Empirical knowledge means knowledge gained through observation.
As with all experiential knowledge,
empirical knowledge is gained through a process of induction --
that is, forming general principles from a set of observations.
Hume pointed out that induction is logically untenable.
Plotkin pointed out that induction is evident throughout
the biological world and is highly successful.
Empirical knowledge is logically impossible but
utterly necessary for existence.
The essence of scholarship is skepticism. However, there are two forms of skepticism: one is wary of accepting theories prematurely, the other is wary of dismissing theories prematurely.
To engage in research is to utilize public and private resources to formulate and assess knowledge claims. These resources are squandered when scholars make mistakes: that is, when we think something is true or useful or knowable when it is actually false or useless or unknowable; or when we think that something is false or useless or unknowable when it is actually true or useful or knowable.
How do we know which form of skepticism to adopt? The answer is it depends on the moral (and aesthetic) repercussions of the claim.
"Anyone wishing to make any knowledge claim about the world has no choice but to navigate the treacherous path between false positive and false negative errors. This includes claims that say `I don't know' and `We cannot know.' There is nothing epistemologically safer about these negative claims compared with the corresponding positive claims `I know' or `In principle, we can know.'"
Ideas about the world can originate from any source. Intuition and imagination are essential in the pursuit of scholarship.
However, ideas about the world should not be accepted without critical reflection, and, where possible tested in a way that allows the idea to potentially fail.
There is no methodological algorithm that ensures the advance of knowledge. Methodology consists primarily of a set of pointers that warn scholars of previously encountered pitfalls.
Our understanding of methodology is extended and refined in the same manner as other theories.
Since research is an activity that has moral and ethical consequences, scholars have a moral obligation to learn about methodological problems.This document is available at http://dactyl.som.ohio-state.edu/Music829C/summary.html