Rationalism v. empiricism

How does science work? And what's all this about quantum mechanics?

Moderators: AMod, iMod

Post Reply
User avatar
Speakpigeon
Posts: 963
Joined: Sat Nov 11, 2017 3:20 pm
Location: Paris, France, EU

Rationalism v. empiricism

Post by Speakpigeon » Thu Jul 25, 2019 1:34 pm

The difference between rationalism and empiricism is in the method of proof.

Empiricism requires, by the conventional definition and usual understanding of the term, that the proof of your claim be an observation of the material world.

Rationalism requires instead that the proof of your claim be an observation of your own mind.

The widespread contention that this distinction is fundamental is spurious, however. Empirical sciences wouldn't exist as we know them had they to be justified only by observations of the material world. Empirical sciences require from scientists that they first observe their own mind since the percepts they have relative to the material world are all entirely mental events.

And of course you only need to read Descartes's first pages leading to the Cogito to be convinced that understanding the idea of it requires understanding his confrontation of his observation of his own mind, through introspection, and his observation of the material world, through his senses (irrespective of whether any of these things exist as such).

The difference is real but more a matter a degree than of a black-and-white distinction. Science relies on a large extent of what scientists themselves call "thought experiment".

One of the first scientific discovery, and one which is well-known the world over, is Archimedes' principle. The principle states that water exerts an upward force upon any body partially or fully immersed in it and that this force is equal to the weight of the water displaced by the body. Archimedes didn't discover this principle as it is formulated now, but he realised how he could prove whether a crown is of impure gold by immersing it into water. His idea was to measure the volume of the water displaced by the crown as a measure of the volume of the crown. Archimedes is supposed to have shouted "Eureka" while having a bath and presumably observing the level of the water inside the bathtub go up as a result of immersing himself. However, anyone having a bath can experience the Archimedes force as exerted on their own body by water. Swimming certainly seems a lot easier for it. We feel the force. It is an empirical fact. Yet, understanding what is the cause of the force requires an operation of the mind, something entirely rationalistic in essence.

Still, the ultimate proof in the empirical sciences can only be an observation of the material world. If physics, the epitome of empirical sciences, evolved to the point where such a proof could no longer be obtained, it would be perceived more as a rationalist discipline, as seems indeed to be the current status of String Theory.

It is also possible to consider our observation of our own mind (introspection) to be fundamentally an empirical activity.

There is indeed no fundamental difference between observing the material world and observing the pain that you experience whenever you experience pain. The difference is entirely in the fact that two observers will be able to agree that they see a tree or a bird, while only one observer will be able to observe the pain experienced. Yet, we all will experience pain at some point in our lives, as well as such mental phenomena as remembering the past, feeling nauseous, having a logical intuition, having a Eureka moment, etc. And indeed having any idea about the empirical world.
EB

User avatar
Sculptor
Posts: 696
Joined: Wed Jun 26, 2019 11:32 pm

Re: Rationalism v. empiricism

Post by Sculptor » Thu Jul 25, 2019 1:44 pm

Speakpigeon wrote:
Thu Jul 25, 2019 1:34 pm
The difference between rationalism and empiricism is in the method of proof.

Empiricism requires, by the conventional definition and usual understanding of the term, that the proof of your claim be an observation of the material world.

Rationalism requires instead that the proof of your claim be an observation of your own mind.

The widespread contention that this distinction is fundamental is spurious, however. Empirical sciences wouldn't exist as we know them had they to be justified only by observations of the material world. Empirical sciences require from scientists that they first observe their own mind since the percepts they have relative to the material world are all entirely mental events.

And of course you only need to read Descartes's first pages leading to the Cogito to be convinced that understanding the idea of it requires understanding his confrontation of his observation of his own mind, through introspection, and his observation of the material world, through his senses (irrespective of whether any of these things exist as such).
.
EB
This false dichotomy bears more relationship to the English French divide in thinking during what later became known as the Enlightenment.
Descartes, who was obsessively rationalistic to the detriment of observation, was challenged by the emerging "empiricists" Berkeley, Hume, Locke.
Clearly they used rationalism, reason to interpret their empirical information, but it has to be argued that "rationalists" accepted observable information too.

Without observation of empirical reality, reason almost immediately leads to falsehoods and idols of the mind.
Once you get that we are all ultimately empiricists.

User avatar
Speakpigeon
Posts: 963
Joined: Sat Nov 11, 2017 3:20 pm
Location: Paris, France, EU

Re: Rationalism v. empiricism

Post by Speakpigeon » Thu Jul 25, 2019 2:41 pm

Sculptor wrote:
Thu Jul 25, 2019 1:44 pm
Without observation of empirical reality, reason almost immediately leads to falsehoods and idols of the mind.
Sure, since your own mind is an empirical fact.
And without rationality, empiricism definitely leads to "falsehoods and idols".
Sculptor wrote:
Thu Jul 25, 2019 1:44 pm
Once you get that we are all ultimately empiricists.
I'm not sure what "ultimately" means in the context.
Nor what "empiricist" means.
Nor what "we" means.
And how do we get around to deciding what these things really are?
So, ultimately? The first and prime empirical evidence is that of my own mind. I know my mind. I can only believe whatever I believe about the material world, as indeed Descartes so aptly explained.
Yet, that doesn't make much practical difference since believing is just as good as knowing if it happens that your beliefs are conveniently in line with the material world.
So, it's not quite a distinction without a difference but one which is just too much ideologically loaded. And herein lies entirely the problem, at least in my opinion.
EB

User avatar
Sculptor
Posts: 696
Joined: Wed Jun 26, 2019 11:32 pm

Re: Rationalism v. empiricism

Post by Sculptor » Thu Jul 25, 2019 3:33 pm

Speakpigeon wrote:
Thu Jul 25, 2019 2:41 pm
Sculptor wrote:
Thu Jul 25, 2019 1:44 pm
Without observation of empirical reality, reason almost immediately leads to falsehoods and idols of the mind.
Sure, since your own mind is an empirical fact.
And without rationality, empiricism definitely leads to "falsehoods and idols".
Sculptor wrote:
Thu Jul 25, 2019 1:44 pm
Once you get that we are all ultimately empiricists.
I'm not sure what "ultimately" means in the context.
Nor what "empiricist" means.
Nor what "we" means.
And how do we get around to deciding what these things really are?
So, ultimately? The first and prime empirical evidence is that of my own mind. I know my mind. I can only believe whatever I believe about the material world, as indeed Descartes so aptly explained.
Yet, that doesn't make much practical difference since believing is just as good as knowing if it happens that your beliefs are conveniently in line with the material world.
So, it's not quite a distinction without a difference but one which is just too much ideologically loaded. And herein lies entirely the problem, at least in my opinion.
EB
You think therefore you are??
I think what your mate said was:

I think therefore I am.
Changed it to.
I think, I am.
Then decided to say
I think I am.
And promptly died in the fireplace.
So much for Rene.

User avatar
Speakpigeon
Posts: 963
Joined: Sat Nov 11, 2017 3:20 pm
Location: Paris, France, EU

Re: Rationalism v. empiricism

Post by Speakpigeon » Thu Jul 25, 2019 6:13 pm

Sculptor wrote:
Thu Jul 25, 2019 3:33 pm
You think therefore you are??
I think what your mate said was:

I think therefore I am.
Changed it to.
I think, I am.
Then decided to say
I think I am.
And promptly died in the fireplace.
So much for Rene.
LOL. You didn't kept the pretence very long, did you? Nothing intelligent to say, therefore...?
Please remember to ignore my posts in the future, will you?
EB

User avatar
Sculptor
Posts: 696
Joined: Wed Jun 26, 2019 11:32 pm

Re: Rationalism v. empiricism

Post by Sculptor » Thu Jul 25, 2019 8:34 pm

Speakpigeon wrote:
Thu Jul 25, 2019 6:13 pm
Sculptor wrote:
Thu Jul 25, 2019 3:33 pm
You think therefore you are??
I think what your mate said was:

I think therefore I am.
Changed it to.
I think, I am.
Then decided to say
I think I am.
And promptly died in the fireplace.
So much for Rene.
LOL. You didn't kept the pretence very long, did you? Nothing intelligent to say, therefore...?
Please remember to ignore my posts in the future, will you?
EB
Anyone who thinks highly of the loon from La Haye en Touraine deserves what he gets.

commonsense
Posts: 1235
Joined: Sun Mar 26, 2017 6:38 pm

Re: Rationalism v. empiricism

Post by commonsense » Thu Jul 25, 2019 10:42 pm

But wait—rationalistic proof requires no observation, save only the recognition that the connection between given thoughts is non-contradictory. Rationalism is not observable unless thought is observable.

And rationalism has no requirement to be derived from nor applicable to the material. Rationalism has the ability to be entirely immaterially propositional.

No?

Skepdick
Posts: 1725
Joined: Fri Jun 14, 2019 11:16 am

Re: Rationalism v. empiricism

Post by Skepdick » Thu Jul 25, 2019 11:09 pm

commonsense wrote:
Thu Jul 25, 2019 10:42 pm
But wait—rationalistic proof requires no observation, save only the recognition that the connection between given thoughts is non-contradictory.
And so what if a thought is contradictory? It is both raining and not raining outside. P ∧ ¬P.

That's a contradiction, right? Indeed. It's a true contradiction. A dialethism. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XjXvkIzUTtk

The definition of rational (in accordance with logic) is incoherent. Which logic? There are so many to choose from!
Last edited by Skepdick on Thu Jul 25, 2019 11:15 pm, edited 2 times in total.

User avatar
Sculptor
Posts: 696
Joined: Wed Jun 26, 2019 11:32 pm

Re: Rationalism v. empiricism

Post by Sculptor » Thu Jul 25, 2019 11:11 pm

commonsense wrote:
Thu Jul 25, 2019 10:42 pm
But wait—rationalistic proof requires no observation, save only the recognition that the connection between given thoughts is non-contradictory. Rationalism is not observable unless thought is observable.

And rationalism has no requirement to be derived from nor applicable to the material. Rationalism has the ability to be entirely immaterially propositional.

No?
True and utterly irrelevant, unrealistic, and not connected to the real world in any sense.

all noblobs are memeraths; some noblobs are fuctors. So some memraths are fuctors.

User avatar
Sculptor
Posts: 696
Joined: Wed Jun 26, 2019 11:32 pm

Re: Rationalism v. empiricism

Post by Sculptor » Thu Jul 25, 2019 11:13 pm

commonsense wrote:
Thu Jul 25, 2019 10:42 pm
But wait—rationalistic proof requires no observation,
No?
Have you an example that does not rely at some point about your existence in the real world or are you content to live inside your own head?

commonsense
Posts: 1235
Joined: Sun Mar 26, 2017 6:38 pm

Re: Rationalism v. empiricism

Post by commonsense » Fri Jul 26, 2019 12:08 am

Skepdick wrote:
Thu Jul 25, 2019 11:09 pm
commonsense wrote:
Thu Jul 25, 2019 10:42 pm
But wait—rationalistic proof requires no observation, save only the recognition that the connection between given thoughts is non-contradictory.
And so what if a thought is contradictory? It is both raining and not raining outside. P ∧ ¬P.

That's a contradiction, right? Indeed. It's a true contradiction. A dialethism. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XjXvkIzUTtk

The definition of rational (in accordance with logic) is incoherent. Which logic? There are so many to choose from!
Raining where outside? Not raining where else outside? This is not a contradiction. If it were, it must be rationally false or disproven or at least unproven. All this even without observing the material world.

Nonetheless, what observation does rationalism require.

commonsense
Posts: 1235
Joined: Sun Mar 26, 2017 6:38 pm

Re: Rationalism v. empiricism

Post by commonsense » Fri Jul 26, 2019 12:18 am

Sculptor wrote:
Thu Jul 25, 2019 11:11 pm
commonsense wrote:
Thu Jul 25, 2019 10:42 pm
But wait—rationalistic proof requires no observation, save only the recognition that the connection between given thoughts is non-contradictory. Rationalism is not observable unless thought is observable.

And rationalism has no requirement to be derived from nor applicable to the material. Rationalism has the ability to be entirely immaterially propositional.

No?
True and utterly irrelevant, unrealistic, and not connected to the real world in any sense.

all noblobs are memeraths; some noblobs are fuctors. So some memraths are fuctors.
Yes, rationalism is not of necessity relevant to the physical (real) world; it is non-realistic (unrealistic) and not necessarily connected to the material world at all.

We couldn’t talk about noblobs if we had to look for them in the material world. But if there were such a thing as a nobglob...

commonsense
Posts: 1235
Joined: Sun Mar 26, 2017 6:38 pm

Re: Rationalism v. empiricism

Post by commonsense » Fri Jul 26, 2019 12:19 am

Sculptor wrote:
Thu Jul 25, 2019 11:13 pm
commonsense wrote:
Thu Jul 25, 2019 10:42 pm
But wait—rationalistic proof requires no observation,
No?
Have you an example that does not rely at some point about your existence in the real world or are you content to live inside your own head?
Nobglobs!

commonsense
Posts: 1235
Joined: Sun Mar 26, 2017 6:38 pm

Re: Rationalism v. empiricism

Post by commonsense » Fri Jul 26, 2019 12:23 am

Skepdick wrote:
Thu Jul 25, 2019 11:09 pm
The definition of rational (in accordance with logic) is incoherent.
Rationalism deals only in thoughts, coherent or otherwise.

Skepdick
Posts: 1725
Joined: Fri Jun 14, 2019 11:16 am

Re: Rationalism v. empiricism

Post by Skepdick » Fri Jul 26, 2019 12:26 am

commonsense wrote:
Fri Jul 26, 2019 12:23 am
Rationalism deals only in thoughts, coherent or otherwise.
What would you think about if you had no sensory/empirical input?

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests