In many ways epistemology clears the way for metaphysical construction or hypothesis. By adhering to the principles of one branch of philosophy, it allows us to become better at searching within the other. It is true that epistemic ideas are often knocked down by metaphysics, but when one considers that it is entirely possible to base metaphysical ideas on epistemology, it becomes clear that the branches of philosophy are very much intertwined and somewhat interdependent upon each other for clarity and reason. It is a strange philosophical symbiosis from which a magnificent and new organism emerges.
We know that the goal of metaphysics is to somehow develop an all-encompassing hypothesis as to what the ultimate nature of the universe is and reality itself. The human mind being the way it is, will not accept any of the possibilities unearthed by metaphysical questioning unless it is in part rationalized by epistemic inquiry. For example, the old question about the tree falling in the woods, would it still make sound if no one was there to hear it? Well science and its epistemic thirst for knowledge has solved that question by revealing the existence of sound waves, which would be there regardless of the emptiness of the woods.
Or has it? On the surface epistemology seems to have solved the question but the fact is metaphysically speaking it has not been solved at all because the question was about the nature of reality itself, and whether or not the reality of the tree falling would even exist if there was no one to experience it. Would the universe simply withdraw the portion itself that was not being experienced by anyone? This question cannot be answered by either branch, but possibly by a combination of the two. With regards to epistemology, the world actually exists as a series of images, ideas and concrete forms that can be interacted with.
Yet despite the objective references that are this world, it still cannot be explained or even researched in an epistemic way without first encountering some profound questions which in turn lead to further dilemmas. The question as to how one reasons is one such dilemma, yet this question and the myriad possibilities that arise from it falls partially in the domain of metaphysics. Epistemology, in order to function as it is supposed to, must accept that knowledge can be communicated and that reality is a quantity that can be known, at least to some extent.
Because there must be an underlying similarity between individuals in order be able to communicate this knowledge, so there must be at some level a similarity between human minds and that means that the concepts tied up in metaphysics must be linked to epistemology. This strange dualism does not detract from either concept; indeed it actually enhances each one. By giving up dependence on the concept of uninterrupted reality, something outside science, epistemology does not relinquish objective truth; instead it grabs holds of it even more tightly and wraps itself up in the dualism created by its symbiosis with metaphysics.
The core concepts espoused by both of these branches of philosophy are not at heart incompatible, in fact we see that the opposite is quite true. Just as the foundation of epistemic inquiry is the belief in the existence of things, it is only apt that it should be counterbalanced by metaphysics, which questions that very existence. Without this both branches would be in states of imbalance. There is a correlation within and between epistemology and metaphysics which clearly demonstrates a relationship of interdependency between these core concepts of philosophy.
Conventionally there is believed to be a sharp distinction between them, but at close examination it becomes clear that these two branches of philosophy far from being distant form each other are actually intricately intertwined. It is therefore important when travelling down either of these paths of wisdom to not only tread lightly, but with our head turned in the direction of the other aspect because with each of them firmly taking our hands as we travel, we are liable to become confused and lose our way.
Courtney from Study Moose
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