Rationalism (Latin ratio: reason) called philosophical currents and projects that maintain rational thinking with the purchase and the grounds of knowledge a priority or even alone sufficient. This is associated with a depreciation of other knowledge sources, such as sensory experience ( empiricism ) or religious revelation and tradition. Positions for a limited subject areas or even trust of questions to be human reason no objective knowledge, such as the varieties of irrationalism and the " rational skepticism " that have recently been attributed also some representatives of postmodernism, therefore, are considered to be "anti- rationalist ".

In the history of philosophy is " rationalism " most commonly used in the narrower sense as a label for thinkers such as Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, or to make them the representatives of the ( British ) empiricism ( inter alia, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke and David Hume, occasionally even George Berkeley ) to face; these labels are indeed is traditional, but are now provided by many historians philosophy in question.

In other contexts, the philosophy is " rationalism " systematically without necessarily historical references used: in epistemology for positions for which knowledge from pure reason is possible ( a representative of this position is about Laurence BonJour ); or in the meta-ethics for positions that demand for moral action that it can be reconstructed according to rational structures, and that depends on a moral judgment on the standards for moral reasons. Differing importance is the term rationalism in the philosophy of religion, a (see the section for use in philosophy of religion and theology ).

  • 2.1 16th - 17th century
  • 2.2 18th century
  • 2.3 19th century - present

Term use

Rationalism as early modern flow

Already in the earliest concept document of 1539 the rationalist is someone who " of pure thought attaches greater importance for the knowledge than the experience." The early modern rationalism takes the view that the mind can recognize the objective structure of reality, both physical, metaphysical and moral domain, and that doing on a knowledge prior to any sensory experience ( a priori knowledge ) is resorted to. In its forms of argument he follows the method of proof of the classical geometry ( more geometrico ). The early modern rationalism leads away various scholastic positions. Historically allowed to rationalism usually with René Descartes begin, featuring Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz and the recipient as the main representative ( Meier, Baumgarten, Wolff and others).

A contemporary antonym set of " empiricism " that which the conception is envisaged that all knowledge is based primarily on sensory perception and there is no a priori knowledge give ( tabula rasa ). The subsequent comparison of rationalism and empiricism comes from but only the time the end of the 18th century. Representatives of the two positions had in common that they kept the revelation as a source of world knowledge for unnecessary or even rejected. The contrast between rationalism and empiricism is classically described as follows: A Rationalist puts his philosophical explanation of the world, especially deductive conclusions are based, while an empiricist only accepted hypotheses that can be inductively confirmed by verifiable observations. But it is not a flat rate so that rationalists designated authors sensory experience would reject generally as a source of knowledge - and empiricists reason. In fact, in the texts are rationalist philosophers always look for empirical elements and vice versa.

Rationalism in philosophy of religion and theology

In the context of philosophy of religion and theology called " rationalism " positions, who are confident knowledge of the divine human reason and without holding a philosophical theology, the requirement of a revelation or grace, admissible and feasible. An alternative name for these positions is also " intellectualism ". Such a position is closely associated with specific theological content, which may be regarded as a consequence or as a condition of rational access, eg, that divine will and action follows logical and metaphysical rules and done for reasons. For this purpose usually takes the assumption of stable and recognizable ontological structures and moral principles and criteria, which adds to the Divine will, or that correspond to it, which can cause God is identified by some in with a kind of highest reason. The counter-positions represented by contrast, that the divine will and action takes place entirely arbitrary ( voluntarism ), or that the individual moments of time are each currently caused by God and only seemingly a sequence of events representing ( occasionalism ). Both counterpositions want to achieve, that the divine will is not bound to a logical or other principles and therefore must remain rationally incomprehensible. Both in Islamic theology and the Christian scholasticism and the rational theology of the Enlightenment such controversies are being debated.

In a somewhat different and more of rare use may " rationalism " in theology or history of theology also think that, for example, held aspects of the personality of the divine, which ( real or perceived ) are inconsistent with strong demands of a rationalized, dispensable be. Conversely, this is referred, for example, of " voluntarism " when the Divine and has been described or conceived as a person with will, exercise of actions, etc..

History of Ideas

16th - 17th century

Rationalism linked in many ways to the terminology and methodology of Latin scholasticism, claimed for themselves but to be an independent new approach. This was preceded by a spreading particularly in France in the early 17th century displeasure over the alleged " barren subtleties " scholastic debates; This resentment is also due to a general desire for termination of confessional conflicts. The disputed metaphysical arguments theological debates would, as a then frequently pre- mounted charge, only the moral skepticism prepare the way. In contrast, tried rationalism, methodological strictly traceable to argue and to refrain in the grounds on the interpretation of authorities. It was a shift in the thematic attention from the religious doctrine of salvation to the technical mastery of nature, as proposed by Francis Bacon. The epistemological rationalism also found in other areas of philosophy, application, such as the ethics and philosophy of law. So it was felt that the elementary principles of human morality and natural law from pure reason would result (see Samuel von Pufendorf, Thomas Hobbes, Baruch Spinoza in a broader sense also Immanuel Kant, GWF Hegel, and others). In the philosophy of religion at first followed the rationalistic deism approaches when he postulated fundamental religious principles that are recognizable. That leaves a historical revelation seem superfluous and led to theological rationalism.

As the founder of classical rationalism ( also referred to as " intellectualism " ) to René Descartes, who thereby received important suggestions by Marin Mersenne. Descartes starts a reformation of science and philosophy along the lines of the geometry. Here, the axiomatic structure of Euclid's Elements, it serves as a pattern. Accordingly, universal principles with the help of the mind can be inferred from basic concepts. All other questions of philosophy and natural sciences can be answered by deduction of theorems from these principles and their application to specific problems ( corollaries ). Descartes argued that such principles with the help of sense perception could not be opened. The sensory perception was regarded as a distinct source of perception by the mind, but produces only vague and uncertain information that would not stand before Descartes ' methodical doubt. The origin of these basic terms and the question of what belongs to its scope, was an open question of rationalist research program.

In this phase, the rationalism were opposed moral skeptics like Bayle or apologists like Blaise Pascal, who denied the mind and reason, the ability to generally valid and indisputable records to get on the morality or the relationship between soul, world and God.

18th century

Nicolas Malebranche in France, the Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza and the German polymath Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz and others further developed the Cartesian rationalism and established its position as the philosophical mainstream of continental European universities of the 18th century. They came not only in conflict with orthodox positions of all Christian denominations, but also with supporters of the materialists Pierre Gassendi, the empiricist John Locke or about the students Isaac Newton, albeit sometimes only from the history of science coincidences (eg, the priority dispute ).

Empiricism introduced the basic concepts of rationalists in question, just because this should not come from sense perception. According to the empiricists can - roughly speaking - but only recognized as the realization of what was deduced from observations and is confirmed by them. The epistemological skepticism of David Hume accepts the criticisms put forward both flows against each other equally on: empirical induction can not lead to strictly universal sets; the rationalist deduction rests on uncertain conditions. Rationalism finally found in Christian Wolff to a system of encyclopedic completeness.

Immanuel Kant understood his transcendental philosophy explicitly as an exchange of rationalism and empiricism. The deductive- rationalist construction is under various reservations also be accepted if of basic notions there is no basis of perceptions of the senses, but only if these terms come from an analysis of transcendental structures of reason and perception itself, that is, from a critique of pure Reason. The basic structures of the visible world can be so pronounced in principles that emerge as synthetic judgments a priori from the compound of forms of sensibility and intellect. Sensibility and reason are not separate strands of knowledge, but collectively, the " tribes " of the matching rules in rational experience for Kant.

19th Century - Present

Rationalist positions are currently part in different epistemologies, in the predominantly German discourse theories in economic theories such as game theory and rational choice theory and in predominantly Anglo-American theories of international relations. This is not always, however, to rationalist positions in the narrow sense (see above), they have in common though is that they assume rationality in thought and action. The difference between rationalism and rationality theories but is also seen by the opponents of these positions often blurred. This can be seen overlooking the irrationalism has been since the mid-19th century built ( in romance ) as the opposite.

In the context of cultural criticism unfolded a broad critique of rationalism, including at Oswald Spengler and Martin Heidegger, and later with many philosophers of the French Nietzsche reception and post-structuralism with quite different lines of attack. Against these positions and in relation to other philosophical developments rationalist new approaches have turned in different systematic areas, inter alia, modern representatives of the Theological rationalism, the Critical rationalism in the philosophy of science.

It is often the critical differentiations concept of rationality. Particularly influential is the " communicative rationality " as coined by Jürgen Habermas and developed in collaboration with Karl- Otto Apel and many other philosophers. Julian Nida- Rümelin represents the German-speaking prominently a "structural rationality " in which his " rational ethics " is based. In the works of Herbert Schnädelbach three basal types of rationality are named, alerted by him debate is different now about fifty different types of rationality.