The philosophers René Descartes (1596–1650), Nicolas Malebranche (1638–1715), Benedict Spinoza (1632–77), and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646–1716) are grouped together as rationalists because they held that human beings possess a faculty of reason that produces knowledge independently of the senses. In this regard, they contrast with empiricist philosophers, such as John Locke and David Hume, who believed that all knowledge arises from the senses. The rationalists contended that proper use of reason would yield the first principles of metaphysics, the most basic science of all. Metaphysics was also called “first philosophy,” and it took as its subject matter nothing less than the basic properties and principles of everything. For our purposes, it is important to note that the rationalists believed that metaphysics could provide foundations for specialized disciplines, including ethics and physics, and also medicine and other applied subjects.