Outline of epistemology

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The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to epistemology:

Epistemology or theory of knowledge – branch of philosophy concerned with the nature and scope of knowledge.[1] The term was introduced into English by the Scottish philosopher James Frederick Ferrier (1808–1864).[2] Epistemology asks the questions: "What is knowledge?", "How is knowledge acquired?", and "What do people know?"

According to Plato, knowledge is a subset of that which is both true and believed[citation needed].

Essence of epistemology[edit]

Branches of epistemology[edit]

Epistemological theories[edit]


  • Theories of justification
    • Foundationalism – Self-evident basic beliefs justify other non-basic beliefs.
    • Coherentism – Beliefs are justified if they cohere with other beliefs a person holds, each belief is justified if it coheres with the overall system of beliefs.
    • Internalism – The believer must be able to justify a belief through internal knowledge.
    • Externalism – Outside sources of knowledge can be used to justify a belief.
    • Skepticism – A variety of viewpoints questioning the possibility of knowledge.
      • Academic skepticism – A school of skepticism which rejects the existence of truth and maintains that knowledge is impossible.
      • Pyrrhonian skepticism – A school of skepticism which emphasises suspension of belief to attain ataraxia (tranquility of mind).
    • Minority viewpoints include:
  • Common justifiers
    • Scientific method – body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new[3] knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge. A scientific method consists of the collection of data through observation and experimentation, and the formulation and testing of hypotheses.[4]
    • Occam's Razor – the principle that "entities must not be multiplied beyond necessity" (entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem). The popular interpretation of this principle is that the simplest explanation is usually the correct one. However, this is often confused, as the 'simple' "is really referring to the theory with the fewest new assumptions." [5]
    • Empiricism – theory of knowledge that asserts that knowledge arises from evidence gathered via sense experience. Empiricism emphasizes the role of experience and evidence, especially sensory perception, in the formation of ideas, over the notion of innate ideas or tradition.[6]
    • Induction – kind of reasoning that allows for the possibility that the conclusion is false even where all of the premises are true.[7] The premises of an inductive logical argument indicate some degree of support (inductive probability) for the conclusion but do not entail it; i.e. they do not ensure its truth.
    • Pragmatism – philosophical movement that includes those who claim that an ideology or proposition is true if it works satisfactorily, that the meaning of a proposition is to be found in the practical consequences of accepting it, and that impractical ideas are to be rejected.
    • Probability theory – branch of mathematics concerned with analysis of random phenomena.[8] The central objects of probability theory are random variables, stochastic processes, and events: mathematical abstractions of non-deterministic events or measured quantities that may either be single occurrences or evolve over time in an apparently random fashion. If repeated many times the sequence of random events will exhibit certain statistical patterns, which can be studied and predicted.
    • Abductive Reasoning or Inference to the Best Explanation – kind of logical inference described by Charles Sanders Peirce as the process of arriving at an explanatory hypothesis. Thus, to abduce a hypothetical explanation as a conclusion from a noticed curious circumstance as a premise, is to surmise that may be true because then would be a matter of course.[9]

Alphabetical order[edit]

History of epistemology[edit]

Epistemological concepts[edit]

Persons influential in the field of epistemology[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Volume 3, 1967, Macmillan, Inc.
  2. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica Online, 2007
  3. ^ Goldhaber & Nieto 2010, p. 940
  4. ^ scientific method, Merriam-Webster Dictionary.
  5. ^ The NESS: The Razor in the Toolbox
  6. ^ Baird, Forrest E.; Walter Kaufmann (2008). From Plato to Derrida. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall. ISBN 0-13-158591-6.
  7. ^ John Vickers. The Problem of Induction. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
  8. ^ Probability theory, Encyclopædia Britannica
  9. ^ Peirce, C. S. (1903), Harvard lectures on pragmatism, Collected Papers v. 5, paragraphs 188–189.

External links[edit]