Essay on Personal Epistemology
Number of words: 1495
Epistemology is among the earliest division of philosophy which dates to the time of the philosopher Socrates. Epistemology is defined as the study of knowledge or simply the theory that examines the origin, methods, nature, and the limits of knowledge. The central aim of this branch of philosophy is to discern what the truth is and how we come to know that it is the truth. In today’s 21st century, epistemology is related to numerous subjects of sciences and philosophy, because most fields of study, deal with the scope and nature of knowledge. Personal epistemology simply refers to the views that we have concerning knowing about a thing or the general nature of cognition or knowledge. This paper aims to discuss what is meant by the term epistemology, and how context shapes our experiences of knowing, the description of my Personal epistemology, the contexts that influenced my relationship with knowledge, and how enquiring into knowledge has influenced my thoughts about myself as a student and learner.
As I mentioned above, epistemology is one of the four branches of philosophy which is concerned with the investigation and examination of knowledge. Epistemology goes beyond asking questions such as what the nature of truth is, or how we acquire knowledge, and instead focuses on the providing justification of the truths we claim (Audi, 2010). Therefore, in my view, epistemology is concerned with the understanding of how we know that things are true and not just the scope of knowledge. We Acquire information and knowledge through the various experiences that we go through in our day to day life. Therefore, the various context we immersed ourselves in, helps to form the views that we have concerning the nature of knowledge and what we consider it to entail. For example, the context of school cultivates logic and reasoning skills through the teaching of technical subjects such as mathematics and science.
Personal epistemology refers to the views that an individual has about knowledge, that is, the nature of cognition or knowledge. In my opinion, knowledge is innate and we are born with the ability to conceptualize the objects in our immediate environment. Therefore, knowledge is simply the act of ‘knowing’ or the ability to comprehend the truth of a thing. Plato postulates that knowledge is and should be considered as justified, true, belief (Rowett, 2018). I believe that knowledge should satisfy the four basic standards propagated by philosophers, which include; memory, perception, consciousness, and reason. When these sources are adhered to, they yield justifiable, true, belief, or pure knowledge. It is my understanding that knowledge is also contextual and is heavily dependent on daily experiences, varied opportunities, beliefs, and logic or deductive reasoning. Moreover, knowledge involves beliefs but only those that have a true aspect. As such, true belief should be determined logically or be justifiable, and this overall is my understanding of what knowledge is.
Among the questions asked by philosophers is the query of what constitutes or makeup knowledge and what it means for an individual to claim to know something. I believe that knowledge is innate and exists in the mind of an individual. As such, it is prudent to acknowledge that only beings who are capable of thinking can possess knowledge. This thus means that for one to have knowledge one has to have a certain belief in something. According to philosophers, there are two sets of beliefs, the non-occurrent beliefs that exist in the background of the mind of an individual and the occurrent beliefs that are actively entertained by a person, and which forms or a part of our beliefs (Foley, 1992). The desire to learn an activity such as swimming or simply riding a bicycle is thought that is actively entertained by the mind, and thus falls under the occurrent belief. For example, I had the desire to learn how to swim in my teenage years and I was willing to do it at all costs. However, I had doubts about my ability, but the belief that the task was possible, prompted me to know it.
Knowledge needs a belief system, however, not all beliefs are considered as knowledge and thus it is not sufficient enough. In my opinion, this is because beliefs can be either true or false and we can never be sure about them. It is therefore wise to establish the validity of truth of a particular belief before we ascertain that we are knowledgeable. This means that if a belief is established as untrue then it cannot be considered as knowledge and as such, it is right to conclude that the absence of truth is equivalent to the absence of knowledge (Sosa, DePaul, and Zagzebski, 2003). Therefore, I think that for one to claim knowledge on something, the belief being acted upon or actively debated on should have the aspect of truth, to qualify as knowledge. For example, in the study of art in school, we are taught that the beauty of an artistic image is unique and distinct for every individual. If this is the case, then the response or beliefs of people can neither be true nor false, and this phenomenon lacks the aspect of truth, and thus cannot represent knowledge.
Even though it is quite evident that knowledge demands true belief to be valid, not all factual beliefs make up knowledge. I believe that the way we form the true belief is important as it highly determines the validity of the knowledge we have. This means that we have to select the right path or way of determining beliefs, which will demand that we provide a justifiable reason behind our beliefs (Pappas, 2012). The educational system relies more on logical reasoning and evidence to transmit and facilitate the acquisition of knowledge. Through the education curriculum, methods, and practice that I have been exposed to in school, I have realized that guesses cannot be considered as knowledge. This means that to arrive at knowledge, one has to reason logically and provide solid proof to back up their beliefs. Moreover, an individual’s belief can only be termed as justified if it is acquired in the proper manner, that is, through logical reasoning and evidence.
My investigation into what constitutes knowledge has heavily influenced the way I view myself as a student and a learner. I have realized that my role as a student is to investigate and cover the whole scope of knowledge, that is, determine how much I can comprehend and the level of deepness that I can pursue concerning knowledge until I reach a dead end. The pursuit of knowledge is endless, it is a gradual process that requires the search of answers to satisfy the doubts that cloud our understanding of what we know as truth (Audi, 2010). This process has made me critical in discerning what constitutes knowledge and what does not. I have learned to organize my ideas logically to differentiate the beliefs that constitute knowledge and those don’t. Further, I am more aware that the beliefs that makeup knowledge are supposed to have a truth value, and this true belief should be justifiable. As a learner, the study of epistemology has shaped my understanding or interpretation of what knowledge is. In my educational endeavors, it is thus necessary to apply logical reasoning and provide evidence, that backs up my beliefs because knowledge does consist of justifiable, true, belief.
In conclusion, from the above arguments, it is evident that the study of knowledge is a complex and intricate topic of discussion. As earlier said, the term epistemology refers to the study of the scope, nature, and limits of knowledge. We acquire knowledge through the various experiences that we have daily and the various context we are exposed to, which shape our understanding of meanings and concepts. My investigation into what constitutes knowledge has highly influenced the way I think about myself as a learner. Knowledge consists of occurrent beliefs that are usually entertained in the mind by an individual. However, even though beliefs are a necessity for knowledge, they cannot fully satisfy what knowledge is, the set of beliefs should have an aspect of truth in them. Furthermore, absolute or valid knowledge is only possible, if an individual reaches a particular belief through the right process or way, and this means using logic reasoning and evidence to back up the beliefs.
Audi, R., 2010. Epistemology: A contemporary introduction to the theory of knowledge. Routledge.
Foley, R., 1992. The epistemology of belief and the epistemology of degrees of belief. American Philosophical Quarterly, 29(2), pp.111-124.
Pappas, G.S. ed., 2012. Justification and Knowledge: New Studies in Epistemology (Vol. 17). Springer Science & Business Media.
Rowett, C., 2018. Knowledge and truth in Plato: stepping past the shadow of Socrates. Oxford University Press.
Sosa, E., DePaul, M., and Zagzebski, L., 2003. The place of truth in epistemology. Epistemology: An Anthology, 2, pp.477-491.