Epistemology 101

A brief introduction to Epistemology or the study of knowledge. Including four points most important to epistemology.

Epistemology is the study of episteme or knowledge.  Any ‘good’ or ‘logical’ epistemology will answer the following questions: 

What are the necessary and sufficient conditions of ‘knowledge’? This area of epistemology deals with defining ‘what’ knowledge is.  Justified true believe is one such answer to this question.  Knowledge must be a belief as we believe ourselves to have it.  Knowledge must be justified or it is simple opinion.  And knowledge must be true or it… well is false.  Science in the modern age, and most specifically those looking at micro physical particles are ever increasing the belief in probability as a necessary condition.

What are the sources of ‘knowledge’? This area of epistemology is dealing with the ‘how’ of knowledge.  How is it one comes into possession of knowledge.  Leading answers have been ideas such as perception and recollection.  Perception has often been taken as the most obvious source for knowledge.  Though it has ever been questioned perceptive knowledge seems to be undeniable, but not immune.  Philosophers like David Hume questioned causality as a way to disprove the justification behind using perceptive induction of knowledge.  Other sources have used recollective sources, such that the ‘soul’ is imprinted with knowledge and we need only remember what it is we forgot.  You did not learn calculus, you simply recalled it from past existence.

What is the structure of 'knowledge'? There are two main camps in the structure of knowledge. These camps include foundationalism and coherentism. Foundationalism is by far the leading structural theory of knowledge.  Foundationalism accepts justification as a necessary, though not sufficient, condition of knowledge.  Such that each piece of knowledge ‘x’ is subject to justification ‘y’, ‘y’ is than subject to justification to ‘z’.  Such that an eventual first cause of knowledge is the foundation and justification for all knowledge. Coherentism is justified through a coherent web.  It is within coherentism that ‘x’ is justified by ‘y’ and ‘y’ by ‘z’ but ‘z’ is justified by ‘x’.  This theory is less persuasive in text than it is in its entirety when one begins to think about the vast amount of variables…  The thought of them never cross justifying one another is infinitesimally improbable. A third camp, less known as it is viewed almost as a anti-epistemological structure is that of infinitism. For now, suffice it to say it denies both the coherentist and foundationalist claims of circular justification and foundation justification.

What are the limits of knowledge? This area ranges from cases for skepticism, ambiguity, subjectivity, and others.  For instance it is impossible for me to have omniscience, as I am a finite being, and am subject to temporality.  All-knowledge is infinite and therefore is eternal, it is removed from time. I’ll post further on Infinitism at a later date, as it was my main area of interest as an undergraduate.

Links:

Brief introduction to infinitism

Justified true belief

Three kinds of Knowledge

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M 5446
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Jerrod Nazarian
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