Essays on Realism and Rationalism

The rationalist metaphysics of Leibniz (1646–1716) is alsofoundational for the Enlightenment, particularly the GermanEnlightenment (die Aufklärung), one prominent expressionof which is the Leibnizian rationalist system of Christian Wolff(1679–1754). Leibniz articulates, and places at the head ofmetaphysics, the great rationalist principle, the principle ofsufficient reason, which states that everything that exists has asufficient reason for its existence. This principle exemplifies thecharacteristic conviction of the Enlightenment that the universe isthoroughly rationally intelligible. The question arises of how thisprinciple itself can be known or grounded. Wolff attempts to derive itfrom the logical principle of non-contradiction (in his FirstPhilosophy or Ontology, 1730). Criticism of this allegedderivation gives rise to the general question of how formal principlesof logic can possibly serve to ground substantive knowledge ofreality. Whereas Leibniz exerts his influence through scatteredwritings on various topics, some of which elaborate plans for asystematic metaphysics which are never executed by Leibniz himself,Wolff exerts his influence on the German Enlightenment through hisdevelopment of a rationalist system of knowledge in which he attemptsto demonstrate all the propositions of science from first principles,known a priori.

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While Morgenthau’s six principles of realism containrepetitions and inconsistencies, we can nonetheless obtain from themthe following picture: Power or interest is the central concept thatmakes politics into an autonomous discipline. Rational state actorspursue their national interests. Therefore, a rational theory ofinternational politics can be constructed. Such a theory is notconcerned with the morality, religious beliefs, motives or ideologicalpreferences of individual political leaders. It also indicates that inorder to avoid conflicts, states should avoid moral crusades orideological confrontations, and look for compromise based solely onsatisfaction of their mutual interests.

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Immanuel Kant explicitly enacts a revolution in epistemology modeledon the Copernican in astronomy. As characteristic of Enlightenmentepistemology, Kant, in his Critique of Pure Reason (1781,second edition 1787) undertakes both to determine the limits of ourknowledge, and at the same time to provide a foundation of scientificknowledge of nature, and he attempts to do this by examining our humanfaculties of knowledge critically. Even as he draws strict limits torational knowledge, he attempts to defend reason as a faculty ofknowledge, as playing a necessary role in natural science, in the faceof skeptical challenges that reason faces in the period. According toKant, scientific knowledge of nature is not merely knowledge of whatin fact happens in nature, but knowledge of the causal lawsof nature according to which what in fact happens musthappen. But how is knowledge of necessary causal connection in naturepossible? Hume’s investigation of the idea of cause had madeclear that we cannot know causal necessity through experience;experience teaches us at most what in fact happens, not whatmust happen. In addition, Kant’s own earlier critiqueof principles of rationalism had convinced him that the principles of(“general”) logic also cannot justify knowledge ofreal necessary connections (in nature); the formal principleof non-contradiction can ground at best the deduction of oneproposition from another, but not the claim that oneproperty or event must follow from another in thecourse of nature. The generalized epistemological problem Kantaddresses in the Critique of Pure Reason is: how is sciencepossible (including natural science, mathematics, metaphysics), giventhat all such knowledge must be (or include) knowledge of real,substantive (not merely logical or formal) necessities. Put in theterms Kant defines, the problem is: how is synthetic, a prioriknowledge possible?

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Meaning 'knowledge'. essays on realism and rationalism pdf epistm. Epistemology (/ p s t m l d i / ( listen); from Greek

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The keystone of Morgenthau’s realist theory is the conceptof power or “of interest defined in terms of power,”which informs his second principle: the assumption that politicalleaders “think and act in terms of interest defined aspower” (5). This concept defines the autonomy of politics, andallows for the analysis of foreign policy regardless of the differentmotives, preferences, and intellectual and moral qualities ofindividual politicians. Furthermore, it is the foundation of a rationalpicture of politics.

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BETWEEN NATURALISM AND RATIONALISM A New ..

The Enlightenment is most identified with its politicalaccomplishments. The era is marked by three political revolutions,which together lay the basis for modern, republican, constitutionaldemocracies: The English Revolution (1688), the American Revolution(1775–83), and the French Revolution (1789–99). Thesuccess at explaining and understanding the natural world encouragesthe Enlightenment project of re-making the social/political world, inaccord with the models we allegedly find in our reason. Enlightenmentphilosophers find that the existing social and political orders do notwithstand critical scrutiny. Existing political and social authorityis shrouded in religious myth and mystery and founded on obscuretraditions. The criticism of existing institutions is supplementedwith the positive work of constructing in theory the model ofinstitutions as they ought to be. We owe to this period the basicmodel of government founded upon the consent of the governed; thearticulation of the political ideals of freedom and equality and thetheory of their institutional realization; the articulation of a listof basic individual human rights to be respected and realized by anylegitimate political system; the articulation and promotion oftoleration of religious diversity as a virtue to be respected in awell ordered society; the conception of the basic political powers asorganized in a system of checks and balances; and other now-familiarfeatures of western democracies. However, for all the enduringaccomplishments of Enlightenment political philosophy, it is not clearthat human reason proves powerful enough to put a concrete, positiveauthoritative ideal in place of the objects of its criticism. As inthe epistemological domain, reason shows its power more convincinglyin criticizing authorities than in establishing them. Here too thequestion of the limits of reason is one of the main philosophicallegacies of the period. These limits are arguably vividly illustratedby the course of the French Revolution. The explicit ideals of theFrench Revolution are the Enlightenment ideals of individual freedomand equality; but, as the revolutionaries attempt to devise rational,secular institutions to put in place of those they have violentlyoverthrown, eventually they have recourse to violence and terror inorder to control and govern the people. The devolution of the FrenchRevolution into the Reign of Terror is perceived by many as provingthe emptiness and hypocrisy of Enlightenment reason, and is one of themain factors which account for the end of the Enlightenment as anhistorical period.

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The political revolutions of the Enlightenment, especially the Frenchand the American, were informed and guided to a significant extent byprior political philosophy in the period. Though Thomas Hobbes, in hisLeviathan (1651), defends the absolute power of the politicalsovereign, and is to that extent opposed to the revolutionaries andreformers in England, this work is a founding work of Enlightenmentpolitical theory. Hobbes’ work originates the modern socialcontract theory, which incorporates Enlightenment conceptions of therelation of the individual to the state. According to the generalsocial contract model, political authority is grounded in an agreement(often understood as ideal, rather than real) among individuals, eachof whom aims in this agreement to advance his rational self-interestby establishing a common political authority over all. Thus, accordingto the general contract model (though this is more clear in latercontract theorists such as Locke and Rousseau than in Hobbes himself),political authority is grounded not in conquest, natural or divinelyinstituted hierarchy, or in obscure myths and traditions, but ratherin the rational consent of the governed. In initiating this model,Hobbes takes a naturalistic, scientific approach to the question ofhow political society ought to be organized (against the background ofa clear-eyed, unsentimental conception of human nature), and thusdecisively influences the Enlightenment process of secularization andrationalization in political and social philosophy.