Study Notes

Empiricism (Conservatism)

A Level
AQA, Edexcel

Empiricism is an epistemological approach which claims that knowledge comes primarily (or solely) from experience. By definition, all conservatives thereby adopt an empiricist stance.

The conservative mindset is characterised by a combination of tradition and pragmatism; themes explored in previous sections. Conservatives also reject the rationalist approach of liberalism and the scientific socialism advocated by Marxists. Neither rationalism nor scientific socialism is rooted in empiricism.

Empiricism is clearly consistent with Burkean themes such as the accumulated wisdom of previous generations. It is also encapsulated in traditional Tory opposition to the views of experts. Those who claim they have all the ‘right’ answers have often been shown to be wrong by the consequences of events. Empiricism is also consistent with the Burkean perspective upon the social contract as opposed to the rather arrogant view that the current generation knows what’s best.

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