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Differencesbetween Empiricism and Rationalism

Boththe empiricism and rationalism are theoretical approaches to humanknowledge. Each theory is a direct opposite of the other.Rationalists argue that human knowledge is innate while theempiricists contend that knowledge is acquired or learned mainly byhaving an experience with something1.Empiricism maintains that knowledge is dependent on senseexperiences. The empiricists argue that knowledge can only beacquired through personal experiences with events or things. Forexample, for a person to identify that a certain color is blue, red,or green, he/she must have a sensual experience with the color.Rationalists hold the believe knowledge can be acquired throughintuition or deductions. Rationalists use deduction to makeconclusions from intuitions that are valid.

Differencesbetween Empiricism and Rationalism

Thefirst difference between empiricism and rationalism is thatempiricism is a belief that ideas that are not inborn while therationalism argues that human knowledge is inborn. Empiricistsbelieve mostly in experiencing something. That is sense perceptionand induction. On the other hand, rationalists believe that humanknowledge is innate. Besides, the rationalists maintain thatknowledge can be acquired through deduction and reasoning.

Rationalistsbelieve that people possess ideas even before they are born in thevisible world. Rationalism uses the theory of reincarnation as itssupport. According to the rationalists, people come to real or thevisible world when already they have knowledge on several things.Rationalism further argues that it is like there is a place thatpeople that are taken to attain skills or knowledge before they arebrought back to the real world. This explains why some individualsare naturally better than other people they have the same trainingand experiences. On the contrary, the empiricists argue that peopleare born knowing nothing and it is only through experiences that theyacquire a lot of knowledge.

Anotherdifference between empiricism and rationalism is the use of reasoningin the acquisition of knowledge2.Empiricists employ logic in the process of finding problems tovarious issues while the rationalists mainly depend on the fivesenses as the primary means of obtaining knowledge. Therefore,rationalists use the five senses to give their opinions while theempiricists apply rationality in everything. Both rationalists andthe empiricists use different methods to provide ideas however, theviews of empiricists are more valid when compared to those of therationalists. For example, an empiricist can explain logically usingreasoning why the shape of a candle changes from the way it lookslike before it gets burned and the form that it takes after beingused. On the contrary, the five human senses that are utilized by therationalists cannot deduce the facts behind this scenario of thecandle. Therefore, empiricism is considered to be stronger than therationalism.


Empiricismis the notion that people are in a position to taste, see, hear oreven touch what is present and the perceptions of these people areassumed to be an accurate reflection of what is there. Presence ofevidence is the only source of the truth in empiricism. Theempiricists believe that human beings come to the world in the in theform of blank slates that are later filled with knowledge mainlythrough reasoning and deduction3.Rationalists claim that human being come to the world as filledslates that have a lot of knowledge. Therefore, the point ofdifference between rationalism and empiricism it that realismmaintains that human knowledge is innate while empiricism argues thatknowledge is acquired only through experience.


Bennett,Jonathan. Kant`sdialectic.Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016.

Bhaskar,Roy. Arealist theory of science.London: Routledge, 2013.

BrittanJr, Gordon G. Kant`stheory of science.Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2015.

1 Bennett, Jonathan. Kant`s dialectic. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016. P.25

2 Brittan Jr, Gordon G. Kant`s theory of science. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2015. P.36

3 Bhaskar, Roy. A realist theory of science. London: Routledge, 2013. P.23