Encyclopedia of Early Modern Philosophy and the Sciences (2020)

Silvia Manzo
Universidad Nacional de La Plata
Broadly speaking, “empiricism” is a label that usually denotes an epistemological view that emphasizes the role that experience plays in forming concepts and acquiring and justifying knowledge. In contemporary philosophy, there are some authors who call themselves as empiricists, although there are differences in the way they define what experience consists in, how it is related to theory, and the role experience plays in discovering and justifying knowledge, etc. (e.g., Ayer 1936; Van Fraassen 2002). In contrast, in the early modern period, empiricism was not a label that philosophers traditionally characterized until nowadays as empiricists (most famously, John Locke, George Berkeley, and David Hume) used to describe their doctrines. Indeed, as attributed to early modern philosophical authors, empiricism is not an actor’s category, but an analytic historiographical category retrospectively applied to them and confronted to rationalism, whose main representatives were considered to be Rene Descartes, Baruch Spinoza, and G.W. Leibniz. Such a narrative began to be established by the late nineteenthcentury and described early modern empiricism as an epistemological stance maintaining (1) that the origin of all mental contents lies in experience (a genetic statement), and (2) that knowledge can only be justified a posteriori (an epistemic statement). This entails that empiricists deny the existence of innate mental contents and the possibility of a purely a priori knowledge. In the history of early modern science such a dichotomy has been usually rendered in terms of the opposition between continental rationalist Cartesian science vs British empiricist Newtonian science. In the last four decades, many aspects of this traditional narrative have been criticized, and the meaning of early modern empiricism is subject of renewed studies.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

 PhilArchive page | Other versions
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

The Explanation Of Behaviour.C. Taylor - 1964 - Humanities Press.
The Empirical Stance.Bas C. van Fraassen - 2002 - Yale University Press.
Language, Truth and Logic.A. J. Ayer - 1948 - Philosophy 23 (85):173-176.
Problems From Locke.J. L. Mackie - 1976 - Clarendon Press.

View all 40 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Kant on Empiricism and Rationalism.Alberto Vanzo - 2013 - History of Philosophy Quarterly 30 (1):53-74.
An Empirical Critique of Empiricism.Richard De Brasi & Joseph R. Laracy - 2013 - Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture 16 (4):124-163.
From Empirics to Empiricists.Alberto Vanzo - 2014 - Intellectual History Review 24 (4):517-538.


Added to PP index

Total views
88 ( #121,175 of 2,446,312 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
37 ( #19,305 of 2,446,312 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes