Empirical research

Under empiricism (from Greek empeiria " experience, experience, knowledge" ) is in science a study conducted in the laboratory or in the field collection understood (often survey) of information, based on targeted, systematically extending investigations. The results of such research, so empirical data, sometimes referred to simply as empiricism. In philosophy, especially the philosophy of science, a distinction is made between empiricism and evidence. Empirical studies can be practiced by various methods, as will be explained in the next section.

Empirical research and everyday worldly experience

Empirical research is different from the everyday mundane experience by the scheme of the procedure - also referred to as the collection of data - and by the requirement for objectivity and repeatability of the observations, which is not found in everyday experiences in this form. In the empirical sciences, empirical observations are used to verify theoretical assumptions about the world. Whether theories and empirical data can be developed beyond this is partially moot. The exact ratio of empiricism and theory and science, generally, treated in the in epistemology and here is the subject of much philosophical controversy. There is no consensus in science, whether theoretical statements confirm empirically safe or can only refute in principle.

Empiricism contrasting tradition in the history of science

In the late Middle Ages and the early modern naturalists of which claimed that they had come to new insights because of their empirical research. The claim was often associated with polemics against other researchers, it was assumed that that they are such as Aristotle relied on traditional authorities, ie to the tradition. This idea was often taken over by science historians, led by back this progress on the empirical orientation of innovative researchers, and the opposition to their views on Traditionsverhaftetsein. This simplistic notion is criticized by Franz Graf- Stuhlhofer, noting that scientific progress was often associated with a complex interplay of empiricism and tradition.

Empirical and non-empirical sciences

As empirical sciences the empirical sciences or disciplines in which the objects and facts of the world, such as planets, animals, human behavior through experimentation, observation or survey shall be investigated. These empirical methods can take place in the laboratory, or, as the technical term in the field. This means an investigation of a phenomenon or problem in its national context.

This contrasts with the non-empirical sciences, in which some knowledge is gained without recourse to direct observation and sensory experience, such as mathematics and philosophy. In particular, epistemology and logic are considered non- empirical knowledge areas, because herein should be formulated that are right or wrong solely from logical (formal) reasons (eg tautologies and contradictions are generally not empirically verifiable ). Philosophical reflection that does not follow a strictly logical -formal calculi is usually performed only by mere contemplation or speculation, empirical observations are deliberately not used for this purpose. The theology ( especially in their dogmatic interests), the law ( since legal texts are case reports based on individual cases ), the literature and parts of linguistics are considered non- empirical sciences.

Hermeneutical and empirical sciences

Opinions were divided as to whether sciences, in which textual sources with hermeneutical methods are evaluated and interpreted, as the science of history and also parts of the social sciences, can be viewed as an empirical science. Representative of a strictly unified science position - about Carl Gustav Hempel - look at the history of science as an empirical science. On the other hand, representatives of a dualism between the natural sciences and the humanities - as at the beginning of the 20th century, Wilhelm Dilthey and Georg Henrik von Wright later - pointed out the special character acting in hermeneutic sciences. The relationship between hermeneutics and empirical science is controversial in philosophical debate today. In particular, in the social sciences has been the debate between representatives unit of scientific positions, as they assume the representative of critical rationalism, Karl Popper and Hans Albert, and alternative positions (such as the Critical Theory of Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno) that each one of their opinion have fought for " blind " transfer scientific knowledge models to the social sciences and humanities, intensely fought in the 1960s and 70s (see the so-called positivism dispute ).


Empiricism is a 17th century created originally on Francis Bacon and David Hume declining philosophical movement that emphasizes the general dependence of all knowledge from experience. Radicals varieties of empiricism ( as advocated by John Locke position), assume that the human mind is a tabula rasa was, could arise only through sensory experiences in the knowledge ( "Nothing is in the intellect which was not previously in the senses. "). Philosophical counterarguments to this position have been formulated by the representatives of rationalism, as of René Descartes, who pointed to the fundamental fallibility of the senses. Immanuel Kant has sought in his Critique of Pure Reason in order to overcome the opposition between empiricism and rationalism by postulated the importance of a priori given, that is prior to all experience existing in the mind concepts like space, time and causality.

Empirical specialties of different sciences

  • Empirical Literature
  • Empirical Communication Research
  • Empirical Cultural Studies
  • Empirical Pedagogy
  • Empirical Social Research ( see also sociology and empirical research, to present position of Empirical Social Research in Germany, observation)
  • Empirical choice of research