The English term "empiric" derives from the Greek word ἐμπειρία, which is cognate with and translates to the Latin experientia, from which we derive the word "experience" and the related "experiment". The term was used of the Empiric school of ancient Greek medical practitioners, who rejected the doctrines of the (Dogmatic school), preferring to rely on the observation of phenomena.
- b : quackery, charlatanry
- b : a tenet arrived at empirically
Empiricism is a theory of knowledge that asserts that knowledge comes only or primarily via sensory experience. One of several views of epistemology, the study of human knowledge, along with rationalism, idealism and historicism, empiricism emphasizes the role of experience and evidence, especially sensory perception, in the formation of ideas, over the notion of innate ideas or traditions.
Empiricism in the philosophy of science emphasizes evidence, especially as discovered in experiments. It is a fundamental part of the scientific method that all hypotheses and theories must be tested against observations of the natural world rather than resting solely on a priori reasoning, intuition, or revelation.
A central concept in science and the scientific method is that it must be empirically based on the evidence of the senses. Both natural and social sciences use working hypotheses that are testable by observation and experiment. The term semi-empirical is sometimes used to describe theoretical methods that make use of basic axioms, established scientific laws, and previous experimental results in order to engage in reasoned model building and theoretical inquiry.
Philosophical empiricists hold no knowledge to be properly inferred or deduced unless it is derived from one's sense-based experience. This view is commonly contrasted with rationalism, which asserts that knowledge may be derived from reason independently of the senses. For example John Locke held that some knowledge (e.g. knowledge of God's existence) could be arrived at through intuition and reasoning alone. Similarly Robert Boyle, a prominent advocate of the experimental method, held that we have innate ideas. The main continental rationalists (Descartes, Spinoza, and Leibniz) were also advocates of the empirical "scientific method".