Based on a link that was provided to me by chown33 in a different thread, Ive 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. :-\ Updates 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 innatefor 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 cant 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. [*]Analyticsynthetic 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". Videos 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? 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.