Rationalism. The method of rationalism uses reasoning alone to arrive at knowledge. It assumes that if the premises are sound and the reasoning is carried out correctly according to the rules of logic, then the conclusions will yield truth. We are very familiar with reason because we us it so much. As an example, consider a syllogism:
- All statistics professors are interesting people.
- Mr. X is a statistics professor.
- Therefore, Mr. X is an interesting person.
Assuming the first statement is true, then it follows that if the second statement is true, the conclusion must be true. Hardly anyone would question the importance of reasoning process in yielding truth. However, there are a great number of situations in which reason alone is inadequate for determining truth.
John, a friend of yours has been depressed for a couple of months. Let’s say that you know that psychological problems can produce depression. Therefore, it is reasonable to believe that John may have psychological problems which are producing his depression. On the other hand, let’s say you also know that inadequate diet and exercise can result in depression. It is also reasonable to believe that this may be at the root of his depression. In this situation, there are two reasonable explanations of the phenomenon. Hence, reason alone is inadequate in distinguishing between them. Recourse must be had to experience. Are John’s diet and exercise in fact deficient? Will better eating and more exercise correct the situation? Or does John have serious psychological problems which when resolved will lift the depression? Reason alone may be sufficient to yield truth in some situations, but is inadequate in others.