism , in philosophy, any theory that mind and body are distinct kinds of substances or natures. This position implies that mind and body not only differ in meaning but refer to different kinds of entities. Thus, a dualist would oppose any theory that identifies mind with the brain, conceived as a physical mechanism. Ontological argument Ontological argument, Argument that proceeds from the idea of God to the reality of God. It was first clearly formulated by St. Anselm in his Proslogion (1077  – 78); a later famous version is given by René Descartes. Anselm began with the concept of God as that than which nothing greater can be conceived. To think of such a being as existing only in thought and not also in reality involves a contradiction, since a being that lacks real existence is not a being than which none greater can be conceived. A yet greater being would be one with the further attribute of existence. Thus the unsurpassably perfect being must exist; otherwise it would not be unsurpassably perfect. This is among the most discussed and contested arguments in the history of thought. Mind-body problem The mind  – body problem is an unsolved problem concerning the relationship between thought and consciousness in the human mind, and the brain as part of the physical body.  FROM BOOK B.C. Harrison (2015), Power & Society: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, 14 th  edition THE RATIONALIST: RENE DESCARTES Rationalism An epistemological position in which reason is said to be the primary source of all knowledge, superior to sense evidence. Rationalists argue that only reason can distinguish reality from illusion and give meaning to experience.  A priori   ideas (innate ideas) Truths that are from observation or experiment, characterized as being certain, deductive, universally true, and independent of all experience. Coherence theory of truth Truth test in which new or unclear ideas are evaluated in terms of rational or logical consistency and in relation to already established truths. Methodic doubt Cartesian strategy of deliberately doubting everything that is possible to doubt in the least degree so that what remains will be known with absolute certainty.  A priori   knowledge Derived from reason without reference to sense experience. Examples include “All triangles contain 180°” and “Every event has a cause.”    A posteriori knowledge Empirical knowledge derived from sense experience and not regarded as universal because the conditions under which it is acquired change, perceivers vary, and factual relationships change. Cogito, ergo sum Latin for “I think therefore I am.”   Ontological argument An attempt to prove the existence of God either by referring to the meaning of the word God when it is understood a certain way or by referring to the purportedly unique quality of the concept of God. Materialism (Behaviorism, mechanism) Belief that everything is composed of matter (and energy) and can be explained by physical laws, that all human activity can be understood as the natural behavior of matter according to mechanical laws, and that thinking is merely a complex form of behaving: The body is a fleshy machine. Dualism Any philosophical position that divides existence into two completely distinct, independent, unique substances. Monism General name for the belief that everything consists of only one, ultimate, unique substance such as matter or spirit. Pluralism The belief that more than one reality or substance exist. THE SKEPTIC: DAVID HUME Skeptic From the Greek skeptesthai, “To consider or examine”, a person who demands clear, observable, undoubtable evidence before accepting any knowledge claim as true.
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