Epistemology ( (listen); from Greek, Modern ἐπιστήμη, epistēmē, meaning 'knowledge', and λόγος, logos, meaning 'logical discourse') is the branch of philosophy concerned with the theory of knowledge.
Epistemology is the study of the nature of knowledge, justification, and the rationality of belief. Much debate in epistemology centers on four areas: (1) the philosophical analysis of the nature of knowledge and how it relates to such concepts as truth, belief, and justification, (2) various problems of skepticism, (3) the sources and scope of knowledge and justified belief, and (4) the criteria for knowledge and justification. Epistemology addresses such questions as: "What makes justified beliefs justified?", "What does it mean to say that we know something?", and fundamentally "How do we know that we know?"
In epistemology and in its modern sense, rationalism is "any view appealing to reason as a source of knowledge or justification" (Lacey 286). In more technical terms it is a method or a theory "in which the criterion of the truth is not sensory but intellectual and deductive" (Bourke 263). Different degrees of emphasis on this method or theory lead to a range of rationalist standpoints, from the moderate position "that reason has precedence over other ways of acquiring knowledge" to the radical position that reason is "the unique path to knowledge" (Audi 771). Given a pre-modern understanding of reason, "rationalism" is identical to philosophy, the Socratic life of inquiry, or the zetetic interpretation of authority (open to the underlying or essential cause of things as they appear to our sense of certainty). In recent decades, Leo Strauss sought to revive Classical Political Rationalism as a discipline that understands the task of reasoning, not as foundational, but as maieutic.
Alvin Ira Goldman (born 1938) is an American professor of Philosophy at Rutgers University in New Jersey. He previously taught at the University of Michigan and at the University of Arizona. He earned his PhD from Princeton University and is married to Holly Smith, a well known ethicist, former administrator, and current professor at Rutgers University. He has done influential work on a wide range of philosophical topics, but his principal areas of research are epistemology, philosophy of mind, and cognitive science.
Goldman's early book, A Theory of Human Action (a revised version of his Ph.D. thesis), presents a systematic way of classifying and relating the many actions we perform at any time. Its influence was broad and can be found in, among other writings, John Rawls' book A Theory of Justice. Goldman's early work in action theory soon gave way to work in other branches of philosophy, most influentially epistemology.