Arts & Culture | Empiricism | Early Baroque | Classical
Broadly speaking, empiricism, from the Greek empeiria (‘experience’), is a philosophical tradition that accepts as fact only what can be verified by observation, or experience, through the use of the five senses. Galileo Galilei’s support of Copernican theory was a result of his observation of the planet Venus through a telescope. His insistence that what he saw was more authoritative than the traditional teachings of the church brought down on him the persecution of the Catholic Inquisition. In contrast, when William Harvey published the results of his observations on the circulation of blood in 1628, he avoided persecution. Instead of attacking the church’s dogma directly, he concentrated on overturning Galenic theory (based on the second-century writings of Claudius Galen and at the core of medieval and Renaissance medical thought). More controversial than Harvey, and less easily identified as heretical than Galileo, was René Descartes, whose famous soundbite Cogito ergo sum (‘I think, therefore I am’) claimed that the only proof of human existence is our own awareness of ourselves.
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