Holistic: Rationality

Last modification: 2008/07/20 23:55

The Three Modes of Rationality

(with thanks to Joe Firestone for providing the substantial basis of this material)

Historically, there have been two main theories of rational thought:

  • Rationalism
    Rationalism asserts that "rational authority lies in the Intellect or reason" (Bartley).
  • Empiricism
    According to the theory of Empiricism, "rational authority lies in sense experience" (also Bartley).

The problem with both theories is that, neither source of rational authority is authoritative. Both are fallible. Both together are also fallible. To assert that either provides a justification one must accept either sense experience or reason as authoritative based on faith. In other words, one must accept Fideism (faith-based reasoning) rather than Rationalism as a foundation for Rationalism.

The question then becomes: is there a form of rationalism that doesn't run into the same problem?

The answer is yes: Critical Rationalism.

Critical Rationalism removes the requirement to reason based on faith-based assumptions by denying that it is ever necessary to justify or seek to justify knowledge claims in order to be rational. Critical Rationalism contends that "rationality is unlimited with respect to criticism". To be rational, a person criticizes all the competing knowledge claims that they are aware of and chooses the option that performs best under criticism.

In other words, changing the meta-context of justificationism to the meta-context of criticalism solves the problem of the irrationality of rationalism.