Knowledge: Epistemology

Epistemology: the theory of knowledge.

The theory of knowledge is very tightly tied up with the history of its evolution. New ideas are developed on top of the foundations created by earlier philosophers. Socrates and Plato were amongst the first group of philosophers to study knowledge and their influence is still important. Epistemology tackles the deeper philosophical issues surrounding knowledge such as "What it is possible to know?".

Concept Diagram showing relationships between epistomological terms.
Sources of Knowledge can be either perception or reason
Some believe reason or abstract knowledge is superior to sensory perception.
Basic Beliefs
In order to provide a basis for reason, it is argued that there are some beliefs that can be taken as true and certain.
Some believe that perception is not a valid source but others argue that without perception there is nothing to reason about.
The holder of the knowledge must represent knowledge formed from perception or reason. This representation is about the thing that is knowledge but is used by the holder of the knowledge.
For something to be classed as knowledge it must be traceable to true and justified beliefs based on basic beliefs and/or valid perceptions.
Not Knowledge
Evaluation may result in the rejection of a belief.
If beliefs can be justified and held as true then they can be classed as knowledge.
Justified True Belief
Knowledge is Justified True Belief


One of the philosophical issues that is central to epistemology is that concerning what can be known with certainty. This can lead to well known statements such as, "if nobody witnesses the tree falling in a forest, did it really fall?" Although these questions are important for philosophical debate, they are of little practical use. If we take from such questions, that fact that what we know comes from our senses and our memories of our past sensing, then we may start to challenge our own knowledge. The question to ask in the context of business and human resource management is whether there is any value in managers considering questions of knowledge, truth and certainty. Is the whole thing at best a distraction and at worst a complete waste of time or do senior managers need to have a broader understanding of human issues. Is philosophy useful or just the toy of academics?

For more insight into human thought explore the intelligence section of the main site.