Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Epistemology: Knowledge

Assalamu'alaikum wa rahmatullah


Sources of Knowledge

Generally, epistemology discusses about the kind of knowledge which is propositional knowledge or "knowledge that". The statement for this is, knowledge that, knowledge how and knowledge by acquaintance.

It is distinguished from "knowledge how" and "acquaintance-knowledge". As an e.g in maths, it is widely known that 2 + 2 = 4. However, there is also knowing how to add numbers and knowing a person or oneself, place or one's hometown, thing for e.g cars, or activity as in additional knowledge. Some philosophers think there is an important distinction between "knowing that", "knowing how", and "acquaintance knowledge", with epistemology being primarily concerned with the first of these.

Bertrand Russel in his paper On Denoting and his book, Problems of Philosophy stressed the distinction between "knowledge by description" and "knowledge by acquaintance". Gilbert Ryle also talks the same about the distinction between knowing how and knowing that in The Concept of Mind

Michael Polanyi in his Personal Knowledge argues for the epistemological relevance of knowledge how and knowledge that through example of the act of balance involved in riding a bicycle. He suggests that, theoretical knowledge of physics involved in maintaining a state of balance cannot be the substitute for the practical knowledge of how to ride, and that is important to understand how both are established and grounded. In this matter, Ryle argued that a failure to acknowledge the distinction between knowledge that and knowledge how leads to infinite regress.

Contemporary epistemologists such as Duncan Pritchard argued that epistemology should evaluate people's properties i.e intellectual virtues and not just the properties of propositions or of propositional mental attitudes.


In common speech, a 'statement of belief" is typically an expression of faith and trust in a person, power or other entity; a paradigmatic example of such a statement of belief would be a declaration or affirmation of religious faith as in Nicene Creed for Christians.

While it addresses belief of this kind, epistemology is also concerned with belief in a very much broader sense of the word. In this broader sense "belief" simply means the acceptance as true of any cognitive content. To believe is to accept as true.


Whether someone's belief is true is not a prerequisite for its belief. On the other hand, if something is actually known, then it categorically cannot be false. For e.g, if a person believes that a bridge is safe enough to support him, and attempts to cross it, but the bridge then collapses under his weight, it could be said that he believed that the bridge was safe but that his belief was mistaken.

It would not be accurate to say that he knew that the bridge was safe, because plainly it was not. In contrast, if the bridge actually supported his weight, then he might say that he had believed that the bridge was safe, whereas now, after proving it to himself by crossing it, he knows it to be safe.

Epistemologists argue over whether belief is the proper truth-bearer. Some would rather describe knowledge as a system of justified true propositions and others as a system of justified true sentences. Plato in his Gorgias, argues that belief is the most commonly invoked truth-bearer. We might want to check the Criteria of Truth.


In many of Plato's dialogues such as the Meno and in particular the Theatetus by Socrates, considers a number of theories as to what knowledge is, the last being that knowledge is true belief that has been "given an account of"... Meaning explained or defined in some way.

According to the theory that knowledge is justified true belief. In order to know that a given proposition is true, one must not only believe the relevant true proposition, but one must also have a good reason for doing so

An implication of this would be that no one would gain knowledge just by believing something that happened to be true.

Example, an ill person with no medical training but with a generally optimistic attitude, might believe that he will recover from his illness quickly. Nonetheless, even if this belief turned out to be true, the patient would not have known that he would get well since his belief lacked justification.

The definition of knowledge as justified true belief was widely accepted until the 1960s. At this time, a paper written by an American philosopher Edmund Gettier provoked major widespread discussion. We may also check theories of justification for other views on the idea.

Someone has come home and I could get ready to spend the gap time in the mosque. I have to wait for my paralyzed father here and I let my mother goes for the mosque first because she is older than me. We should not be selfish but consider others too including in our spiritual practices. Insha Allah we would continue our reading some more when we are free....

Sealed with prayers for mercy, peace and love, amin!

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