Kant Lexicon


Empiricism is an epistemological doctrine concerning “the origin of pure rational cognition” (A854/B882). Specifically, it locates the origin of such cognitions in experience. In “The History of Pure Reason,” Kant cited Aristotle as “the head” of the empiricist school, followed by Epicurus and Locke.

According to empiricism, the reason that all pure rational cognition (concepts and principles) are said to be derived from experience is that all cognitions of any kind are derived from experience.

Kant regarded the weakness of empiricism to be the fact that because it holds that all pure rational cognition is derived from experience, it therefore only legitimately applies to experience. He credits Epicurus as having respected this limitation but criticizes Locke for over-stepping it.

For although Locke derives all concepts and principles from experience, in their use he goes as far as to assert that the existence of God and the immortality of the soul can be proved with the same [degree of] evidence as can any mathematical theorem (even though both objects lie entirely outside the bounds of possible experience. (A854-5/B882-3)

Empiricism is only consistent with sensualism, the metaphysical doctrine that only proper objects of our cognition are objects of the senses.

Classically opposed to empiricism is noologism, according to which pure rational concepts have their origin in reason and not in experience. Kant’s critical or transcendental philosophy also rejects empiricism.

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