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© 2018, The Columbia University Press.

Empiricism: Selected full-text books and articles

The Empiricists By R. S. Woolhouse Oxford University Press, 1988
Empiricism and Experience By Anil Gupta Oxford University Press, 2006
Foundations of Empiricism By James K. Feibleman Martinus Nijhoff, 1962
Studies in Empirical Philosophy By John B. Anderson Angus and Robertson, 1962
Metaphysics and British Empiricism By Robert L. Armstrong University of Nebraska Press, 1970
Ideology By David Hawkes Routledge, 2003 (2nd edition)
Librarian's tip: Chap. 2 "Empiricism"
Religion and Empiricism By John E. Smith Marquette University Press, 1967
FREE! Essays in Radical Empiricism By William James Longmans, Green, 1912
A primary source is a work that is being studied, or that provides first-hand or direct evidence on a topic. Common types of primary sources include works of literature, historical documents, original philosophical writings, and religious texts.
Religion and Radical Empiricism By Nancy Frankenberry State University of New York Press, 1987
Wittgenstein, Empiricism, and Language By John W. Cook Oxford University Press, 2000
Looking for a topic idea? Use Questia's Topic Generator
Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


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.