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Kant puts the driving assumption clearly: The very concept of metaphysics ensures that the sources of metaphysics can’t be empirical.If something could be known through the senses, that would automatically show that it doesn’t belong to metaphysics; that’s an upshot of the meaning of the word ‘metaphysics.’Its basic principles can never be taken from experience, nor can its basic concepts; for it is not to be physical but metaphysical knowledge, so it must be beyond experience. 7)The debate also extends into ethics: Some moral objectivists (e.g., Ross 1930) take us to know some fundamental objective moral truths by intuition, while some moral skeptics, who reject such knowledge, (e.g., Mackie 1977) find the appeal to a faculty of moral intuition utterly implausible.More recently, the rationalist/empiricist debate has extended to discussions (e.g., Bealer 1999 and Alexander & Weinberg 2007) of the very nature of philosophical inquiry: to what extent are philosophical questions to be answered by appeals to reason or experience?
Empiricism’ is joined whenever the claims for each view are formulated to cover the same subject.
What is perhaps the most interesting form of the debate occurs when we take the relevant subject to be truths about the external world, the world beyond our own minds.
Empiricism about a particular subject rejects the corresponding version of the Intuition/Deduction thesis and Innate Knowledge thesis.
Insofar as we have knowledge in the subject, our knowledge is a posteriori, dependent upon sense experience. The Empiricism thesis does not entail that we have empirical knowledge.
A full-fledged rationalist with regard to our knowledge of the external world holds that some external world truths can and must be known a priori, that some of the ideas required for that knowledge are and must be innate, and that this knowledge is superior to any that experience could ever provide.
The full-fledged empiricist about our knowledge of the external world replies that, when it comes to the nature of the world beyond our own minds, experience is our sole source of information.
Empiricism,’ can retard rather than advance our understanding.
Nonetheless, an important debate properly described as ‘Rationalism vs.
Leibniz’s New Essays on Human Understanding, for instance, outlines stark contrasts between his own way of thinking and that of Locke, which track many features of the rationalist/empiricist distinction as it tends to be applied in retrospect.
There was no rationalist creed or manifesto to which Descartes, Spinoza, and Leibniz all subscribed (nor, for that matter, was there an empiricist one).