Rationalism Lesson for Kids: Philosophy & Definition

Instructor: Kristin Pia Hayman

Kristin taught for over 10 years in the elementary classroom. She holds a B.A. in Journalism as well as a Master's Degree in Elementary Education.

Since the beginning of time, humans have wondered how to answer questions about the world they live in - many people have even gone as far as to make answering these questions their life's work. Sometimes, the most simple questions can be difficult to answer, and sometimes the simplest answer makes the most sense. How often do you think about life's biggest questions? Let's give it a try!

Asking Life's Biggest Questions

Pop Quiz! What is the meaning of life? Try and answer that question. Ready, set, go! Can you do it? Chances are you may struggle a little bit with answering a question that deep. But why? It's a very simple question…or is it?


What is a Philosophy?

Have you ever stopped to wonder about some of life's other big questions? Well, some very smart people have done this for hundreds of years. They call this the study of philosophy. Philosophy is the study of ideas about knowledge and human existence. In fact, the word philosophy comes from the Greek language and means 'love of wisdom.' Way back in ancient Greece, they had their fair share of philosophers, or people who study philosophy: Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates were some of the most well-known. Ancient Greece was the birthplace of philosophy, and even today, we still use some of the knowledge that came out of their society. Thanks, ancient Greeks!

Ancient Greek Philosophers
Ancient Greek Philosophers

Rationalism Emerges

In the 17th Century, people started exploring the idea of 'logic', meaning that every question can be answered with a scientific or reasonable explanation. This led to an important branch of philosophy called rationalism. Rationalism focuses on using logic to solve life's BIG questions. Other branches of philosophy use religious thought, emotions, or observations, but rationalism explores philosophy differently. Rationalist philosophers believe that all questions can be answered by thinking about them logically and using reasoning. Have you ever heard someone say something like, 'Try and be rational!' This means, try to be logical, or try do what makes the most sense. Since rational means logical, it isn't a surprise how rationalism got its name, is it?

People who study rationalism constantly ponder the meaning of some of the most basic questions about human life and try to find the most logical explanation. For example: 'What is love?', 'What does it mean to be good or bad?', and 'Where do the stars come from?' Those are some tricky questions! So how do you explain it? Well, over many, many, (many) years, humans have wondered how we can answer life's mysteries. Where do you think all of our answers come from?

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