Epistemology is a branch of philosophy, which dispenses with the ways and means of acquiring knowledge. It answers the question, “How do I know what I know? How do we get knowledge? Does our knowledge represent reality as it really is?”. It studies the nature, scope and production of knowledge and justified belief. Epistemology analyses how knowledge relates to similar areas such as truth, belief and justification. Etymologically, epistemology is derived from two Greek words Episteme, means knowledge or understanding, and Logos, means study of. Hence it is regarded as ‘the theory of knowledge’.

Types of knowledge

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Knowledge is defined as the perception and realization of reality. Knowledge requires three necessary and sufficient conditions, truth, belief and justification. Therefore knowledge can be said as “justified true belief”. Knowledge is typically divided into three types: personal, procedural, and propositional. Personal knowledge or knowledge by acquaintance is the kind of knowledge that we are postulating to have when we say things like “I know the name of the movie.” Procedural knowledge is the knowledge by which one knows how to do something. People, who declared to know how to drive, or how to swim, are claiming that they actually possess the skills involved, that they are able to manage these things. Propositional Knowledge is the knowledge of facts. When we say things like “the multiplication of two negative numbers always results in a positive number” or “objects falling due to gravity”, we are justifying having propositional knowledge.

Acquisition of knowledge

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Epistemologists generally focus on propositional knowledge which comprises wide range of subjects: mathematical, physical, geographical, historical and other areas of study. [shc_shortcode class=”shc_mybox”]Epistemology concerned with how our minds are related to reality, given by these subjects, and whether these relationships are valid or invalid.  In other words, the study of epistemology fundamentally includes what we can know about knowledge itself.[/shc_shortcode]

Two types of propositional knowledge can be there, depending on its origin

A priori (“from the earlier”)                a posteriori (“from the later”)

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A priori knowledge is knowledge that rests on a justification that is independent of experience and requires only the use of reason. ( eg: all fishes can swim)

A posteriori knowledge is knowledge that rests on a justification that is dependent on experience and empirical evidence. (eg. Shape of a vehicle, geographical position of a building)


The general questions explored by epistemologists are:

What is knowledge? How can we know it? How much can we scientifically know? Why do we know about some things, but not other things? How can we distinguish truth from falsehood? What are the necessary and sufficient conditions of knowledge? What makes justified beliefs justified? How we are to understand the concept of justification?


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