Rationalism is the philosophical view that regards [[|]]reason as the chief source and test of [[|]]knowledge. Holding that reality itself has an inherently [[|]]logical structure, the Rationalist asserts that a class of truths exists that the intellect can grasp directly. There are, according to the Rationalists, certain rational principles—especially in logic and [[|]]mathematics, and even in [[|]]ethics and [[|]]metaphysics—that are so fundamental that to deny them is to fall into contradiction. The Rationalist's confidence in reason and proof tends, therefore, to detract from his respect for other ways of knowing.
Rationalism has long been the rival of [[|]]Empiricism, the doctrine that all knowledge comes from, and must be tested by, sense experience. As against this doctrine, Rationalism holds reason to be a faculty that can lay hold of truths beyond the reach of sense perception, both in certainty and generality. In stressing the existence of a “natural light,” Rationalism has also been the rival of systems claiming esoteric knowledge, whether from mystical experience, revelation, or intuition, and has been opposed to various irrationalisms that tend to stress the biological, the emotional or volitional, the unconscious, or the existential at the expense of the rational.