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Epistemology and Knowledge Essay

For centuries philosophers have questioned whether knowledge exists and if we know anything at all. This discipline is known as epistemology. Epistemology, or the theory of knowledge, is a branch of philosophy related to the scope and nature of knowing. The subject focuses on examining the nature of knowledge and how it relates to beliefs, justification and truth. It is actually quite hard to define knowledge. The dictionary defines it as a general awareness or possession of information, facts, ideas, truths, or principles, but philosophers on the other hand define it as a belief which is in agreement with the facts.

So what are the facts, and what do we know exactly? Christopher Norris, the author of Epistemology: Key Concepts in Philosophy, states that whatever we believe now, is only an approximation of reality and that every new observation brings us closer to an understanding. Therefore, knowledge is forever changing/evolving and not pertaining to one’s beliefs. “… ‘water’ was once defined vaguely as the kind of stuff that fell as rain, filled up lakes, was liquid under normal ambient conditions, boiled or froze at certain temperatures, … etc” (Norris 44).

Due to evolution, we now know that liquid; water, is made up of the molecular structure H20. We no longer believe that the liquid once vaguely defined is anything other than water (H20); now we are knowledgeable. Norris believes science must be integrated with the natural world and the social world to truly understand knowledge. “When we try to explain all our knowledge of the world as Descartes does we try to understand how the things we believe in science and in everyday life are connected with and warranted by the bases or grounds on which we come to believe them” (Stroud 209). Beliefs are things people have.

They aren’t things that can be picked up along the side of the road. Just because a person believes they can fly doesn’t make it true. For many philosophers, this is important. It implies that what someone thinks, could be wrong. In other words, it implies that what one thinks about the world may not match up with the way the world really is. “… truth occurs when ideas in the mind agree with external conditions or objects …” (Soccio 322). Therefore, there is a distinction between belief and truth. Truth is not in your head. Truth is out there. Truth is factual. The molecular structure H2O is factual; therefore it is truth.

Knowledge is a kind of interaction. It involves asking questions and inference. One can’t merely know because they believe. Although a person can believe that they know something, that isn’t legitimate knowledge. Knowledge is a belief which is in agreement with the facts. Works Cited Norris, Christopher. Epistemology: Key Concepts in Philosophy. New York: Continuum, 2005. Print. Soccio, Douglas J. Archetypes of Wisdom: An Introduction to Philosophy 8th ed. Boston: Wadsworth, 2013. Print. Stroud, Barry. The Significance of Philosophical Scepticism. New York: Oxford, 1984. Print.


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