Philosophy – Epistemology – The Study of Knowledge
Table of Contents
The study of Epistemology is the study of knowledge, or how we know something or the nature of knowledge. Epistemology is the branch of philosophy or metaphysics that deals with the nature, origin, and scope of knowledge. It seeks to understand how knowledge is acquired, what constitutes knowledge, and the limits of what can be known. Epistemology explores questions related to belief, justification, truth, and the methods of inquiry.
One of the fundamental differences between believers and unbelievers is their epistemological foundations. This can be seen in scripture. People do not share a common view, or disagree concerning truth, evidence or logic.
- John 18.38 – Pilate questions what is truth
- Acts 26.8 – King Agrippa thinks it’s impossible that God should raise the dead
- Matt 28.17 – Some doubted standing before the resurrected Jesus
- 1 Tim 6.20 – difference between knowledge and false knowledge
- 1 Corin 18.29 – difference between wisdom and foolishness
- Luke 16.31 – Argument over miracles and their power
What do people mean when they say they know something? All of these viewpoints come from the persons understanding of what is true and what can be known what they believe they know.
- We can know something based on proposition. He knows that the pizza is hot!
- We also speak of knowing based on ability: He knows how to make a pizza!
- We also speak of knowing persons: He knows the Pizza Chef! He knows how to make the Pizza Chef happy!
You may also have any type of combination of all three. Such as in Psalms 46.10:
This command requires all 3 types of knowledge propositions:
- Intellectual; proposition: Knowing that He is God
- Skill Proposition: Being able to morally submit one’s self
- Relationship Proposition: It required knowing something about God to be able to truly be still.
To know someone cannot be reduced to intellectual properties but it cannot be divorced either. The following three questions required intellectual knowledge about a person, but it leads to knowing them.
- Do you know who the person is?
- Do you know what they do?
- Do you know what pleases them?
A belief is a cognitive affirmation towards a proposition. All instances of knowing something in an intellectual sense are sub classes of believing something. It does not logically follow that you could now something but not believe it. Therefore knowledge entails belief.
Beliefs can occur as an event in your mind, or mental investigation. Beliefs can occur that cause actions; if you believe you are going to be cold you will wear your coat. Some beliefs are held with open conviction, other beliefs are held without much reflection at all. Some beliefs require a lot of mental effort, some are irrational.
A person may live out a belief that they may not be able to verbalize, or may not realize they are displaying. This is why it is universally understood that actions speak louder than words. For instances a person who claims to believe in God, but live their lives like they do not.
Reformed epistemology begins with the question, how do we determine if a person’s belief in God is rational?
If a person continues to believe in something after having evidence exposed that that their belief was false, their continuation in that belief would typically be considered irrational or an irrational belief. However with additional information and setting aside objections that could have defeat their previous arguments, then you would have reasons to believe (or for that belief).
However in order for something to be rational, it must be the, or a, predicate as a ‘properly basic belief.’ A properly basic belief is a belief from which all other, or many other, belief notions are predicated or supported by.
Alvin Plantinga is an American philosopher that proposed the reformed epistemology arguing from John Calvin’s ‘Sensus Divinitatis,’ or the notion that all mankind has a sense of the Divine, or of God in their mind. A sense that there must be a greater force, presence, or being from which, all things come. This is directly from the book of Romans chapter 1.
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So, they are without excuse. – Romans 1. 18 – 20
God has revealed Himself to all people in various ways throughout their entire lives. This evidence makes a person’s belief in God rational, even without evidence for their belief.