empiricism (ĕmpĬr´ĬsĬzəm) [Gr.,=experience], philosophical doctrine that all knowledge is derived from experience. For most empiricists, experience includes inner experience—reflection upon the mind and its operations—as well as sense perception. This position is opposed to rationalism in that it denies the existence of innate ideas. According to the empiricist, all ideas are derived from experience; therefore, knowledge of the physical world can be nothing more than a generalization from particular instances and can never reach more than a high degree of probability. Most empiricists recognize the existence of at least some a priori truths, e.g., those of mathematics and logic. John Stuart Mill was the first to treat even these as generalizations from experience. Empiricism has been the dominant but not the only tradition in British philosophy. Among its other leading advocates were John Locke, George Berkeley, and David Hume. See also logical positivism.

See L. Bonjour, The Structure of Empirical Knowledge (1985); A. H. Goodman, Empirical Knowledge (1988).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Empiricism: Selected full-text books and articles

The Empiricists
R. S. Woolhouse.
Oxford University Press, 1988
British Empirical Philosophers: Locke, Berkeley, Hume, Reid, and J.S. Mill
A. J. Ayer; Raymond Winch.
Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1952
British Empiricism and American Pragmatism: New Directions and Neglected Arguments
Robert J. Roth.
Fordham University Press, 1993
Empiricism and Experience
Anil Gupta.
Oxford University Press, 2006
Foundations of Empiricism
James K. Feibleman.
Martinus Nijhoff, 1962
Studies in Empirical Philosophy
John B. Anderson.
Angus and Robertson, 1962
Metaphysics and British Empiricism
Robert L. Armstrong.
University of Nebraska Press, 1970
David Hawkes.
Routledge, 2003 (2nd edition)
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 2 "Empiricism"
Religion and Empiricism
John E. Smith.
Marquette University Press, 1967
FREE! Essays in Radical Empiricism
William James.
Longmans, Green, 1912
Religion and Radical Empiricism
Nancy Frankenberry.
State University of New York Press, 1987
Principles of Human Knowledge and Three Dialogues
George Berkeley; Howard Robinson.
Oxford University Press, 1996
Wittgenstein, Empiricism, and Language
John W. Cook.
Oxford University Press, 2000
Enlightened Empiricism: An Examination of W.V. Quine's Theory of Knowledge
Roger F. Gibson Jr.
University Presses of Florida, 1988
Knowledge, Mind, and the Given: Reading Wilfrid Sellars's "Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind," Including the Complete Text of Sellars's Essay
Willem A. Devries; Timm Triplett.
Hackett, 2000
Looking for a topic idea? Use Questia's Topic Generator


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.