• Category: Philosophy
  • Words: 1129
  • Grade: 19
Epistemology is the branch of philosophy that is directed toward theories of the sources, nature, and limits of knowledge. It can be broken down into two more specific branches known as rationalism and empiricism. Empiricism is the philosophical theory saying that all knowledge is derived from experience. For most empiricists, experience includes inner experience or reflection upon the mind and its operations as well as sense perception. Rationalism is the philosophical theory that says that reason alone, without the help of experience, can arrive at basic truth regarding the world. Rationalism also incorporates the principle of natural ideas and the method of logically finding the truths about the world from obvious places. Rationalism is opposed to empiricism on the question of the source of knowledge and the techniques for verification of knowledge. These same philosophical principles are applied when discussing whether or not God exists and if so in what way. I personally find the rationalist views a bit more appealing and reasonable to me and in my mind Rene Descartes' best applies these ideas. Though I am not completely against the empiricist views, I find the teachings of David Hume to be the most contradictive thoughts to those thoughts of my own.
Descartes was a 17th century philosopher who represents Continental Rationalism. He believed that humans were just helpless souls trapped in bodies. Though this is a vague and basic thought, I could not agree with it more. For most of us it seems as though we have no control at all over our lives and that perhaps we are just helpless beings trapped inside of bodies just trying to get by in this world. Another one of Descartes main focuses was that in order to truly know something we must have 100% proof that it exists and therefore it cannot be disproved. Like Descartes, the only way I am truly convinced with the existence of anything is if there is certainty that it does exist and therefore is unable to be disproved. Rationalists do not accept sense data, but instead only data that are not made of matter, those things that are unchangeable such as ideas, concepts, or numbers. Like most rationalists, Descartes also believed in Solipsism with is the belief that I am the only one who exists and the people around me are my creation in my head. Like Descartes, I also lean towards the notion that the world we live in is not real and that it is all in our minds.
        The empirical ideas of David Hume are the ones that I disagree with most out of all the philosophers we studied in class. He was an 18th century scholar who represented the British Empiricism School of philosophy. Hume believed in a political philosophy that said the only tings we can know are those that we can verify with our senses, or our sense data. I do not have these same beliefs because I believe that knowing something goes much beyond what can be sensed, but instead that the only true things we know are ideas and concepts that do not change over time at all no matter what. Hume's views influenced AJ Ayer and logical positivism, which says that a statement is only meaningful if you can verify it by your senses. It says that knowing starts in the senses and ends there, that something does not exist without proof of it and this is just not true. What about honor or courage, can you see or hear them, can u smell them. I didn't think so. Like I mentioned above, I believe that the ability to know something is not limited to those things that we can verify with our senses. Though we cannot physically verify something does not mean it is not in existence, but instead perhaps we just cannot truly grasp it like we would like to.
        Now I know you are reading this paper and saying to yourself, "when is this kid going to talk about how the way these two philosophers define what is real to them helps them to decide how God exists?" Good question my friend. When thinking about how Descartes and his Rationalist buddies would view God, it would be safe to say that they believe in the concept of there being a greater being and that though they don't have concrete, sense evidence, the idea of God alone is all they need to fully believe he exists on any level. Descartes believes that since we have an idea that there is a greater being out there that there must be one. His proof is that we would not be able to think of such a phenomenon such as God without it being put in our minds at sometime, perhaps by the greater being, God, himself. Descartes explains three ways in which a person might come to such a conclusion "“ the first, through nature; the second, through feeling a value that is independent of the will of the object; and the third, the objective reality of an idea, or the cause and effect profile. Also it is his own dependence on another being that proves to him that there is a God. I agree with Descartes thoughts here because there is no true way for us to know that God exists and therefore his assumptions seem to make perfect sense. On the other hand David Hume says that the only way that we can infer the existence of one object from another is through experience. In this aspect, he is saying that there is absolutely no way for us to prove that God exists. In my mind this is just not true. Believing that God exists is not based off of his physical existence in my mind. By just knowing that God is out there somewhere is showing faith which is what our Christian religion is based on, faith in that which cannot be seen.
        I would say that I agree more with the ideas of Rene Descartes than David Hume or any other non-rationalist philosopher. Like Descartes, I don't need to see something or hear it feel it just to know it exists. I am actually just the opposite. I think that not having concrete evidence for the existence of God actually makes our belief in him stronger because all we have to go on is faith alone that he does truly exist. And that my friend is my reflection on the subject of Descartes vs. Hume.
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