Empirical Knowledge

What is empirical knowledge

Empirical knowledge, or non-scientific knowledge, is a type of knowledge that is obtained through observation and experimentation of a particular phenomenon. That is, it is what we learn after perceiving or interacting with other living beings, objects or phenomena.

Empirical knowledge is characterized by being based on personal experience. It requires the use of our senses and is therefore subjective, since it depends on the individual who perceives the phenomenon.

Empirical knowledge is also practical, because it allows us to learn about the environment that surrounds us without needing other types of knowledge.

For example, when a person touches sandpaper for the first time, they can perceive the rough texture through touch. What he has learned from this experience (the sensation of the material) forms part of his empirical knowledge.

Empirical knowledge differs from scientific knowledge, in that it is the result of research and experimentation with verifiable and quantifiable methods.

It is also distinguished from philosophical knowledge, which is all knowledge obtained from reflection on subjective issues. Or religious knowledge, which are the beliefs that make up a religion and that are considered unquestionable truths for believers of that faith.

Characteristics of empirical knowledge

Empirical or non-scientific knowledge is characterized by being based on experience and is limited to what can be perceived with the senses, among other distinctive features that are detailed below.

1. It is based on experience

In order to acquire empirical knowledge, it is necessary to experience the phenomenon, that is, to interact with what one wishes to learn about.

For example, to understand how it feels to be in the sea, you have to enter it.

You may be interested:  Meaning of Inhospitable

2. It is limited to sensory perception

Empirical knowledge can only be experienced through the five senses, therefore, the lack or alteration of any of them implies a limitation of the experience. Therefore, the empirical knowledge gained is limited.

3. It’s subjective

As empirical knowledge depends on what each individual experiences with their senses, experiences depend on what the person perceives and how they perceive it, which reduces the objectivity of the experience. Different individuals may have different experiences when exposed to the same phenomenon.

4. It is not verifiable

Empirical knowledge cannot be verified or measured. For example, if a person says that he experienced severe pain after a fall, there is no way of knowing if what he experienced was really as painful as he says.

5. It lacks method

There is no standardized empirical method to record or measure experiences, everything is subject to what the person records with their senses.

6. The conclusions are particular

Empirical knowledge cannot be applied to all phenomena. For example, if a person is allergic to flowers, it is only his experience. A general conclusion cannot be applied because not all people are allergic to flowers.

7. It’s practical

Empirical knowledge has applications in everyday life, it allows us to understand everyday phenomena according to what we perceive with our senses, but it is not useful for developing theories or generalizations.

Examples of empirical knowledge

empirical knowledge, group of people playing in the sea

The knowledge that is acquired from interactions with the environment helps people to manage themselves more efficiently. Here are some examples of empirical knowledge applied to everyday life:

  1. Experience the smell, taste and thermal sensation of the sea for the first time.
  2. Learn that getting close to fire can cause extreme heat and burns.
  3. Discover the taste and texture of foods that we did not know.
  4. Learn to walk.
  5. People who live near the sea and learn to swim naturally.
  6. Learn to speak.
  7. Understand the operation of an electronic device.
  8. Associate certain types of cloudiness with the arrival of rain or storms.
  9. To learn a new language.
  10. Understand the cycles of sowing and harvesting according to the climatic seasons.
  11. Understand customs and traditions of other cultures through observation.
  12. Know the time and depth of the water suitable for fishing.
  13. Associate each season with certain changes in weather and temperature.
  14. Know the sensation generated by putting your hands in ice water.
  15. When children look in the mirror and realize that they are seeing themselves.
  16. Experiencing allergy with some food and not eating it anymore.
  17. Learn to ride a bike.
  18. See and feel the snow for the first time.
  19. When, without knowing how to cook, we mix certain foods to make a meal.
  20. Play a new video game.
  21. When a mother understands if her baby cries because she is hungry or sleepy.
You may be interested:  Meaning of Exothermic Reaction

Empirical and scientific knowledge: 3 key differences

Empirical and scientific knowledge are two ways of understanding reality. However, each one has different methods and systems to generate new knowledge, as described below:

1. They have different methods

Empirical knowledge is based on personal experience and the perception of information through the senses to draw conclusions about reality.

A person who lives and works in the field establishes certain relationships between the temperature or the shape and color of the clouds to assume that a storm is approaching. This person has already experienced several storms and has established relationships between the variables mentioned above. This is empirical knowledge.

Scientific knowledge, on the other hand, is based on evidence and the application of standardized methods to verify data and generate knowledge.

A person who applies scientific knowledge to predict a storm will use verifiable methods, such as the measurement of atmospheric pressure, ambient temperature, wind direction, etc.

2. Scientific knowledge is systematized

Scientific knowledge implies a systematization of processes to apply the methods that are necessary. For example, a field investigation requires a previous design to establish which data analysis techniques are going to be implemented. Scientific research cannot be carried out on the spur of the moment.

Empirical knowledge is not systematic. Knowledge is generated according to the experiences perceived by the subject.

One example is that many babies learn to walk in a messy process: they first crawl, then take their first steps, and may crawl again before walking properly.

3. Empirical knowledge is not precise

Empirical knowledge is imprecise, since starting from individual experience, it depends on what each person has perceived.

You may be interested:  What is Oxygen

A common example is the description of colors. A person may see a blue box and say that it is “sky blue”. Another person will see the same box and say that it is “light blue”. Therefore, there is no precision regarding the correct color name.

Scientific knowledge is precise, since it can be measured and verified with standardized instruments and techniques.

A group of scientists can detect and prove that the tap water of a city has exceeded the permitted levels of mercury, presenting more than 0.001 micrograms per liter.