ra·​tio·​nal·​ism ˈrash-nə-ˌli-zəm How to pronounce rationalism (audio)
: reliance on reason as the basis for establishment of religious truth
: a theory that reason is in itself a source of knowledge superior to and independent of sense perceptions
: a view that reason and experience rather than the nonrational are the fundamental criteria in the solution of problems
ˈrash-nə-list How to pronounce rationalism (audio)
rationalist adjective
or rationalistic
ˌrash-nə-ˈli-tik How to pronounce rationalism (audio)
ˌrash-nə-ˈli-sti-k(ə-)lē How to pronounce rationalism (audio)

Examples of rationalism in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The Munich Cosmic Circle, for example, was animated by the belief that rationalism had caused the West to decline and that the only way out was a return to paganism. Frederick Kaufman, Harper's Magazine, 22 Apr. 2024 The founder of Objectivism, which extols rationalism and selfishness above all else, and whose disciples include Peter Thiel, former Federal Reserve chair Alan Greenspan and many young men averse to moral complexity. Ryan Chapman, Los Angeles Times, 14 Nov. 2023 But whole scenes are narrated from his perspective, which, like Mad’s, displays a mix of sophisticated rationalism and aww-inducing naiveté. Sophia Nguyen, Washington Post, 21 Oct. 2023 What has been lost in this exercise of rationalism is the Gothic weirdness of the plant’s former guts, the platforms and voids and catwalks that characterized a place designed around inanimate objects and the transformation of a product from goo to granules. Curbed, 27 Sep. 2023 Where other mathematicians blanched and went crazy, von Neumann persevered, following the contours of rationalism into a black hole. Rachel Cusk, Harper's Magazine, 21 Sep. 2023 The Seattle library clearly became a precedent for Perelman, a design of similarly obsessive rationalism, with its vertiginous, flexible interiors. Michael Kimmelman, New York Times, 13 Sep. 2023 Its detractors equate it with ideas ranging from the technocratic policies of the contemporary Democratic Party to the chilly rationalism of the 17th-century philosopher René Descartes. Becca Rothfeld, Washington Post, 28 July 2023 With one brilliant advance after another, science burst out of the constraints of rationalism and found itself in the terrain of quantum theory, which everyone says no one understands, but which is very robust and has been put to all sorts of practical uses. Marilynne Robinson, The New York Review of Books, 1 Dec. 2022

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'rationalism.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

circa 1732, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of rationalism was circa 1732

Dictionary Entries Near rationalism

Cite this Entry

“Rationalism.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rationalism. Accessed 17 Jun. 2024.

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