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Understanding Rationalism

Feelosofi –  Rationalism is an approach in philosophy that emphasizes the role of reason or rationality in achieving knowledge, understanding and solving problems. This concept has become one of the main foundations in the history of Western philosophical thought, and can be found in the works of thinkers such as Rene Descartes in “Meditations on First Philosophy,” Immanuel Kant in “Der Reinen Vernunft Critique ” and many other philosophers.

Rationalism, in essence, puts forward reason as the main tool for achieving true knowledge and believes that there are universal and a priori principles or ideas that can be reached through reason. Rationalist thinking often focuses on abstract concepts, such as mathematics and geometry, to develop strong philosophical arguments. They also try to identify the fundamental principles underlying reality and existence.

In a historical context, rationalism is often opposed to empiricism , which considers sensory experience to be the primary source of knowledge. Although there was a long-standing debate between these two schools, many philosophers, such as Immanuel Kant, attempted to combine elements of rationalism and empiricism in a more comprehensive synthesis.

Rationalism is not only relevant in philosophy, but also has a significant impact in various fields of science, such as mathematics, logic and social sciences. This concept also plays an important role in the development of political and ethical theories . By emphasizing the importance of reason as a means of achieving deep understanding and knowledge, rationalism remains an important aspect in the history of human thought and the formation of intellectual culture.

History Of The Development Of Rationalism

The history of the development of rationalism is an integral part of the long and complex history of Western philosophical thought. Rationalism first emerged in the 17th century with significant contributions from figures such as Rene Descartes, famous for his “ Meditatiōnēs de Prīmā Philosophiā ” (“Meditations on First Philosophy ”), and Baruch Spinoza, author of “ Ethica Ordine Geometrico Demonstrata ” (“Ethics in the Geometric Order”). They emphasized the dominant role of reason in understanding reality, and claimed that universal principles could be reached through rational deduction.

The development of rationalism reached its peak in the 18th century with Immanuel Kant , who became famous for his “ Critique der reinen Vernunft ” (“ Critique Der Reinen Vernunft “). Kant introduced the important concepts of “a priori” and “a posteriori,” and attempted to unite elements of rationalism and empiricism in what he called the “cooperative revolution” in philosophy . Rationalist thinking continues to develop and influence various scientific disciplines, including mathematics with major contributions from Leibniz in ” Nova Methodus pro Maximis et Minimis ” (“New Method for Maximum and Minimum”), as well as in social sciences through Rousseau’s thought in ” Du Contrat Social ” (“Thoughts on the Social Contract”).

Although rationalism dominated philosophical thought in certain periods, it also faced criticism and challenges, especially from the empiricist school represented by figures such as John Locke, David Hume, and George Berkeley. The debate between rationalism and empiricism has become an important basis in the development of Western philosophy and has sparked the development of various schools of philosophical thought. Therefore, the history of the development of rationalism is a rich and complex reflection of the dynamics of philosophical thought which continues to develop and is relevant today.

Figures Of Rationalism

One of the key figures was Rene Descartes (1596-1650), known for his work “ Meditatiōnēs de Prīmā Philosophiā ” (“Meditations on First Philosophy ”). Descartes proposed the method of radical doubt (“ cogito, ergo sum ”) as the basis of certain knowledge.

Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677), in “ Ethica Ordine Geometrico Demonstrata ” (“Ethics in the Geometric Order”), compiled a philosophical system of ethical monism that emphasized the existence of one fundamental substance in the universe. Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), in his “ Critique der reinen Vernunft ” (“ Critique Der Reinen Vernunft “), combined elements of rationalism and empiricism in a philosophical synthesis that emphasized the critical role of reason in the formation of knowledge.

Leibniz (1646-1716) in “ Nova Methodus pro Maximis et Minimis ” (“New Method for Maximum and Minimum”) developed deep mathematical and metaphysical concepts. Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) put forward the idea of ​​the social contract in “ Du Contrat Social ” (“Thoughts on the Social Contract”), which became the basis for modern socialist political theory.

Types Of Rationalism

Rationalism is a philosophical framework of thought that has various variations and approaches, resulting in several different types of rationalism in the history of philosophical thought. One significant type of rationalism is epistemological rationalism, which focuses on the use of reason as the main source of knowledge. Figures such as Rene Descartes explored this epistemological rationalism, approaching the method of radical doubt and the central role of reason in achieving certain knowledge.

Apart from that, there is metaphysical rationalism which examines fundamental aspects of reality. Baruch Spinoza, for example, adheres to the view of ethical monism which emphasizes the existence of one fundamental substance in the universe. This is a powerful example of metaphysical rationalism.

Another type of rationalism is ethical rationalism , which discusses ethics and moral principles rationally. Immanuel Kant developed a theory of rational ethics with the basics in “ Krikit der merdekachen Vernunft ” (“Critique of Practical Reason”). He proposed that morality could be discovered through reason and universal moral obligation.

In addition to these main types, rationalism can also be divided into mathematical rationalism, which emphasizes the importance of mathematics in understanding the world, and political rationalism, which examines political structures and government with an approach based on rational thinking. Rationalism in science is also a subtype that views the scientific method as an extension of reason.


In conclusion, rationalism has been one of the strongest philosophical approaches in the history of human thought. He places human reason as an important center in the search for knowledge and understanding. With reason as the main tool, rationalists such as Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, and Kant developed theories that were influential in various aspects of life, including science, mathematics, ethics, and politics.

The influence of rationalism was widespread, providing the foundation for the development of modern mathematics, science teaching, and universal ethical theories. Although rationalism has faced challenges from other schools of thought such as empiricism , debates between the two have enriched our understanding of the sources of knowledge and scientific methods.

However, rationalism is not without criticism and controversy. Some consider it an approach that is too theoretical and pays little attention to empirical experience, but this debate has also given rise to syntheses that attempt to combine elements of rationalism and empiricism .

Overall, rationalism remains an integral component in the history of human thought, and its role in shaping intellectual culture and deep concepts of knowledge remains relevant today.


What Is Rationalism?

Rationalism is an approach in philosophy that emphasizes the role of reason or rationality in achieving knowledge, understanding and solutions to problems. This approach emphasizes that understanding the world can be achieved through rational and logical thinking processes.

What Is The Difference Between Rationalism And Empiricism?

Rationalism and empiricism are two important approaches in the philosophy of knowledge. Rationalism emphasizes the role of reason and belief in a priori principles, while empiricism places emphasis on sensory experience as the main source of knowledge.

Who Are The Famous Figures In Rationalism?

Famous figures in rationalism include Rene Descartes, Baruch Spinoza, Immanuel Kant , Leibniz, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Each of these figures has made a significant contribution to the development of rationalist thought.

How Does Rationalism Influence Science And Mathematics?

Rationalism has had a significant impact on the development of science and mathematics. Mathematical concepts introduced by rationalists, such as Leibniz, became the basis for the development of modern mathematics. Rationalism also influenced the scientific approach by emphasizing the role of reason in understanding natural phenomena.

Is Rationalism Still Relevant In Modern Times?

Although many theories of rationalism have developed and changed throughout history, the basic concept of rationalism regarding the role of reason in achieving knowledge is still relevant today. Rationalism continues to be a foundation for scientific understanding, ethics , and philosophical thought in contemporary society.


  • Meditatiōnēs de Prīmā Philosophiā – Rene Descartes (1641)
  • Ethica Ordine Geometrico Demonstrata by Baruch Spinoza (1677)
  • Criticism of Der Reinen Vernunft – Immanuel Kant (1781)
  • Nova Methodus pro Maximis et Minimis – Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1684)
  • Du Contrat Social – Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1762)

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Raymond Kelvin Nando
Writer, Researcher, & Philosophy Enthusiast