The Relationship between Rationalism and Empiricism
What is knowledge? True knowledge to nature is the true presentation of causality. So the question is about where our knowledge of causality comes from? Reasoning or experiencing? Rationalism gives emphasis on pure reason and empiricism bets on experiencing. But I can not see why they can not come from both. There is nothing preventing them from helping each other. Random experience dose not lead to good knowledge and pure reasoning generate too many possibilities. They have to work together to build a picture we dare trust or true to the real world.
The question is also too general, has no concern in the process of knowledge generation, also not precise because it should be asked as "where dose our first knowledge come from and how do we build more sophisticated knowledge later? "
We can not reason without premise like building a house without materials. And it is obvious that not every one can do a good reasoning, for example, a new born child, Where does his knowledge come from before getting 2 years old? We dose not think or reason at all and do not have any memory of any experience either. We simply react to outside stimulants and inside natural calls. Do we have or have not knowledge at that time? Can we distinguish good from bad? Even getting older dose not make things easier, we have reasoning ability but continue to quarrel anyway.
We also have to ask where do we get our reasoning ability or skills in the first place? They are innate or learned from experience? If the ability is a learned skill, which means experiencing the results of many right and/or wrong choices.
It is obvious that we get our reasoning tools (the brains) free, that is to say, naturally innate, but a tool can not work by itself like a computer without software. We have to learn how to use the tool before it can help us doing reasonable things. So if we refer the reasoning ability to two things, the tool and the skill (logics), one comes innately and one by learning.
So the relationship of rationalism and empiricism is a relationship of hardware to software. Dose hardware have truth innate? Or dose the logics of software come as a priori? The important thing about logics is the consistence not the specific process of reasoning. If we build true logics we will have consistence automatically because we believe the world is consistent prior. At least it shows that way up to now or can be explained in such a way with consistence. If we build a software which is against the hardware, telling it to do something not possible yet, we get nowhere.
The logics is a learned skill based on the fact that we are not always logical and someone is more logical than others and getting more logical with time. But this dose not prevent him from having some basic or minimum level of logical behaviors like eating to survive. So we can see some not very sophisticated but important to survive level of innate logics in human behavior.
Now we can conclude that we have some basic level of behavior logics innate and build sophisticated thinking logics through experiments. Even so, the balance of innate and learned logics is not fixed, and if we trace back to the very original human DNA, it was built with some kind of structure, so the hardware with some kind of natural logics and if we can manage our own DNA we may be able to build in higher level of logics innate. So the innate logics is the result of accumulating natural logics into its structure. It may be too luxury to expect someone born as clever as old Einstein, but greeting his mummy with a smiling hello may not be regarded as too offensive.
Let's suppose if a child is born in a completely opposite environment to the earth, will he survive? Will he build a different kind of thinking logics? What happens to his logics in some different but not totally opposing environment? Interesting, isn't it?
Do animals reason? I doubt. But do they have knowledge too? Certainly yes. Can we reason out how the universe works without watching its movement for quite a while? Without experience we don't know what factor to take in and what to leave out.
So a good answer to the question may be like reasoning can lead to true knowledge if it is based on true experience and effective factors. After consistent presentation of causality, we can generate reliable knowledge of things which are about to come into facts.
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