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[em-pir-uh-siz-uh m] /ɛmˈpɪr əˌsɪz əm/
empirical method or practice.
Philosophy. the doctrine that all knowledge is derived from sense experience.
Compare rationalism (def 2).
undue reliance upon experience, as in medicine; quackery.
an empirical conclusion.
Origin of empiricism
1650-60; empiric + -ism
Related forms
empiricist, noun, adjective
antiempiricism, noun
antiempiricist, noun, adjective
nonempiricism, noun
proempiricism, noun, adjective
proempiricist, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for empiricist
Historical Examples
  • The transcendental ego seems nowadays in rationalist quarters to stand for everything, in empiricist quarters for almost nothing.

  • But if you do this you will have to shelter yourselves behind the empiricist teaching.

  • And this cash-value, it is needless to say, is verbatim et liberatim what our empiricist account pays in.

    The Meaning of Truth William James
  • The empiricist tries to go a distinct step in advance of this.

    Rudolph Eucken Abel J. Jones
  • This is the language of the empiricist, to whom observation is the sole guarantee of truth.

  • And this cash-value, it is needless to say, is verbatim et literatim what our empiricist account pays in.

  • But a philosophy that breathes out nothing but refinement will never satisfy the empiricist temper of mind.

    Pragmatism William James
  • The empiricist would say that he needs the image to piece out the data upon which logical processes operate.

  • In the ethical ideal, there is contained more than the empiricist can offer.

  • The modern philosopher who has professed himself an empiricist has usually had a critical purpose in mind.

British Dictionary definitions for empiricist


(philosophy) the doctrine that all knowledge of matters of fact derives from experience and that the mind is not furnished with a set of concepts in advance of experience Compare intuitionism, rationalism
the use of empirical methods
medical quackery; charlatanism
Derived Forms
empiricist, noun, adjective
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for empiricist

c.1700, from empiric + -ist.



1650s, in the medical sense, from empiric + -ism. General sense is from 1796.

Were I obliged to give a short name to the attitude in question, I should call it that of radical empiricism, in spite of the fact that such brief nicknames are nowhere more misleading than in philosophy. I say 'empiricism' because it is contented to regard its most assured conclusions concerning matters of fact as hypotheses liable to modification in the course of future experience; and I say 'radical,' because it treats the doctrine of monism itself as an hypothesis, and, unlike so much of the half way empiricism that is current under the name of positivism or agnosticism or scientific naturalism, it does not dogmatically affirm monism as something with which all experience has got to square. The difference between monism and pluralism is perhaps the most pregnant of all the differences in philosophy. [William James, preface to "The Sentiment of Rationality" in "The Will to Believe and Other Essays in Popular Philosophy," 1897]

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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empiricist in Medicine

empiricism em·pir·i·cism (ěm-pēr'ĭ-sĭz'əm)

  1. Employment of empirical methods, as in science.

  2. The practice of medicine that disregards scientific theory and relies solely on practical experience.

em·pir'i·cist n.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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