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What is Epistemology and what is it for?

What is Epistemology and what is it for?

November 27, 2021

Psychology is a science, specifically the science of behavior and mental processes. However, no science generates knowledge by itself if it is far from philosophy, a discipline related to reflection and exploring new ways of perceiving and interpreting things.

Epistemology, in particular, is one of the most relevant branches of philosophy from the scientific point of view. Next we will see what exactly it consists of and what its function is.

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What is epistemology?

Epistemology is the branch of philosophy that is responsible for examining the foundations on which the creation of knowledge is based. Etymologically, this term comes from the union of the words "episteme" (knowledge) and "logos" (study).


Thus, epistemology is a division of philosophy that is responsible for exploring the internal coherence of the reasoning that leads to the creation of knowledge , the usefulness of their methodologies taking into account their objectives, the historical contexts in which these pieces of knowledge appeared and the way in which they influenced their elaboration, and the limitations and utilities of certain forms of research and of certain concepts, between other things.

If we had to reduce the meaning of epistemology to a question, this would be: what can we get to know, and why do we measure? Thus, this branch of philosophy is responsible both for seeking valid statements about those contents that we can know, and also about the procedures and methods that we should use to reach that goal.


Relationship with gnoseology and philosophy of science

It is necessary to clarify that the epistemology deals with analyzing the obtaining of all type of knowledge, not only of the scientist, at least if we equate it to the concept of gnoseology , which is responsible for examining the scope of all types of knowledge in general. It must be borne in mind, however, that the relationship between epistemology and epistemology is still the subject of debate today.

The philosophy of science , unlike epistemology, it is relatively recent, since it appears in the twentieth century, while the second already appears in the philosophers of ancient Greece. This means that the philosophy of science is a more concrete and definite way of producing knowledge, referring to the way in which science (understood as a guarantee system for the generation of knowledge) should be used both in the most concrete practices (such as for example, a specific experiment) as in broad areas of science (such as, for example, the study of behavior patterns in human beings).


The functions of epistemology

We have seen in broad strokes what are the objectives of epistemology, but there are certain details that are worth deepening more. The epistemology is responsible, among other things, for the following functions .

Examine the limits of knowledge

There are all kinds of philosophical currents that tell us about our ability to generate universally valid and solid knowledge . It is from naive realism, according to which it is in our power to know in a faithful and detailed way the reality as it is, to the most extreme postmodern and constructionist tendencies according to which it is not possible to create a definitive or universal knowledge of anything, and all we can do is create fully understandable explanations about what we experience.

Epistemology, in this sense, has the function of seeing how the methods used to investigate allow to answer satisfactorily to the questions from which it starts.

Evaluate methodologies

Epistemologists are also responsible for evaluate positively or negatively the use of certain methodologies of research, whether they are analysis tools or methods of gathering information, taking into account the need to which they are supposed to respond. However, it is necessary to bear in mind that methodology and epistemology are not the same; the second gives very little for granted and questioning philosophical premises is among its functions, while the first focuses on the technical aspects of research and rests on a much larger number of presuppositions.

For example, an epistemologist may ask questions about the real utility of performing experiments on animals to extract knowledge about human behavior, while a methodologist will focus instead on making sure that the laboratory conditions and the animal species chosen are correct.

Reflect on epistemic currents

Another of the great functions of epistemology is to create a debate between schools of thought that are ascribed to different ways of conceiving the creation of knowledge.

For example, when Karl Popper criticized the way of research of Sigmund Freud and his followers, he was doing philosophy of science, but also epistemology, because he questioned the ability of psychoanalysis to reach meaningful conclusions about how the human mind works. In short, he was criticizing not only the contents of one of the main psychological currents of history, but his way of conceiving research.

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Reflection on metaphysics

Epistemology is also responsible for deciding what metaphysics is and in what sense it is necessary or not or essential or not. Throughout history, many philosophers have tried to define what is beyond the material and physical and what are mere constructs generated by the mind to explain the reality that surrounds us, and this is still a very discussed topic.


What is epistemology? Introduction to the word and the concept (November 2021).


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