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Empiricism

  • By: Barney Warf
  • In: Encyclopedia of Geography
  • Edited by: Barney Warf
  • Subject:General Geography, Earth & Environmental Science

Empiricism is a long-standing and highly influential philosophy, particularly within geography, which begins with the assertion that the only valid form of knowledge is experience and sense perception. That which is not observable is held to be nonexistent or meaningless.

Although its origins may be traced to scholars such as Francis Bacon, empiricism was largely a child of the British Enlightenment, in which intellectuals such as John Locke, David Hume, and George Berkeley emphasized the primacy of logic and empirical reality in the face of medieval metaphysics—that is, evidence rather than faith; in this sense, empiricism was a progressive ideology in its day. British empiricists also deployed the philosophy in their debates with continental rationalists such as Descartes, Spinoza, and Leibniz, who held that knowledge came ...

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