Rationalism Exam Essay Sample

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1.What is epistemology and why does it matter?

Epistemology is the study of knowledge. It matters because without a firm foundation for knowledge, every academic endeaver begins to collapse.

3. What is Rationalism?

Rationalism is the part of philosophy that our foundation for knowledge is found within reason.

4. Who are the three main Rationalists and where did they come from?

Rene Descartes, Baruch Spinoza, Gottfried Leibniz. Descartes was French and from the Dutch Republic. Spinoza was Jewish-Dutch, from Amsterdam. As for Leibniz, is German and was born in Leipzig, Saxony.

5. Peter Unger uses a hypothetical situation in his essay “A Defense of Skepticism.” That is similar to the one used by Descartes. Briefly state the situation and explain how Unger’s is slightly different then Descartes.

Unger had an aim in his essay to argue how we know very little, regardless of if there is much we could correctly and reasonably believe. Peter Unger had a different strategy than Descartes in his essay, such as given facts about our language explaining why it’s useful to state his argument, and he also explains why we usually won’t know any of what we say.

6. What are two specific reasons described by Descartes in Meditations, that cause him cause to abandon his long held assumptions?

In his first Meditation, he describes that our ordinary experience of the world cannot guarantee a good foundation on which all knowledge is based upon. His second Meditation begins with Descartes wondering if there really is anything that we can know. He notices problem with our senses; optical illusions. He continues doubting the credibility of his senses by noting that we perceive distant objects to be smaller than they really are.

7. What is Descartes’ most famous conclusion, and why does it make him a rationalist? “I think, therefore I am.” is his most famous conclusion. This makes him a rationalist because he has rationalized this thought, and has come to this conclusion based on knowledge and reason rather than emotional or religious standpoints.

Long Essay question: answer with at least 5 sentences.

8.What is so significant about Descartes Meditations on First Philosophy? Be sure to mention the style and the content of the famous work.

He has indications that we’re unable to completely and fully guarantee our beliefs about reality. What seems very significant about Descartes in Meditations on First Philosophy is that he’s trying to find answers to things, just like the rest of us. His style seems to be simply him writing down his thoughts, and working through that with each meditation (there are 6 of them.). Nearing the end of each one, he attempts to find what can be known for sure. Another style of these writings is that after each meditation, he refers to the previous one as “yesterday”.

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