Empiricism and empirical methods have been commonly seen in geographic research, and have also featured in many various schools of thought. The popularity trend of empiricism has been that of a mercurial one, with it being predominant at many stages or also being disregarded as a valid method of research. With the aid of lecture notes, mandatory readings and other academic papers, I hope to critically discuss and analyse the truth behind empiricism and its sister processes used in empirical methods.
John Locke (1632 – 1704) attacked the concept of rationalism in his paper, titled “An Essay concerning human understanding” (1689), he devoured the ideas and beliefs of past rationalistic theorists, that god planted the concepts and beliefs into our mind set before birth. Empiricism is the philosophical doctrine that experience rather than reason is the source of knowledge, and in this sense it is opposed to rationalism. The word “empiricism” is derived from the Greek “empeiria”, the translation of which is experiential in Latin, which in turn is derived from experience.
Aristotle once portrayed the idea of a “Tabula Rasa” or a blank slate of mind at birth. In my opinion, empiricism over rules rationalism to a certain extent in our lives, however in a modern society a new born may start with a Tabula Rasa, but will grow and develop with many of the imposed views, opinions and beliefs of their guardian, role models, the society and world that surrounds them. “Although the assumption that values relevant for economic behaviour are transmitted from parents to children is very pervasive in the theoretical economics literature, the empirical evidence on it is almost non-existent.
” (Cipriani & al, 2007) Even in the study of empiricism, rationalism can apply to the researcher, as show in the above text. The example regarding “mass” was a personal opinion, and with further research into my opinion; my views on the ability to research and write empirically have changed dramatically to that most people are very rationalistic. An example of empiricism in the reading “The Changing Practices of Human Geography”, is when Carl’s “ambition is to become immersed in a whole new collection of people and places ….
In doing so he tries to forget about all aspects of life and work” (Cloke & al, 2004). This shows the trail of empiricism in a specific geographical topic. Empiricism Vs. Empirical Methods; what is this difference? Empiricism is the Tabula Rasa, state of mind adopted by a researcher/person when developing thoughts, theories, etc. while Empirical Methods are the approaches taken; when developing these theories and beliefs. Empirical methods in geography are not just for collecting data for the sake of it, but collecting data with reference to theories and concepts.
“In one form or another, sampling is the basis of almost all empirical research in both physical and human geography and is widely relied upon. However, such a powerful methodological tool comes with a set of health warnings; samples are only as valuable as they are representative of the larger population; at best, bad sampling leads to imprecision; at worst, bad sampling yields incorrect or prejudiced results” (Clifford & al, 2010). Clifford et al, stumble upon a very valid point regarding the quantity of “experiencing” required, to provide valid and conclusive evidence to corroborate and prove a theory.
The empirical methods used in the paper “Living and working in urban working class communities” are that of a statistical measurement of a country’s equality in the workforce. In this paper the use many statistics received from the National Statistics Office, therefore creating an empiricist concept in their paper. “While the employment rate of men has remained largely unchanged between 1984 and 2004 (78% and 79%, respectively), that of women has increased from 59% to 70% such that women now make up 46% of the total UK workforce.
” (Ward & al, 2006) In their report, they comprehensive use of stats and date relating to the empiricist data receive from the NSO, they fail to use a rationalist view with in their literature. Using the empiricist method of measurement reassures to me that empiricism is rife in their methods. Empirical methods have been common place in not only geography but in other sciences. “Lavoisier … advised his followers to keep to the method of Bacon, working only from direct observations and modern experiments, and dispensing with the study of both philosophy and history as impediments to progress in science.
” (Bowen, 2009). Bacon a founder and advocate of empirical methods among our research and mind building, has led many great scientist, geographers and more to use empirical methods in their lives. To conclude; an explanation and review of the concepts of empiricism and empirical methods, I have found that empiricism has grounded factual truth without prevailing bias in many studies, theories, personalities, opinions, etc. around the current world we live in today. Empiricism can be seen as factual research using experience and personal observation to produce valid investigations and beliefs.
Empirical methods are simply the techniques used to discover the facts etc. behind the research and observations. Bibliography Bowen, M. , 2009. Empiricism and Geographical Thought from Francis Bacon to Alexander von Humboldt. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Cipriani & al, e. , 2007. Like mother like son? Experimental evidence on the transmission of values from parets to children. Clifford & al, e. , 2010. Key Methods in Geography. London: Sage. Cloke & al, e. , 2004. The Changing Pratices of Human Geography. London: Sage. Ward & al, e. , 2006. Living and working in Urban Working Class Communities. UK: Elsevier.
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