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Article Checklist for "Epistemology"
Workgroup category or categories Philosophy Workgroup [Categories OK]
Article status Developing article: beyond a stub, but incomplete
Underlinked article? No
Basic cleanup done? Yes
Checklist last edited by --Todd Coles 09:58, 3 August 2007 (CDT)

To learn how to fill out this checklist, please see CZ:The Article Checklist.


I am merely making a stub here. I will not cling to it, since I am not a professional philosopher.Daniel Demaret 06:38, 8 May 2007 (CDT)

Good, because it needs a lot of work. --Larry Sanger 14:32, 3 August 2007 (CDT)

Combining topics under history

It seems that the sections from Hellenistic views to Modern Times should be combined under a history section. Does anyone agree? Andrew Chong 13:05, 3 August 2007 (CDT)

History of epistemology? Maybe, or it could be a separate article. The history of epistemology is not what is usually studied when one studies epistemology. --Larry Sanger 14:33, 3 August 2007 (CDT)

Removed article

Epistemology is the theory of knowing. It studies the phenomenon of knowledge, its nature, and deals with such fundamental questions "What is knowledge?" and "How do we know this?". The term "epistemology" is derived from "ἐπιστήμη" (knowledge) and "λόγος" (logos), and was introduced into English by the Scottish philosopher James Frederick Ferrier. Epistemology is a branch of philosophy.

Hellenistic views

Questions involving the nature of knowledge are as old as Philosophy itself.

Plato viewed knowledge as universal unchanging Ideas. One dialogue shows how all knowledge is inherent in everyone, whereas another says that that which must be there already to be able to percieve the world around him.

Aristotle tried to divide the types of knowledge, that which can be said of knowledge, into ten Categories. He further attempts to classify knowledge in books named physics, metaphysics, poetry (including theater), biology and zoology, logic, rhetoric, politics, government, and ethics. These areas of knowledge retain his names today.

Scientific revolution: reason and observation

The scientific revolution started with questioning old beliefs and the doubt lead to using reason and observation to gain new knowledge, rather than the emphasis of relying on the authority of Plato and Aristotle.

Reason and observation are important for knowledge to all philosophers, but are emphasis as to which was more important started the contention betweeen empiricm and rationalism.


Empiricists, like John Locke later stresses the importance of observation and experiments to obtain knowledge, even to the point of assuming that a new born child has a tabula rasa.


Rationalists like René Descartes stress reason to arrive at knowledge since one can not always trust the senses.

Modern times

Immanuel Kant tries to resolve many issues, among them the contention between rationalism and empiricism. He uses twelve categories of knowledge and he argues, as Plato did before, that there has to be something in man already there to let observation into the mind. That which is already there before is a priori and gives a rational basis for handling the empirical knowledge, which is a posteriori knowledge. Reason corresponds to a priori and observation to a posteriori knowledge, thus reconciling rationalism and empiricism.

Primary questions and issues

Epistemology deals largely with

What is knowledge?

How is knowledge proven?

How is knowledge acquired?

Epistemology outside of philosophy

Epistemology has found uses in many fields outside of pure philosophy, since the ability to distinguish between knowledge and belief, and to determine what is true and what is false is often useful.

  • Law: The procedures necessary to establish guilt or innocence or to determine the truth of testimony.
  • Science: The ability to distinguish theory from speculation, and what can be established as fact.
  • Cognitive science: Dealing with the biology of reasoning, logic, belief, and determining truth.

Comments continued

Sorry, but speaking as an epistemologist, the article really was not rescuable. I'm starting over! --Larry Sanger 08:35, 5 September 2007 (CDT)