Incoherence of Empirical Philosophy

Henry Sidgwick

in Essays on Ethics and Method

Published in print December 2000 | ISBN: 9780198250234
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191598432 | DOI:

Series: British Moral Philosophers

 Incoherence of Empirical Philosophy

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Empirical philosophy, for Sidgwick, comprises those basic philosophical propositions espoused by Locke, Berkley, Hume, and Mill. He understands the theory to be, not a theory of being, but a theory of knowledge that sets out the criteria by which to distinguish true or real knowledge from merely apparent knowledge. According to Empiricism, all trustworthy cognitions are either immediate cognitions of particular facts or cognitions capable of being rationally inferred from these. On this understanding of empirical philosophy, Sidgwick maintains that he is not an empiricist, as he finds it impossible to work out a coherent theory of the criteria of knowledge on an empirical basis. He concludes that it is possible to combine a complete trust in the method and results of empirical science with a complete distrust in the procedure and conclusions of empirical philosophy.

Keywords: Berkley; empirical philosophy; empiricism; fact; Hume; Locke; method; Mill; science; Sidgwick; theory of knowledge

Chapter.  5065 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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