Being “Empirical” in the Pursuit of Knowledge

What does it mean to be “empirical” in the pursuit of knowledge? How does this relate to the “scientific method”?

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I think that we all take for granted the processes that led to our understanding of the world around us. For instance, I drive a car every day of my life, but I have no idea the process that must have taken place over several decades that created the internal combustion engine. Likewise, I was taught at a very young age the miracles of the scientific method. How it could uncover objective truth rather than subjective opinion. Locke was an ardent empiricist, who believed that the acquisition of knowledge about the world around us and within us is mediated by our experience alone, that no knowledge is innate other than our faculties. This experience-based acquisition of knowledge was at the heart of Mill’s Logic. Mill composed a scientific approach to psychology that he called ethology. Among other things, it proposed the use of a control group, inductive reasoning, and the correlational method; all milestones in the development of the scientific method. He coined the terms of ethology as the Method of Agreement, the Method of Difference, and the Concomitant Variant.      

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Goodwin, C. J. (2005). A history of modern psychology (2nd ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.     


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