What would you call the idea that theories and knowledge more generally is merely the product of our past interactions with their associated elements? For example, if I were to let go of a ball, one would assume that ball would fall, as every experience of this in the past has led to this outcome. We can’t prove that the ball will (always) fall, we just make the assumption that it will. Is there a philosophy idea that deals with this?

  • 2
    – armand
    Commented Apr 8, 2021 at 3:38
  • "Dependent" in the title and "merely the product" in the text are two very different things. The former is a platitude, the latter is controversial, it is what Hume called "constant conjunction". In modern terms, it is defended in regularity theories of causation, but they face many problems and are not widely accepted, see SEP and IEP
    – Conifold
    Commented Apr 8, 2021 at 8:02
  • Perhaps en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bayesian_inference
    – CriglCragl
    Commented Apr 8, 2021 at 21:58

2 Answers 2


Assuming your knowledge concerns things besides pure mathematics and logic, what you are looking for is empiricism or phenomenology depending on what you are focusing on. If you are interested in how knowledge is related to what we perceive, what you want is empiricism. If you are interested in how mental states, such as belief, is related to what we perceive, you want phenomenology.

  • Per your reference: "constructive empiricist holds that science aims at truth about observable aspects of the world, but that science does not aim at truth about unobservable aspects. Acceptance of a theory, according to constructive empiricism, correspondingly differs from acceptance of a theory on the scientific realist view: the constructive empiricist holds that as far as belief is concerned, acceptance of a scientific theory involves only the belief that the theory is empirically adequate." So empiricism posits where knowledge comes from (observation), as opposed to realism (from truth). Commented Apr 9, 2021 at 22:37
  • ...but the OP's question is why knowledge is dependent on past experience. This should be undoubtedly the principle of Induction reasoning, without which there would be no science or any knowledge (if u hold Logical Empiricism's view then even logic and math is inductive, not Kant's synthetic a prior). Empiricism is usually opposed to rationalism or realism as partly referenced above. But all realists, phenomenologists, and rationalists accept Induction Reasoning same as empiricists. So neither empiricism nor phenomenology seems the root principle why knowledge is dependent on past experience. Commented Apr 9, 2021 at 22:47

Within philosophy realm, knowledge is usually defined as "justified true belief" as here:

For centuries upon centuries, philosophers accepted Plato's theory of knowledge, the view that knowledge is justified true belief. This view is also known as the JTB theory. It's not only a true belief, but also needs to be justified which is the key why Socrates valued knowledge so much. Socrates claimed knowledge is more valuable than mere true belief (say, only by luck you have such some true beliefs) because it is justified. Justification, or working out the reason for a true belief, locks down true belief.

Then how can human beings justify a speculated belief? Usually human beings use inductive or deductive reasoning to help justify a speculated belief at hand. The name of "the idea that knowledge is dependent on past experience" is above inductive reasoning which constitutes most of the body of science, of course deductive reasoning is also applied heavily.

Finally noted, this induction may be fully justified via numerous past experience or experiments, but by no means it's as certain as deductive mathematical knowledge or logical entailment, which is called Hume's Problem of induction. Also in some edge cases like Gettier problem in above first reference, knowledge defined as justified true belief may not be qualified per its own definition like a classic philosophical paradox. So there's still no settled perfect definition of knowledge within philosophy as a solid foundation hoped by positivists or foundationalists yet...

  • Subjectively how would you describe a plan for the future ? This is not based on experience but somehow will influence the reality. Commented Oct 2, 2021 at 11:53
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    @Cretin2 Thx for your reading, contemplating and further inquiry! True knowledge (truth) itself doesn't depend on our past experience but certainly the volume and speed of acquiring knowledge by a subjective agent depends on his or her past experience. If you're an empiricist then you'll more value experiences related to your interested field. While if you're a rationalist, you'll more value reasoning, logic and rigorous evidence. In summary, everyone's own plan for the future to acquire further knowledge more or less depends on one's philosophy... Commented Oct 3, 2021 at 0:14

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