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date: 08 December 2021

3. Rationalism and empiricismlocked

3. Rationalism and empiricismlocked

  • Jennifer Nagel


‘Rationalism and empiricism’ considers the different ways of thinking about nature that emerged in the Early Modern period, illustrated by René Descartes' rationalism and John Locke's empiricism. How did they come to produce such different theories of knowledge? In the Meditations, Descartes takes a first-person approach: his guiding question is ‘What can I know for certain?’. Locke adopts a third-person approach, drawing on his observations of others alongside himself. The question Locke aims to answer is ‘What do human beings know?’. In modern terminology, the choice between taking a first-person or a third-person approach is the choice between ‘internalism’ and ‘externalism’.

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