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Note 268 – Epistemology: the study of knowledge

Classical Definition of Kno

Image via Wikipedia

According to the Collins English Dictionary, the word epistemology is the “study of the source, nature and limitations of knowledge”.  Wikipedia say that it comes from the “Greek words epistēmē, meaning ‘knowledge, science’, and logos, meaning ‘study of'”.  A Scottish philosopher called James Frederick Ferrier introduced the term in the 19th century. defines epistemology as the “Study of the origin, nature, and limits of human knowledge” and says that “nearly every great philosopher has contributed to the epistemological literature”.

There are a lot of sites offering quite in depth knowledge on this subject, but for the purposes of a definition and a brief outline, the shortest answer to the question ‘What is epistemology?’ comes from Keith deRose in his brief introduction to the topic.  He writes that epistemology is quite simply the ‘theory of knowledge’ and in his eyes, this phrase and the word ‘epistemology’ are used interchangeably.

According to Keith deRose, an epistemologist would look at different issues such as how knowledge is structured and finding out the scope or extent of knowledge.  They might also take something that someone might see to be knowledge, and prove that it fails to be an instance of knowledge.  (Sounds a very deep and complex exercise!). 

The comment that comes with the image above is that “not all true beliefs are knowledge, not all unknown beliefs are false” and Wikipedia (in the section under truth) suggests that some of the studies carried out by epistemologists are about how truth and belief relate to knowledge.  An example they give is that someone may cross a bridge believing that it is safe,  but that doesn’t mean that person knows it to be safe.  If it then collapses once they are half way across, they might then change their thinking.  Wikipedia write that “epistemologists argue over whether belief is the proper truth-bearer“.

That’s all for today.

Until tomorrow…

Freelance Writer

My Writing Challenge: 98 days to go
What would you like to see on this site after 30 April 2012?


About Sandra Madeira

I am a full-time working mum with a passion for writing and inspiring others. Subjects I tend to blog about are life skills, parenting, decluttering, worklife balance, etc. At the moment I am on a decluttering mission creating space in my house, garden and mind. I have challenged myself to do at least ten minutes a day and write about it. Have a good day! Sandra Freelance Writer


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