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In Book Four of Jonathan Swifts Gullivers Travels the protagonist Gulliver goes to visit a strange land in which the ruling class is composed of a race of intelligent horse-like beings known as Houyhnhnms The casual reader of Swift who has approached Gullivers Travels under the assumption that it is nothing more than a childrens book will doubtless view this as an amusing episode of fantasy and read nothing more into it However Gullivers Travels was never intended as a childrens book in the first place Swift wrote it as a satire on the British society of his day And seen in this light we can see the society of the Houyhnhnms as a satire on rationalism the intellectual movement that had taken the early eighteenth century by storm To begin with what is rationalism JA Cuddon defines it as The theory or doctrine that human reason can provide a priori knowledge without intermediary sense data the theory or doctrine that reason can pursue and attain truth for its own sake 769 Cuddon further points out that The eighteenth century is referred to as a period of rationalism 769 What this means is that during Swifts lifetime people were coming to conclude that revealed knowledge as in such and such is true because that is what our people have always believed or such and such is true because Plato said so -- was empirically inadequate and human beings had within them the intelligence and the rational faculties to figure out the real answers for themselves Emotion and intuition were very much distrusted during this era because they so often boiled down to a reliance on unsubstantiated beliefs Rationalism was first employed extensively in the physical sciences but by the eighteenth century it had spread into fields as diverse as economics sociology politics and philosophy which at that point were all considered pretty much the same thing The use of rationalism in these fields played an
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