What is empiricism?

Empiricism is the philosophical concept that experience, which is based on observation and experimentation, is the source of knowledge. According to empiricism, the information that a person gathers with his or her senses is the information that should be used to make decisions, without regard to reason or to either religious or political authority. The philosophy gained credibility with the rise of experimental science in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and it continues to be the outlook of many scientists today. Empiricists have included English philosopher John Locke (1632–1704), who asserted that there is no such thing as innate ideas—that the mind is born blank and all knowledge is derived from human experience; Irish clergyman George Berkeley (1685–1753), who believed that nothing exists except through the perception of the individual, and that it is the mind of God that makes possible the apparent existence of material objects; and Scottish philosopher David Hume (1711–1776), who evolved the doctrine of empiricism to the extreme of skepticism—that human knowledge is restricted to the experience of ideas and impressions, and therefore cannot be verified as true.


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