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Empirical Knowledge Characteristics & Examples

We explain what is Empirical Knowledge Characteristics, types, and examples. In addition, its a relationship with scientific knowledge.

What is empirical knowledge?

Empirical knowledge is that obtained through direct experience or real-world perception, without going through abstractions or imaginations. It is the knowledge that tells us what the world is like, what things exist, and what their characteristics are.

This type of knowledge is the basis of materialistic approaches to reality, that is, of those who seek to understand what there is from what there is. It is essential for the emergence of the notion of science and scientific thought, as opposed to religious and philosophical knowledge.

There are two types of empirical knowledge, which are:

  • In particular, that which refers to specific cases of reality, without being able to guarantee that what has been learned applies to all cases in general.
  • Contingent, one that attributes characteristics to an object that, however, may lack them in the future.

Characteristics of empirical knowledge

The different authors who define this type of knowledge agree that their fundamental characteristic is their direct link with everyday life, with the experience of the world, and with life itself.

In that sense, the empirical knowledge does not come from a formative or educational process, nor from the action of a conscious and analytical reflection, but it is about the experience processed and converted directly into knowledge. Observation, repetition, trial, and error are the usual forms of purchase.

On the other hand, the senses are a key element in the acquisition of empirical knowledge. You cannot learn empirically something that cannot be perceived, or something that is so abstract that requires mental processes other than our five senses.

Examples of empirical knowledge

empirical knowledge example fire
We know that fire burns because we have felt its heat as we approach.

Some simple examples of empirical knowledge are:

  • Knowing the fire, one of the first lessons of any small child, summarized in which fire burns, something that needs to be experienced in its own flesh to incorporate it into the organized knowledge of the world.
  • Learn to walk, ride a bike or use a skateboard, things that usually have a single way of learning: practice.
  • The acquisition of new languages, which implies rational and empirical knowledge, is the latter key to learning the language: constant exercise.

Differences with scientific knowledge

Although empirical knowledge and the doctrine of empiricism were key in the philosophical emergence of the concept of science, empirical knowledge characteristics are not comparable, although both have to do with the perception of reality.

To begin with, scientific knowledge is based on concrete hypotheses, linked or not to the empirical, that aspire to become an explanation of the real world, something that empirical knowledge does not offer.

On the other hand, scientific knowledge must be verified by a specific method of demonstrations and essays, while the empirical response to the bare experience of the world.

For example, it is a verifiable fact that from time to time it rains, we know it empirically. But it is the scientific knowledge to know why it rains and how it rains, or what role rain plays in the hydrological cycle. And we cannot know the latter with simple experience, but we require specialized abstract knowledge, that is, scientific.

Other types of knowledge

Other types of knowledge are:

  • Religious knowledge. One who is linked to the mystical and religious experience, that is, to the knowledge that studies the link between the human being and God or the supernatural.
  • Scientific knowledge. The one that derives from the application of the scientific method to the different hypotheses that arise from the observation of reality. Try to demonstrate through experiments what are the laws that govern the universe.
  • Intuitive knowledge. The one that is acquired without formal reasoning. It is given quickly and unconsciously, the result of often inexplicable processes.
  • Philosophical knowledge. He who emerges from human thought, in the abstract, using various logical methods or formal reasoning, which does not always follow directly from reality, but from the imaginary representation of the real.

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