Category: Reason


Here is the marvellous Kant plan. Sorry I haven’t added anything to it, but that’s your job! I’m too busy packing my life into boxes.

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We realised that we were a bit shaky on our understanding of what is meant by ‘reason‘ or ‘rationalism‘ in philosophy, so we drew a big diagram called ‘The Evolution of Reason’.

The point was to show how the word has meant different things at different times and to different people (and still does).  

At its most simple level reason involves the ability to think, understand and draw conclusions in an abstract way; to be able to play with ideas in your mind. 

For Rationalists the important thing is that reason allows us to develop concepts that outstrip the information that sense experience can provide and thereby provides us with information about the world that experience does not. That we can know more about the world than sense experience provides. 

In this way, ‘reason‘ can sometimes be seen as a kind of special power or faculty that makes human beings different from other animals that apparently are not rational. From this you can see how people like Descartes could conceive of reason as a ‘god-given’ faculty that would allow us at least of glimpse of God’s rationally created universe. Sort of thing! 



We also worked through some stuff from Gareth Southwell’s http://www.philosophyonline.co.uk/ ‘Theory of knowledge’, unit 2, ‘Rationalism’, and tried to work out what ‘a priori’ ideas were. As ever things were less straightforward than they seemed and we veered from thinking some things were to nothing was to back again. (Will was best at this back and forth business, but that’s a sign of a thinking man!).


Eventually we worked out that we need to distinguish two ways of understanding of ‘apriori’:
1. ideas that are innate but may have to be ‘found’ through the use of our ‘Reason’ or brought out through ‘experience’ or ‘teaching’ (like Plato’s Socrates and the slave boy).
2. ideas that are true ‘before’ (in the sense of independent of or outside of experience) like maths, geometry etc.