Primarily, epistemology centers on the understanding of the theory of knowledge and levels to which such knowledge is legitimate. This one of the most crucial areas in philosophy, for it provides a means of understanding the precepts that make knowledge, its sources, organization, methods of verification, and its confines.
Through understanding all of this, one is able to distinguish between personal perceptions and the ultimate truth of knowledge. The reality of knowledge depends on its justifiability; that is, epistemology tends to question the truth behind human knowledge hence, through such understanding, individuals are able to form a basis of comprehending any piece of knowledge (Heylighen, p.1).
Knowledge is any belief with a verification mechanism, depending on the facts of reality behind it. Knowledge not only involves the recognition that different aspects of reality exists, but it also involves correct understanding of such aspects; hence, forming a basis of justifying beliefs.
It is important to note that, this definition of knowledge applies the tripartite theory of knowledge, a fact disapproved by the Gettier cases hence, making the preposition lacking. According to the Gettier cases, knowledge cannot be any type of belief with a verification mechanism primarily because, to some extent, the evidential support of some reality concepts maybe out of luck hence, making such evidence unreliable (Pappas, pp. 5-17).
Notions and beliefs held by different individuals arise due to different reasons. The varying nature of beliefs held by individuals occurs due the varying nature of wants (which can be either psychological or emotional) and varying perceptions among different individuals. Philosophically, there exists two primary propositions, which explain how humans acquire knowledge namely empiricism and rationalism. According to empiricism, individuals’ experiences play the central role in knowledge acquisition.
In addition, because perception determines individuals’ judgmental habits, it is an important component in the knowledge acquisition process. Three main classes of empiricism exists namely classical, constructivism and radical empiricism. Classical empiricism refutes the notion that individuals have inborn concepts; a fact supported by Locke’s idea of the mind being like a blank slate: hence, the importance of the surrounding environments in shaping perception.
Closely linked to this is radical empiricism, which states that, senses are the primary sources of knowledge. Therefore, because different individuals have different perceptions of differences occurrences, according to radical empiricists, individuals must have a mechanism of verifying all sensory perceptions.
On the other hand, because human knowledge depends on sensory instincts, acquisition of knowledge must go hand in hand with personal experiences. Lastly, according to constructivism, by using personal experiences, individuals are able to formulate personal guiding rules and mental representations, which they use in understanding their sensory insights and daily experiences (Moser, pp. 72-93).
Contrary to the empiricists’ ideology is the rationalists’ ideology, which postulates that, acquisition of knowledge depends on individuals’ ability to reason and encode meaning from life’s occurrences. Rationalists oppose Locke’s idea of the human mind being like a blank slate by arguing that, experiences are there to shape what humans know, because human beings are born with some innate concepts (Moser, pp. 76-94).
Because of the varying nature of perceptions held by different individuals on different life occurrences, the truth of a claim depends on available evidence to support such claims. Three primary knowledge justifications propositions exist namely: reliabilism, foundationalism, and coherentism.
According to foundationalism, individual infer the truth of a belief from other proved ideas; lack of other proved beliefs means that, such held knowledge is not true because it its proving will lack the justification regress concept. A good example of justified ideas is basic beliefs, a fact that makes this theory to face criticism, because selection of basic beliefs is random (McGrath, Sosa, and Kim, pp. 226-235).
Contrary to this is the coherentism ideology, which states that, for a set of beliefs to be true, then they must be coherent. The coherence of a belief depends on three properties namely: comprehensibility, consistency, and cohesiveness. For an idea to be consistency, then the primary elements forming such a belief must agree with each other.
Existence of any contractions between such elements makes beliefs to lack the coherence property hence, void. Cohesiveness of beliefs depends on the supportive and consistent nature of elements that make up beliefs. Consistence and support are important in truth justification, for it makes beliefs probable (Wray, pp. 53-66).
Reliabilism as a mechanism of truth justification is very different from coherentism and foundationalism. According to reliabilism, the justification of a belief depends on its formation methodology. Depending on the belief forming methodology; whether dependable or defective, the outcome of a justification of the truth varies; hence the existence of true and untrue beliefs (Holt, p.1).
In conclusion, the legitimacy of knowledge held by individuals depends on the ability of individuals to verify such knowledge, by inferring to other beliefs, checking their forming mechanism, or ascertaining their coherence.
Heylighen, Francis. Epistemology, introduction. Principia Cybernetica, Sep. 1993. Web. 12 May. 2010.
Holt, Tim. Reliabilism. 2010. Web. 12 May. 2010.
McGrath, Matthew, Sosa, Ernest, and Kim, Jaegwon. Epistemology: an anthology.
Malden, Massachusetts, 2000. Web. 12 May. 2010.
Moser, Paul. The Oxford handbook of epistemology. Oxford: Oxford university
Press, 2002. Web. 12 May. 2010.
Pappas, George. Justification and knowledge: New studies in epistemology. Boston: Reidel Publishers, 1979. Web. 12 May. 2010.
Wray, Brad. Knowledge and inquiry: readings in epistemology. Ontario: Broadview Press, 2002. Web. 12 May. 2010.