Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Difference between empirical method and rationalism

People often confuse the two and think that they automatically go together. The empirical method is based on testing hypotheses and drawing conclusions from them, rationalism in the sense I'm describing is tied to Enlightenment materialism and as such is a view of the world rather than a method. Rationalism is a positive philosophy, a particular system of thought about the world; empiricism is a method.

What pisses people off to no end is when the empirical method is used to verify things that the Rationalist mindset objects to on philosophical grounds. Alternative medicine is a great example of this. The success of things like Acupuncture challenge the kind of materialistic clock-work world that Enlightenment materialism describes, yet it can be scientifically proven to work.

Just because the scientific method came along with the emergence of Enlightenment rationalism doesn't mean that the two necessarily go together. In the end, which one you put your faith in in the face of challenges defines who you are: people who trust the facts put their faith in the scientific method, wherever it may lead, while people who stick to their guns about materialistic philosophy are really more concerned with validating their own world view than discovering verifiable proof of hypotheses.

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