Many views are a part of philosophy, while philosophy as a whole has not and perhaps never will merge its branches and theories into one way of thinking that is the best way to approach knowledge and life. Three major ways of thinking in this area are empiricism, rationalism, and scepticism. Ultimately it seems that the best way to approach knowledge is to be open to using any view depending on the circumstances, however in this case one must still determine the conditions which any particular view best applies to.
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Another possibility is to blend specific parts of each views, however even here one must assume that certain parts are best generally or in specific cases, and in any case any attempt to pick a best approach is subject to debate, objectivity, and circumstance. This paper proposes that there is no best choice currently and our only way to get closer to a commonly accepted method of thinking is to continue to allow our thoughts to evolve and progress towards higher thinking.
Empiricists believe that for any information that can be considered knowledge to be properly analyzed and accepted, it should be integrated into and developed from one’s own personal experience through that which one perceives the world. Namely this refers to experience through the senses in order to adequately process any information before considering it to be knowledge. Rationalizing outside of the senses is thus not a viable approach to real knowledge with this philosophy (Rauhut p. 63).
Rationalism associates reason with the correct path to assimilation and gaining information or wisdom. Rationalists believe the senses are not the path to truth while the processes of thinking, deducing, and reasoning are. This philosophy is easily contrasted both with empiricism and skepticism as empiricism demands the processing of information with the senses, and while skepticism is a sort of deduction but one which involves elimination and pessimism rather than general objectivity and reason.
Though most strongly contrasted with empiricism, these are not entirely different views while it is possible to hold both views. For example, one can make deductions and reason based on their own experiences. Basically, however, rationalism is not as plausible, at least initially, as empiricism (Rauhut p. 73).
Skepticism is a more interrogative approach that casts immediate doubt on the proposed reasoning and always assumes there is more to be learned than that which has already been revealed. Skeptics also consider the strong possibility for deception and misleading information while naturally seeking the true information in these and all cases.
Skepticism is also concerned with the boundaries of human knowledge or the existence of information in general, while it is also slow to form decisions and is even patient in doing so when there is a clear lack of data. One of the most important parts of philosophy with regards to skepticism is to first consider the conditions where skepticism is the best viewpoint to assume (Rauhut p. 13). For those that call themselves skeptics, of course, this is not a decision that is to be made.
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Ultimately, there is no best answer. Each view has its strong points, as empiricism relates to the human experience in attempt to best relate information, rationalism seeks for the best reasoning, and skepticism does its best to remove faulty methods of thinking and generally bad or untrue information. Each strength is useful, and one cannot say one is best without ignoring critical aspects of another. Knowledge is a broad subject that must be approached from many angles, and none of these viewpoints are significantly better than the other as an all-purpose solution to assimilating information.
Rauhut, Nils CH. Ultimate Questions: Thinking About Philosophy. 2nd ed. New York: Pearson, 2007.