Epistemology: Everything You Need to Know

This is a branch of philosophy that is concerned with how people learn and retain knowledge. It suggests that knowledge can be divided into four main bases:

●               logic

●               reason

●               experience

●               divine revelation

The term is drawn from two Greek words, namely episteme and logos. Episteme stands for ‘knowledge’ or the ‘study, or science of’ while logos refer to ‘argument,’ ‘account,’ or ‘reason.’ Just as each of these different meanings captures some aspect of the Greek terms, so too does each definition of epistemology itself. Though the word “epistemology” isn’t more than a couple of centuries old, the domain of epistemology isn’t any less old than other fields of philosophy.

Throughout its extensive history, different aspects of epistemology have attracted interest. For instance, Plato’s epistemology drew attention for its attempt to realize what was there to know, and how knowledge (in contrast to mere true opinion) is good for the person seeking it. The focus of Locke’s epistemology was on knowing the processes of human understanding. The goal of Kant’s epistemology was to become aware of the conditions of the possibility of human understanding. The emphasis of Russell’s epistemology was on comprehending how modern science could be validated by appeal to sensory experiences.

When it comes to the field of formal epistemology, some of the recent works’ focus is on understanding how the level of human confidence is rationally constrained by its evidence. Considerable work done recently in the domain of feminist epistemology is an attempt to understand how interests affect human evidence and even their rational constraints, in general. It’s interesting to notice that in all these cases, epistemology tries to understand one or another category of cognitive success (or cognitive failure, as the case may be).

Though epistemologists concern themselves with different tasks, all of them can be classified into two categories. The first category relates to understanding what knowledge is and differentiating it between cases where someone knows something and others where someone doesn’t know something. To put it differently, it’s about determining the nature of knowledge, or finding what it means when someone knows, or fails to know, something.

The second category relates to finding the level of human knowledge. In other words, it’s about how much do humans know or can know. The way people use their senses, reasoning ability, the testimony of others, and even additional resources to gain knowledge – all are covered in this category. Additionally, this category tries to find if there are any limits to what humans can know.

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