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Empiricism is the idea that all knowledge is obtained through observation and experience. There is a Latin phrase which defines empiricism: "Nihil est in intellectu quod non prius fuerit in sens." In translation this means "nothing is in the understanding that was not earlier in the senses." Empiricism has its roots in the earliest Western philosophy as a possible answer to the question of how knowledge is acquired. Philosophers would make observations about phenomena found in nature as well as inquiring to those considered experts on the phenomena and try to conclude natural laws from the findings. This has led to advancements in science, medicine and the development of experimental methods. The most profound argument against empiricism is rationalism. While empiricists believe that the mind starts off with no knowledge at birth (Locke's blank slate theory) and that all of our knowledge is acquired through sensory interactions, rationalists believe there are certain ideas humans are born knowing.
Hooker, Richard. "Empiricism" in World Cultures General Glossary.
URL = http://www.wsu.edu/~dee/GLOSSARY/EMPIRIC.HTM
Audi, Robert. Epistemology: A Contemporary Introduction to the Theory of Knowledge. Routledge, 1998.
Nelson, Lynn Hankinson. "Who Knows: From Quine to Feminist Empiricism" in Feminist Interpretations of W. V. Quine. Penn State Press, 2003.