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    Umm, I really have no idea what style to answer these in. I don't expect you to read this, but does the style look right?

    Assess rationalism (24 marks)

    Rationalism is a central doctrine to philosophy which entails that reasoned thought is the primary source of all of our important knowledge, rather than sense-experience as empiricism propounds. A considerable amount of ‘rationally gained knowledge’ is a priori; they come prior to experience. An example of an a priori truth is, for example, an analytical proposition whose verity can be established by the meaning of the words alone; this red book is this red book to name one. Other rational truths include those of mathematics. These truths are necessary, that is to say; they cannot conceivably be anything else. When adding up 2 and 2 it is necessary that we produce 4, and never 5 or 6. There are also arguments within rationalism that contend we have innate knowledge of some ideas such as geometric truths. This is often disputed by empiricist philosophers such as John Locke, who argue we are born with a tabula rasa; a blank slate on which we build all of our knowledge through sense-experience.

    René Descartes was one of the central protagonists in rationalist philosophy. His cogito argument illustrates some of the flaws within empiricism and ergo some of the strengths rationalism possesses. He begins noting that he has often believed things in the past that turned out to be false, using one example of a tower appearing circular from afar when it is in fact squared. Indeed; this demonstrates immediately that empirically gained truths are subject to fallibility due to sense deception whereas rational truths are more certain. Descartes as a foundationalist rationalist, these two schools often being juxtaposed with each other; aimed to withhold assent from his beliefs and search for something indubitable to act as the foundation to his superstructure of knowledge. Arguably, this ‘indubitable’ piece of knowledge could only be achieved through rationalism, as empirical beliefs are subject to sense deception.

    Descartes goes through several waves of doubt to withhold assent including dreaming, but rejects them for various reasons. Eventually he arrives at the notion that an evil demon could be deceiving him that, for example, he was sitting by the fire in a dressing gown writing his meditation. Indeed; such a powerful demon could even deceive him as to the laws of logic, causing him to add up 2 and 2 incorrectly each time he attempts to. This idea of an evil demon allows him to withhold assent from all of his prior beliefs and thus can continue in his search for knowledge. It is while he is thinking that he realises just this; he is thinking and therefore must exist. This is his foundational, indubitable knowledge. Rationalism therefore was used effectively here by Descartes to find something certain, a clear advantage of this theory. Rationalism often entails following logic, inferring a conclusion from a set of premises. Indeed, it would seem this is what Descartes is doing here, “I am thinking” and “everything that is thinking exists” being his premises. However, Descartes denies the Cogito is an inference noting that it is simply something ‘self evident’. This is another trait of rationalism; the ability to provide us with self-evident truths that appeal to no other beliefs to justify themselves and thus are self supporting rendering this doctrine advantageous over empiricism which often descends into an infinite regress when attempting to prove an empirical belief.

    Self-justifying beliefs often go hand in hand with innate ideas. That is to say, according to some rationalists; we are born with certain ideas already in us that simply need discovering. One such example is mathematical truths. In Plato’s dialogue meno between Socrates and a slave boy with no prior education, we discover that the slave boy can answer questions regarding mathematical logic correctly despite having never been taught how to do this. It would seem then that this knowledge is innate, redounding to the integrity of rationalism as a theory. Rational truths are also eternally true. For while empirical beliefs such as “the sun rises every morning” is subject to change, as one day it may not, 2 + 2 will always equal 4, even if no human was left on earth to add these numbers up. Again, this adds to the certainty of rational beliefs.

    While rationalism does so far seem to provide us with eternal, necessary and indubitable truths, there are numerous arguments which undermine this doctrine. Alas, while 2 + 2 =4 may be certain, it tells us nothing of great interest about the external world. As AJ Ayer notes, it is tautological, such as the statement: “this red book is red”. We are gaining nothing new or useful. A more radical view is propounded by J S Mill who says that mathematical truths are not necessary. He says that, like science, we have observed many instances of 2 + 6 equalling 8, but indeed we may have made a mistake all of these times. It could be according to J S Mill, that 2 + 6 indeed equals 9, we’ve just been miscounting all this time. However, Ayer rejects Mill’s argument, saying that even if he thought he had 5 pairs of something (10 items) and counted to find 9, it would not be that 5 X 2 = 9, it would still remain that 5 X 2 = 10; for he simply miscounted.

    Rationalism also supposes that the laws of logic are infallible. Indeed, there seems to be somewhat of a paradox within Descartes’ cogito argument, for he says that an evil demon could deceive him as to the laws of logic and then goes on to discover ‘indubitable’ knowledge through this flawed logic. If logic was fallible, it threatens to undermine the entire rationalist theory!

    Another notion of rationalism open the criticism is the one which suggests we have innate ideas of some things. John Locke suggests that there are ‘fools’ or ‘idiots’ who do not know that 2 + 2 = 4 and cannot perform mathematical calculations which are supposedly innate in all of us. Descartes also propounds that we have an innate idea of God, yet, as Locke points out; there are entire nations who are ignorant of the concept of a perfect divine being. How would Descartes explain this?

    Overall, it would seem that while rationalism is advantageous over empiricism in the notion that it is not subject to sense deception and can provide us with necessary, eternal truths which are indubitable and thus useful to foundationalist theories, there are flaws. These include the fact that, as Ayer suggests, mathematical truths are tautological and provide us with nothing useful regarding the external world and the problem of supposedly innate ideas not being known to certain people.
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    Please don't list your qualifications it's too sad!
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    (Original post by lambychopkins)
    Please don't list your qualifications it's too sad!
    Firstly, your comment has no relevance whatsoever to this thread, if you have a problem regarding that then PM me. Secondly, I don't know how you define "sad" particularly, but I don't really care, I'll do what I want thanks regardless of how your ego feels. **** off.
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    It's not a problem. Just an opinion
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    Oh my god I didn't know we'd have to answer questions like that!

    *goes off to revise*

    Looks very detailed, I'd give it... an A* ...and a cookie.

    Ps. plenty of people put their qualifications in their siggys and no-one seems to be that bothered. But I must say, Queen quotes are better
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    I know this is a long time after ur post but i am doing epistemology revision and i think its fab!!
    well done
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    Just a few bits of advice:

    - You spend too long on exposition especially about Descartes' waves of doubt. That paragraph could be summarised as 'Rational Logic can be used to establish self-evident truths, as with Descartes' three waves of doubt'

    - Our teacher also tells us to respond critically (thus fulfilling AO3) to any adantages/ disadvantages that we may propose. So for your first point which is 'rationalism provides us with self evident truths', the empiricist might respond by saying sense data are even more foundational, as we can always be sure that we are experiencing sense data. They require no propositional content (i.e., I don't have to explicitly say i have a headache for me to have a headache.) Rational truths do require propositional content.

    - Mention more examples of knowledge that only rationalists can acquire e.g., universals or knowledge of the past.

    - Also, you could mention some examples of knowledge that extreme rationalists couldn't acquire eg., the sky is blue. This and the above point fulfil AO2 which is selection + application. Furthermore, you could mention Hume's empiricist account of causation (if you've learnt about it).

    Overall though i think its good, u use scholars and it reads well!
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    (Original post by seanthebean50)
    Just a few bits of advice:

    - You spend too long on exposition especially about Descartes' waves of doubt. That paragraph could be summarised as 'Rational Logic can be used to establish self-evident truths, as with Descartes' three waves of doubt'

    - Our teacher also tells us to respond critically (thus fulfilling AO3) to any adantages/ disadvantages that we may propose. So for your first point which is 'rationalism provides us with self evident truths', the empiricist might respond by saying sense data are even more foundational, as we can always be sure that we are experiencing sense data. They require no propositional content (i.e., I don't have to explicitly say i have a headache for me to have a headache.) Rational truths do require propositional content.

    - Mention more examples of knowledge that only rationalists can acquire e.g., universals or knowledge of the past.

    - Also, you could mention some examples of knowledge that extreme rationalists couldn't acquire eg., the sky is blue. This and the above point fulfil AO2 which is selection + application. Furthermore, you could mention Hume's empiricist account of causation (if you've learnt about it).

    Overall though i think its good, u use scholars and it reads well!
    Darn! You beat me to it...

    I'd have to mirror that - pretty much what I was going to say before I was beaten to the punch! It's very well written and coherently structured, You've backed up your statements with good and simple examples too.

    However, I would add to the above that you probably need to cut down the waffle a little (unless you write REALLY fast in exams). It's really good as it is, but it reads a bit like a text book rather than an exam essay. As said by Sean above, you might want to talk a little less about what philosophers have said (or condense it) and concentrate more on assessing. I've heard it said that head examiner dude is literally looking for:

    1. A definition of the thoery
    2. Advantages/ strengths (and brief or obvious counters?)
    3. Disadvantages/ weaknesses (brief counters again?)
    4. Conclusion
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    Wow great essay. Can I ask anybody what mark this would get and whether we have to write essays that long in the exam?
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    Got to say I agree with you there! I wish I could write like that. ¬_¬

    It would probably score fairly highly in the exam, although I obviously can't give you any exact details. :P

    However, I think we should probably looking to write between half - 2/3 of that length in our exam (600 - 900 words?). As I understand it, they're looking for an assessment of it, not an extensive philosophical investigation.
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    Hey, Im not sure if this is any help to you, but we got given this revision plan especially to answer these questions. If you fill it in for all the big topics, and follow that structure in your essay you should get high marks! It helped me, so I figured it may be of use to you!
    Attached Files
  1. File Type: doc PhilosophyPlan.doc (26.5 KB, 265 views)
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    cool snakepit! I was wondering from your table does the structure for a 24 makrs (in both epistemology and pilosophy of religion) go like this:

    -describe it and illustrations (around three paragraphs)
    -objection with repsonse, then conclusion on effectiveness (1 paragraph)
    -another objection with respponse, then conclusiin on effectiveness(1 paragraph)

    -yet another objection with respponse, then conclusiin on effectiveness
    -conclusion (1 paragraph)

    Would that be right and do have an example of this structure on a 24 marks question.

    God i'm nervous for tuesday! Good luck everyone!
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    Hey,

    That is correct, yes. I've attached the only essay that i have saved on this computer. It's about the simile of the large and powerful animal in Plato's "The Republic". Im not sure if you've studied that, but it gives you an idea on the structure anyway. I've colour coded it to make it obvious.
    Red-Intro and explanation.
    Green-Criticism.
    Blue-Response.
    Orange-Conclusion for that criticism.
    Purple-Overall Conclusion.
    This isn't my favourite essay, but its the only one I could find. I got an A on it though, so hopefully it should provide a reasonable example...
    Attached Files
  2. File Type: doc philosophylargeandpowerfulanimal.doc (32.5 KB, 226 views)
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    Wow Snakepit you are the BEST! Oh my goodness i feel like squealing right now that has made me so happy and YAY! Thank you so much you are the greatest! Is the animal one about the trainer being a sophist etc? Thanks again! That has brightened up my week!
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    talking of AS AQA epistemology:

    'Assess whether knowledge requires the impossibility of doubt.'

    How would you go about answering a question like that? All I can think of is no, it doesn't, as long as you have JTB, you can doubt something and as long as it corresponds to reality and you believe it some extent and have justification, surely that is knowledge. But it's a 24 mark question and you'd need to say a lot more than that
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    We had to do this one for homework, I wrote something along these lines:

    Some have argued that for something to count as knowledge we must be certain of it, some philosophers finding something to be certain about and others concluding we have no knowledge at all. Others have argued that, perhaps because we cannot find certain truths, there are other systems of defining knowledge.

    Examples of Foundationalists who have found things they feel are immune from doubt.

    Many philosophers believe there are no such certain truths. Some conclude we therefore have no knowledge, but others think we must define knowledge in a way that does not require absolute certainty.

    Ways knowledge may not need absolute certainty:

    Explanation of the Platonic definition of knowledge and how it does not require certainty.

    Explanation of coherentism.

    Conclusion:

    The main problem in answering this question lies in disagreements over the meaning of the word knowledge, etc.


    We hadn't done much about JTB when we were set this question so I didn't really approach it upon those lines much. I got an A, but I don't think it was a good A and I don't think I approached the question in an ideal way. apparently this was a bit of a freaky question though and we're more likely to get "assess... something"
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    Meera,

    Yeah, that's the one. Comparing Sophists to trainers who just understand what the animal wants, not what's best for it.
    I'm glad it's of use to you!
 
 
 
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