It is the study of the nature, limits and origin of human knowledge. The word is derived from the Greek episteme as “knowledge” and logos as “reason”, and therefore the field is occasionally referred to the theory of knowledge. It has a long history, starting along with the earliest Greeks and ongoing to the present. All along with metaphysics, ethics and logic, this is one of the four major branches of philosophy and almost every grand philosopher has given to it.

It is the branch of philosophy which studies knowledge. These attempts to answer the critical question: what distinguishes true or adequate knowledge from false or inadequate knowledge? Basically, this question translates into matter of methodology of scientific: how can one expand theories or models which are better than competing theories? This also forms one of the pillars of the modern sciences of cognition that developed from the knowledge processing advance to psychology and from artificial intelligence (AI) as an attempt to enlarge computer programs which mimic a human's capability to utilize knowledge in an intelligent manner.

Why is Epistemology Important?

It is important since it is basic to how we think. Without several means of understanding how we obtain knowledge, how we rely upon our intelligences, and how we expand ideas in our minds, we have no coherent path for our thoughts. A sound epistemology is essential for the existence of sound reasoning and thinking: this is why very much philosophical literature can occupy seemingly arcane discussions regarding the nature of knowledge. Unfortunately, atheists who often debate questions which derive from dissimilarities in how people approach knowledge aren't all time familiar along with this subject.

History of epistemology:

While we seem at the history of epistemology, we can distinguish a clear trend, despite the confusion of several seemingly contradictory positions. The first theories of information stressed its absolute, permanent character, while the later theories place the emphasis upon its relativity or situation-dependence, epistemology is continuous evolution or development and its active interference along with the world and its objects and subjects. The entire trend moves from a static, passive vision of information towards an increasingly adaptive and active individual.

Let us begin with the Greek philosophers. In Plato's analysis knowledge or information is merely an awareness of complete, universal Forms or Ideas, existing independent of some subject trying to apprehend to them. Although Aristotle puts extra emphasis on logical and empirical process for gathering knowledge, he yet accepts the analysis such knowledge is an apprehension of essential and universal principles. Subsequent the Renaissance, two major epistemological positions dominated philosophy: empiricism, that notices knowledge like the product of sensory perception and also rationalism that sees this as the product of rational reflection.

The implementation of empiricism in the recently developed experimental sciences direct for an analysis of knowledge that is now until explicitly or implicitly held through several people these days: the reflection association theory. As per to this analysis knowledge result from a type of mapping or reflection of external object, by our sensory organs possibly aided through various observation instruments, to our mind or brain. Although knowledge has no a priori existence, as in Plato's idea, but has to be developed through study, it is now until absolute, it means that any piece of proposed knowledge is supposed to moreover truly correspond to an element of external reality or not. In that analysis, we may in practice never reach full or absolute knowledge, but that knowledge is somehow conceivable like a limit of ever more precise reflections of actuality.

The following significant theory developed in that duration is the Kantian synthesis of empiricism and rationalism. Therefore, to Kant, knowledge outcomes from the organization of perceptual data upon the origin of inborn cognitive structures, which he calls "categories". Categories comprise space, causality, time and objects. This epistemology does recognize the subjectivity of basic ideas, like time and space, and the impossibility to reach purely goal illustrations of things in themselves. Still the a priori categories are yet static or specified.

The subsequent stage of epistemology of development might be termed as pragmatic. Parts of this can be determined in early 20th century approaches, as logical positivism, conventionalism and the "Copenhagen interpretation" of quantum mechanics. Such philosophy now dominates mostly present work in artificial intelligence and cognitive science. Therefore, to pragmatic epistemology, knowledge comprises models which attempt to illustrate the environment in such a manner as to maximally simplify difficulty-solving. This is assumed that no model can ever expect to capture all relevant knowledge and though such a whole model would exist, this would be more complicated to utilize in any practical manner. Hence we must accept the parallel existence of various models, although they may appear contradictory. The model that is to be selected depends upon the difficulties which are to be resolved. The critical criterion is that the model must produce correct or approximate predictions that may be tested or difficulty-solutions, and be as easy as possible. More questions regarding the "Ding a Sich" or eventual reality after the model are meaningless.

The pragmatic epistemology does not provide a clear solution to the question where knowledge or models arrive from. There is an implicit assumption; all models are built from parts of the other models and all empirical data on the origin of trial and error complemented along with several intuition or heuristics. A radical point of departure is provided by constructivism. This assumes that all knowledge is developed from scratch during the subject of knowledge. There are no 'givens', neither objective empirical facts or data nor inborn categories or cognitive structures. The concept of a correspondence or reflection of outside actuality is rejected. Due to this lacking connection among models and the things they illustrates, the danger along with constructivism is that this may cause relativism, to the concept that any model constructed through a subject is as excellent as another and that there is no manner to differentiate adequate ('true') knowledge from inadequate ('false') knowledge.

We can differentiate two approaches trying to ignore such an 'absolute relativism'. The first may be termed as individual constructivism. This assumes that a particular attempts to reach coherence among the various pieces of knowledge. Constructions which are inconsistent along with the bulk of other knowledge which the particular has will have a tendency to be refused. Constructions succeed in integrating earlier incoherent pieces of knowledge, will be kept. The next, to be termed social constructivism, sees consensus among various subjects as the final criterion to judge knowledge. 'Truth' or 'reality' will be agreement only to those constructions on that mostly people of a social group agree.

During these philosophies, knowledge is seeing as mostly independent of a hypothetical 'external reality' or environment. Since the 'radical' constructivists Varela and Maturana argue, the nervous system of an organism cannot in any absolute manner differentiate among a perception that is caused by an external phenomenon and a hallucination which is a purely internal event. The only critical criterion is that various mental entities or processes inside or among individuals must reach some type of equilibrium.

Although these constructivist approaches place much more emphasis upon the changing and associative character of knowledge, they are now until absolutist in the primacy they offer to either internal coherence or social consensus, and their explanation of construction processes is rather vague and incomplete. A more wide or synthetic outlook is provided by various forms or evolutionary epistemology. Now this time it is assumed that knowledge is constructed through the subject or group of subjects to facilitate adapt to their environment in the wide sense. That construction is a continuing process at various levels, biological and also social or psychological. Construction occurs through blind variation of existing pieces of knowledge and the selective retention of those latest combinations which somehow give most to the survival and reproduction of the subject(s) inside their specified environment. Thus we distinguish that the 'external world' again enters the picture, though no objective reflection or correspondence is understood, merely equilibrium among the products of internal variation and dissimilar as internal or external selection criteria. Any type of form of permanence or absolutism has disappeared in this approach; however knowledge is fundamentally still a passive instrument developed through organisms in order to assist them in their quest for survival.

Nowadays and perhaps mostly radical approach extends such evolutionary analysis in order to compose knowledge actively follow goals of its own. This kind of approach, that as yet has not had the time to extend an exact epistemology, may be termed as memetics. This notes that knowledge can be conveyed from one subject to the other, and thereby loses its dependence on anyone. A piece of knowledge which can be conveyed or replicated in such a manner is termed as a 'meme'. The death of a single carrying a specific meme this time no longer shows the elimination of that piece of knowledge that like evolutionary epistemology would suppose. Providing a meme spreads more rapidly to modern carriers, than that its carriers die, the meme will reproduce, even if the knowledge it comprises in any one carrier may be completely inadequate and even dangerous to continued existence. In this analysis a piece of knowledge might be successful well in the sense that this is general or has several carriers even if its predictions may be completely wrong, on condition that it is sufficiently 'convincing' to modern carriers. Thus we notice in a picture where even the subject of knowledge has vanished his primacy and knowledge turned into a force of its own along with proper goals and manners of developing itself. This is realistic can be illustrated through the several superstitions, fads and irrational beliefs which have spread over the globe, occasionally along with a frightening speed.

Since social constructivism, memetics attracts the concentration to communication and social methods in the development of knowledge, but in place of seeing knowledge like constructed through the social system, it quietly sees social systems as constructed through knowledge methods. Definitely, a social group can be explained by the fact that all its members contribute to the similar meme. Still the idea of 'self', which that differentiates a person as an individual, that can be known as a piece of knowledge, constructed via social methods, and therefore an outcome of memetic evolution. By a constructivist approach, here knowledge is constructed through individuals or society; we have considered to a memetic approach that sees society and even individuality like byproducts constructed through continuing evolution knowledge of independent fragments is competing for domination.

We have come extremely far certainly from Plato's absolute and immutable Ideas, residing in an abstract realm far from concrete subjects or objects or from the naive realism of the reflection consequent theory, here knowledge is simply an image of external objects and their associations. At this level, the temptation would be powerful to lapse into a purely relativistic or anarchistic attitude, simplifying that 'anything goes', and which it would be not possible to create any reliable and common criteria to differentiate 'good' or adequate pieces of knowledge from inadequate or bad ones. Until now in most practical conditions, our intuition does assist us to differentiate perceptions from dreams or hallucinations and not reliable predictions for illustrations: 'I am going to win the lottery'and from reliable ones as ‘the sun will come up tomorrow morning'. As well as an evolutionary theory still assumes a natural selection that can be understood to a specific degree. Thus we may suppose that it is possible to know selection criteria; however one of the lessons of such historical overview will be which we must ignore to rapidly formulating one fixed criterion. Neither consensus, nor correspondence or coherence, and not even survivability, are adequate to ground a theory of knowledge. At this level we can only expect to determine independent, multiple and occasionally contradictory criteria, that judgment may rapidly turn into obsolete. Until now if we would succeed to make these criteria evidently, inside a general and simple conceptual framework, we would have an epistemology which extends and synthesizes all of the traditional and less traditional philosophies exceeding.

What is the foundation for epistemology?  

Science and deductive purpose, by that means one may obtain knowledge, presupposes that the universe is orderly and logical and it follows mathematical laws consistent eventually and space. Even if situations in diverse regions of space can be radically different, there nonetheless lives an underlying uniformity.

The Christian: who thinks in a transcendent causal truth: expects there to be order in the universe. As the Bible teaches as God upholds all things through His power, the Christian hopes the universe to behave in a rational and orderly fashion. Because God is omnipresent and consistent inside Himself, the Christian supposes that all areas of the universe will follow the similar laws, even if the physical situation of various regions of the universe may be dissimilar.

God transcends time. Hence, even if situation in the past may have been diverse from those now, the laws of nature are not issue to arbitrary modify. The Christian has a foundation upon that to base his assumption as the universe is upheld in a consistent way, and hence has a basis upon that to gain knowledge.

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