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What does empiricism mean?

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Quick Answer

Empiricism means to use an empirical method or practice and refers to the belief that empirical methods are the best way to achieve understanding in scientific or philosophical endeavors, according to Dictionary.com. Empirical methods are those that rely on experience or experiment. Empirical methods rely on observation alone, without regard to scientific theory.

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In philosophy, the doctrine of empiricism states that all knowledge is derived from sensory experience. The belief in this doctrine is that the human mind did not inherit a set of concepts with which it views the world, as through a lens. Rather, philosophical empiricism holds that sensory experience is the only source from which knowledge is derived.

In medicine, the term empiricism is often used in a negative context, and it implies undue reliance on experience. It can also imply quackery.

Terms related to empiricism include empiricist, anti-empiricist, pro-empiricist and non-empiricist. Empiricism first came into use in the 1650s as a medical term, and the word came into general use in the late 1700s. An example of a sentence using empiricism is: "Experience is the greatest teacher of any scientist who must stay rooted in the methods of empiricism if he is to discover the truth."

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