ra·​tio·​nal·​ism | \ ˈrash-nə-ˌli-zəm How to pronounce rationalism (audio) , ˈra-shə-nə-ˌli- \

Definition of rationalism

1 : reliance on reason as the basis for establishment of religious truth
2a : a theory that reason is in itself a source of knowledge superior to and independent of sense perceptions
b : a view that reason and experience rather than the nonrational are the fundamental criteria in the solution of problems

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Other Words from rationalism

rationalist \ ˈrash-​nə-​list How to pronounce rationalist (audio) , ˈra-​shə-​nə-​list \ noun
rationalist or rationalistic \ ˌrash-​nə-​ˈli-​tik How to pronounce rationalistic (audio) , ˌra-​shə-​nə-​ˈli-​ \ adjective
rationalistically \ ˌrash-​nə-​ˈli-​sti-​k(ə-​)lē How to pronounce rationalistically (audio) , ˌra-​shə-​nə-​ˈli-​ \ adverb

Examples of rationalism in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web There's also a psychology term called rationalism, which people often confuse with denial. Megan Marples, CNN, "Pandemic denial: Why some people can't accept Covid-19's realities," 16 Aug. 2020 By 1865 Lincoln had substituted rationalism and fatalism for the predestination theology of his Kentucky forebears at Little Pigeon Creek Baptist Church. The Economist, "Immortal words The tragic genius of Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural," 27 Feb. 2020 These are knee-jerk would-be Christian reactions in a culture which, generations back, embraced rationalism: everything must have an explanation. N.t. Wright, Time, "Christianity Offers No Answers About the Coronavirus. It's Not Supposed To," 29 Mar. 2020 More broadly, this political education would confront the Enlightenment’s political rationalism centered on the figure of the rights-bearing individual. Alexis Carré, National Review, "What Is ‘National Conservatism’?," 18 Feb. 2020 Its often pure abstraction has the single focus of parts of the old MoMA but filtered through an entirely different sensibility, one whose restraint and rationalism often reflects the influence of European geometric art. Roberta Smith, New York Times, "MoMA’s Art Treasure, No Longer Buried," 17 Oct. 2019 But the book also takes aim at a strain of hyper-rationalism that the author regards as equally dangerous. Washington Post, "Philip Pullman’s latest book is adventure for an anxious age," 27 Nov. 2019 Underlying all this work was his interest in Asian spiritual philosophies, specifically Taoism and Chan (Zen) Buddhism, the one nature-centered, the other a challenge to Western rationalism. BostonGlobe.com, "NEW YORK — Huang Yong Ping, a conceptual artist and pioneering figure of China’s post-Cultural Revolution avant-garde, whose controversial work often depicted the world as a Darwinian power struggle, died on Oct. 19 at his home in Paris. He was 65.," 1 Nov. 2019 For all his technocratic instincts, for all his training as an engineer and a hedge-fund quant, a romantic impulse coexists with his rationalism, and sometimes overrides it. Franklin Foer, The Atlantic, "Jeff Bezos’s Master Plan," 10 Oct. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'rationalism.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of rationalism

circa 1732, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Time Traveler for rationalism

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The first known use of rationalism was circa 1732

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Last Updated

24 Aug 2020

Cite this Entry

“Rationalism.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rationalism. Accessed 20 Sep. 2020.

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More Definitions for rationalism


How to pronounce rationalism (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of rationalism

philosophy : the belief that reason and experience and not emotions or religious beliefs should be the basis for your actions, opinions, etc.

More from Merriam-Webster on rationalism

Britannica English: Translation of rationalism for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about rationalism

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