Meaning of Empirical

What is Empirical:

Empirical is an adjective that indicates that something is based on practice, experience and observation of the facts. The word empirical comes from the Greek "empeirikos”, Which means“ experienced ”.

Empirical knowledge is that notion based on direct contact with reality, with experience, and the perception that is made of it. Empirical knowledge consists of everything that is known without having scientific knowledge.

For example, it is known that fire burns because that experience has already been lived; It is known that flowers are born in spring because this situation, among others, has already been observed.

In the descriptive and social sciences, the empirical method is used, a research model based on empirical logic. This type of logic is based on the observation of phenomena to generate knowledge.

Empirical also refers to an individual who is a follower of empiricism, a philosophical current that appeals to experience to explain phenomena.

In the economic sphere, empirical economics is in charge of verifying theories in reality. For example, if a family allowance is distributed, the empirical economy will confirm whether there was an increase in the purchase of basic necessities.

The word empirical can be used as a synonym for effective, routine, experimental, real, among others.

Empirical knowledge

Empirical knowledge is all the knowledge that an individual has collected in their interaction with the world, without resorting to scientific knowledge. To do this, you must appeal to your perception, that is, to your senses (sight, smell, taste, touch, hearing). From your individual experience, you begin to generate new knowledge.

Empirical knowledge is characterized by:

  • Be subjective: since the perception of a phenomenon by an individual may be different from that of another person.
  • Not be verifiable: the data obtained will vary depending on the person who has experienced it.
  • Not being systematic: empirical knowledge lacks an orderly system or method for collecting, analyzing and verifying data.
  • Not being able to generalize: the conclusions obtained are not valid for all phenomena.
  • Dispense with scientific knowledge: experiences can be validated without the need to resort to formal methods.

As we interact with the environment that surrounds us, we generate new empirical knowledge, as described in these examples:

  • It is known that the flowers are born in spring because this situation has already been observed.
  • The relationship between aromas and flavors of food is given by experiences that generated this sensory association.
  • The intuitive use of mobile applications is preceded by experiences with previous technologies.

Empirical method

It is a model of scientific research based on experience, which allows the researcher to discover characteristics and relationships of the phenomenon studied. Applies empirical logic, which establishes relationships between objects and phenomena through observation.

There are three types of empirical method depending on the way the data is analyzed:

  • Experimental method: requires the manipulation of data by the researcher to study their behavior. Observing the growth of a plant that receives artificial light is an example of this method.
  • Scientific observation method: consists of collecting and analyzing data using the senses. The analysis of a bacterium through a microscope is a way of applying scientific observation.
  • Measurement method: as its name suggests, it is responsible for obtaining quantitative data on a phenomenon. A population census is an example of an empirical method based on measurement.


Empiricism is a philosophical theory that emerged in the modern age and that promotes the idea that knowledge comes from experience, not just reason. It was a response to rationalism, which identified reason as the only source of knowledge.

The English philosopher John Locke (1632-1704) was considered the father of empiricism. In his work Essay on human understanding, affirms that the mind is an empty structure that is nourished by the qualities of objects, and these qualities are registered through the senses.

For Locke, experience (determined by the senses) and reflection on one's own ideas is what generates knowledge.

In turn, for the Scottish philosopher David Hume (1711-1776) "nothing is present in the mind, but perceptions", understanding by perception any action exerted by the mind, such as seeing, hearing, judging or loving. Knowledge is generated from these perceptions or mental contents.

See also:

  • Empirical knowledge.
  • Scientific knowledge.
  • Scientific method.
  • Empiricism.

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