Empiricism, the philosophical doctrine that emphasizes the role of experience in human knowledge and minimizes the role of reason. The term “empiricism” is derived from the Greek word empeiria, meaning trial or experience. Empiricism as a doctrine is opposed to rationalism. To understand the doctrine, it is important to distinguish two central theories that are characteristic of empirical philosophies: a theory of meaning and a theory of knowledge.
Rationalism, the philosophy that regards reason as the chief instrument and test of knowledge. It has taken two principal forms, depending on the kind of rival it has had to oppose. In religion its main rival has been the appeal to authority; hence the prime concern of religious rationalism has been to criticize claims of supernatural revelation. In philosophy its chief rival has been empiricism, against which rationalists have sought to show that our most certain and significant knowledge comes not from sense experience but from reason.