My Epistemology Is Better Than Yours! ;)

Discussion in 'Politics, Religion, Social Issues' started by Huntn, Sep 18, 2014.

  1. Huntn, Sep 18, 2014
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2014

    Huntn macrumors G5


    May 5, 2008
    The Misty Mountains
    Based on a link that was provided to me by chown33 in a different thread, I’ve done some reading and tried to organize the branches of Epistemology, the method that humans use to acquire and define knowledge, the theory of knowledge, into a somewhat organized list. Of note, Epistemology deals with the relationship between the researcher and what can be known, how we come to know what we know, it is driven by Ontologic beliefs (ie, what is true?; what exists?; what is real?). Ontological beliefs dictate who objective the researcher can be. There is no way to prove a single method of knowledge acquition based on a philosophical view is superior to others. All of this info has been gathered from the associated wikipedia article (links provided). This thread could be considered a confusing mess. I may be in over my head. :-\

    19 Sep 2014- Added the term Paradadigm, and Relativism. Changed some categories from being called “sub sets” to being “related”.

    Branches of Epistology (from main article)

    • Historical- Studying the history of human efforts to gain knowledge to gain a philosophical understanding of this effort? (Huh?).
    • Empiricism- a theory of knowledge focusing on the role of experience, especially experience based on perceptual observations by the senses. There are many variants of empiricism, positivism and realism being among the most commonly expounded but central to all empiricist epistemologies is the notion of the epistemologically privileged status of sense data.
    • Positivism (variation of Empiricism) is the philosophy of science that information derived from logical, objective, and mathematical treatments and reports of sensory experience is the exclusive source of all authoritative knowledge, and that there is valid knowledge (truth) only in this derived knowledge. Verified data received from the senses are known as empirical evidence. Positivism holds that society, like the physical world, operates according to general laws. Introspective and intuitive knowledge is rejected. Theories and quantitative methods are superior.
    • Realism- (variation of Empiricism, traditional science) The Forest is there whether we are there to see it or not. Realism is the belief that some aspect of our reality is ontologically independent (based on the phrase “to be”, What is true, what exists, what is real?, independent of our existence) of our conceptual schemes, perceptions, linguistic practices, beliefs, etc. Realism may be spoken of with respect to other minds, the past, the future, universals, mathematical entities (such as natural numbers), moral categories, the material world, and thought. Realism can also be promoted in an unqualified sense, in which case it asserts the mind-independent existence of the world, as opposed to skepticism and solipsism. Based on natural laws, and experiments to verify consistency.
      Realists tend to believe that whatever we believe now is only an approximation of reality and that every new observation brings us closer to understanding reality. Realism is contrasted with idealism, and with anti-realism.
    • Idealism- Believe in Intuition. Many idealists believe that knowledge is primarily (at least in some areas) acquired by a priori processes or is innate—for example, in the form of concepts not derived from experience. The relevant theoretical processes often go by the name "intuition".
    • Fallibilism is the philosophical principle that human beings could be wrong about their beliefs, expectations, or their understanding of the world, and yet still be justified in holding their incorrect beliefs- really?
    • Infallibilism- Or Just Because They Say So?-, is the position that knowledge is, by definition, a true belief which cannot be rationally doubted. Other beliefs may be rationally justified, but they do not rise to the level of knowledge unless absolutely certain. Of note, In religion, infallibilism is the belief that certain texts or persons are incapable of being in the wrong. The most famous example of this is probably the Catholic doctrine of Papal Infallibility, under which the Pope is considered infallible in certain matters of doctrine, when his decisions are promulgated ex cathedra (as opposed to personal statements or views).
    • Rationalism- rationalism is the view that "regards reason as the chief source and test of knowledge" or "any view appealing to reason as a source of knowledge or justification". More formally, rationalism is defined as a methodology or a theory "in which the criterion of the truth is not sensory but intellectual and deductive". Rationalists believe reality has an intrinsically logical structure.
    • Constructivism- According to constructivists the world is independent of human minds, but knowledge of the world is always a human and social construction, created by social groups. Constructivism opposes the philosophy of objectivism, and embraces the belief that a human can come to know the truth about the natural world not mediated by scientific approximations, with different degrees of validity and accuracy. It is possible to have multiple socially constructed realities that are correct, and reject the notion that un-objective reality exists.
    • Relativism- (related to Constructivist) is the concept that points of view have no absolute truth or validity, having only relative, subjective value according to differences in perception and consideration. Searches for meaning in the experience of individuals, reality can’t exist without context, there are multiple mental constructions of reality, each person has their own correct reality,
    • Objectivism- means the state or quality of being true even outside of a subject's individual biases, interpretations, feelings, and imaginings. A proposition is generally considered objectively true (to have objective truth) when its truth conditions are met and are "bias-free"; that is, existing without biases caused by, feelings, ideas, etc. of a sentient subject.
    • Reliabilism- a belief is justified (or otherwise supported in such a way as to count towards knowledge) only if it is produced by processes that typically yield a sufficiently high ratio of true to false beliefs. In other words, this theory states that a true belief counts as knowledge only if it is produced by a reliable belief-forming process.

    Methods of Obtaining Knowledge

    • Observation or experience This may be more or less sophisticated, ranging from a simple, "I saw" to carefully designed controlled experimentation.
    • Reason or logic Taking other knowledge as data, by logical operations knowledge can be inferred. For example the theoretical construct, the electron, is derived by logical inferences from observations and experiment. Such knowledge, being derivative, can not be better than the knowledge upon which it is founded.
    • Modelling (Subset of Reason or Logic) a situation sometimes allows those with a hands-on viewpoint to learn how-to do something. This pragmatic approach is often seen in computer programming.
    • Testimony Knowledge based on the acceptance of testimony involves accepting what others say.
    • Authority(Variation of Testimorny) Knowledge based on authority may rely upon the reputation of an individual such as Aristotle or Einstein or perhaps on institutional authority such as that of the Roman Catholic Church or Oxford University.
    • Revelation(Variation of Testimony) Many people believe knowledge may be obtained via revelation or even divine revelation, which may be directly from God or another spirit, perhaps conveyed through a religious text or texts, such as the Bible.

    Related Terms and Concepts

    • Truth- is most often used to mean being in accord with fact or reality or fidelity to an original or to a standard or ideal.
    • Belief- is a state of the mind, treated in various academic disciplines, especially philosophy and psychology, as well as traditional culture, in which a subject roughly regards a thing to be true.
    • Justification- According to the theory that knowledge is justified true belief, in order to know that a given proposition is true, one must not only believe the relevant true proposition, but one must also have a good reason for doing so. One implication of this would be that no one would gain knowledge just by believing something that happened to be true. For example, an ill person with no medical training, but with a generally optimistic attitude, might believe that he will recover from his illness quickly. Nevertheless, even if this belief turned out to be true, the patient would not have known that he would get well since his belief lacked justification.
    • A priori and a posteriori knowledge-
      A priori knowledge
      or justification is independent of experience (for example "All bachelors are unmarried"). Galen Strawson has stated that an a priori argument is one in which "you can see that it is true just lying on your couch. You don't have to get up off your couch and go outside and examine the way things are in the physical world. You don't have to do any science."

      A posteriori knowledge or justification is dependent on experience or empirical evidence (for example "Some bachelors I have met are very happy").

      Methodology- is the systematic, theoretical analysis of the methods applied to a field of study.
      Paradigms- A way of thinking about the world. Basic Belief System based on Ontological, Epistemological, and Methodological assumptions. No way to prove one over the other.

      Post-Modernism-- distrust of abstract theories, that explain reality.

      [*]Propositional Knowledge- (Descriptive, “Knowledge That”) is wthe type of knowledge that is, by its very nature, expressed in declarative sentences or indicative propositions.

      [*]Procedure Knowledge- (“Knowledge how”) Procedural knowledge, or implicit knowledge is different from other kinds of knowledge, such as declarative knowledge, in that it can be directly applied to a task. For instance, the procedural knowledge one uses to solve problems differs from the declarative knowledge one possesses about problem solving because this knowledge is formed by doing.

      Ontology- is the philosophical study of the nature of being, becoming, existence, or reality, as well as the basic categories of being and their relations.

      [*]Analytic–synthetic distinction- Immanuel Kant, in his Critique of Pure Reason, contended that some propositions (Analytic Propositions) are such that we can know them to be true just by understanding their meaning. For example, consider, "My father's brother is my uncle." We can know it to be true solely by virtue of our understanding what its terms mean. Synthetic propositions, on the other hand, have distinct subjects and predicates. An example of a synthetic proposition would be, "My father's brother has black hair."

      [*]Externalism vs Internalism-
      Externalists hold that factors deemed "external", meaning outside of the psychological states of those who gain knowledge, can be conditions of knowledge. For a justified true belief to count as knowledge, there must be a link or dependency between the belief and the state of the external world. Usually this is understood to be a causal link. Such causation, to the extent that it is "outside" the mind, would count as an external, knowledge-yielding condition.

      Internalists, on the other hand, assert that all knowledge-yielding conditions are within the psychological states of those who gain knowledge. Many point to René Descartes as an early example of the internalist path to justification. He wrote that, because the only method by which we perceive the external world is through our senses, and that, because the senses are not infallible, we should not consider our concept of knowledge to be infallible. The only way to find anything that could be described as "indubitably true," he advocates, would be to see things "clearly and distinctly".


    Complex Research Terminology Simplified


    My goal would be to eventually put up a poll, but for now, would like to know, does anyone find this info interesting? :p

    And of the people who do find it interesting, are there any glaring organizational errors, omissions, or a better way to describe a particular Branch of Epistemology?

    There also appears to be overlap. For example, Realism and Objectivism and that is how I think I would describe myself. I'll reply in more depth in a future post. This one wore me out. ;)

    And finally how would you describe yourself? Can you easily describe why you chose one branch over another? Politeness in exchanges is always appreciated. :)
  2. Cassady macrumors 6502a


    Jul 7, 2012
    Wow. Subscribed. Should be interesting - will keep watching, nothing to add just yet!
  3. Meister Suspended


    Oct 10, 2013
  4. chown33 macrumors 604

    Aug 9, 2009
    I don't think Authority or Revelation are strict subsets of Testimony, speaking from a mathematical viewpoint of what a subset is. They can be related without being subsets.

    Authority implies a trustworthy source, almost by definition. In other words, if you doubted the source (perceived it to be untrustworthy), you wouldn't consider it an authority. Trustworthiness itself can come from different causes. At its core, a trustworthy source is one with a reputation for being right (whatever "right" means). But reputation is a history of actions, and is derived from experience. That is, the experience is of a set of past events indicating that the source is right. So experience plays a role in deciding what's a trustworthy authority.

    Revelation begins with direct experience. For example, the internal experience of "hearing" or "seeing" a deity. That experience may then be written down, and those writings then become testimony. Others may later read the writing and take it as authoritative testimony. But without the direct revelatory experience, there'd be no book, hence no testimony. That is, the experience precedes the testimony.
  5. localoid macrumors 68020


    Feb 20, 2007
    America's Third World
  6. Huntn, Sep 19, 2014
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2014

    Huntn thread starter macrumors G5


    May 5, 2008
    The Misty Mountains
    I'm retired. :p But this was mostly copy and paste. :)

    I will change designation from "subset" to "related".

    Based on amplifying Authority and Revelation, can I assume you are a Theist? Not said as an inflammatory statement. I'm going to add a note to the first post that for the sake of any debating, it's helpful to know and intellectually honest for participants to express their theological leanings. I am Agnostic.

    Are these branches of Epistemology or methods of acquiring knowledge? I'm lazy this morning after all that work. ;)
  7. chown33 macrumors 604

    Aug 9, 2009
    Authority and Revelation aren't necessarily theistic, so I don't know why you made that particular assumption. The Buddha was enlightened (revelation), but Buddhism isn't theistic. And scientific texts can be authoritative within the domain of science, but that doesn't make those texts theistic.
  8. Huntn thread starter macrumors G5


    May 5, 2008
    The Misty Mountains
    The reason I admittedly assumed this for Authority and Revelation, is due to the description included with them, especially Revelation. And although Authority could come from someone on the leading edge of scientific research, like an Einstein, the door is also opened for theistic views to be accepted as authority. I admit to being biased against, when it comes to equating the Bible to modern scientific research.

    Do you hold belief based on theism, Buddhism, or are you Atheist/Agnostic? This is not a challenge. I'd just like to know. Thanks. :)
  9. localoid macrumors 68020


    Feb 20, 2007
    America's Third World
    A paradigm is the basic belief system or worldview, that can be characterized via:
    • Ontology (A view on the nature of reality. What exists? What is reality?)
    • Epistemology (The perceived relationship with the knowledge being uncovered or discovered. How do you know something? Are we part of that knowledge or are we external to it?)
    • Methodology (How do go about finding out knowledge and carrying out research?)
  10. Huntn thread starter macrumors G5


    May 5, 2008
    The Misty Mountains
    I've added your video link and the terms Paradigm and Relativism to the first post.

    After reading over the different categories a couple of times, I most relate to Realism and Objectivism. All of the largest advances in science and quantum theory relate to these epistemology branches. The others such as Constructivism, rely too much on "what I imagine to be", and while I acknowledge that we could imagine the truth, we just as likely could be imagining fanciful wants and desires. It's not something I would rely upon. That said...

    At times, I feel that I sense something occurring behind the "gray screen of this world", that passes as established reality. What it is exactly is an unknown, but I'd describe it as a frequent source of good vibes, (not tequila). :p Is this brain chemicals or something else? Unknown. I know that Atheist will say "brain chemicals", while Theists will say "that's God". I don't like leaping to a conclusion on this subject, and would feel no confidence that "I chose wisely". After all, there is nothing to be lost by evaluating further. This is why I'm Agnostic. :)
  11. localoid macrumors 68020


    Feb 20, 2007
    America's Third World
    Depending on how far you want to go down the rabbit hole, you might want to also mention ontology.

    Both ontology and epistemology are major branches of philosophy called metaphysics. Metaphysics itself is largely concerned with asking two types of fundamental questions:

    • What are the characteristics of things that exist? (An ontological question.)
    • How can we know the things that exist? (An epistemological question.)

    To fully flesh-out a worldview or paradigm, both ontological and epistemological questions are usually examined.

    From a ontological standpoint, a scientist that embraces the Standard Model may say that particles are the nature of reality, while a scientist that embraces Quantum Field Theory might argue that reality is actually a particle-like phenomena, that can be further reduced to strings and p-branes.

    The epistemological theories of science are typically either Rationalist (knowledge is obtained through reason and introspection) or Empiricist (knowledge is obtained through observation and experiment). Many scientists strive to find models that are both empirical and realistic, but string theorists usually don't have the luxury. String theorists investigate realms to tiny to be examined or probed, and so they usually rely on abstract mathematical tools. Some might argue however, that nature is mathematical. ;)

    In regards to methodology, both the Standard Model scientist and the Quantum Field Theory scientists would likely agree on using the scientific method (although the tools employed, e.g., math vs. a microscope, may be different.)

    I think constructivism has its uses, largely in education and perhaps as a deeper examination of some human concepts, beliefs, practices, etc.


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