Epistemology is a branch of philosophy that studies the nature and use of knowledge. The study of knowledge focuses on the description of knowledge, the way it is acquired and the method by which we know about this acquired knowledge. The term 'epistemology' has been derived from the Greek word episteme, which means knowledge and was first used by James Frederick Ferrier, a Scottish philosopher. Theories of epistemology focus on the origin, nature and validity of human knowledge. While dealing with the question “what people know?”, the approach of skepticism relates to whether knowledge is really possible. Skeptics are of the view that the existence of a belief in a particular thing does not justify knowledge of that thing.
Epistemology studies the methods of acquiring knowledge and focuses on “How do we know?” It tackles the nature of concepts and examines the relevance of the senses as well as logical reasoning, ideas, emotions and thoughts. It examines the reality of things and differentiates the truth from the false. While our senses help us to gather knowledge about our surroundings, reason helps us in understanding and acquiring knowledge. Logic helps in maintaining consistency with the knowledge that has been acquired. Objectivity is the method by which the reality of knowledge is validated.
According to Epistemology, truth is necessary to acquire knowledge so that one can know that certain information is true. But all the same one should be aware of the different standards of truth which include the Correspondence Theory of truth, Pragmatic Theory of Truth and Coherence Theory of Truth. According to the Correspondence theory of truth, there is a correspondence between the thoughts of a person and the world. The pragmatic theory of truth subscribes to the theory that if something works then it is true. The coherence theory of truth as seen in mathematical equations, is the view that when something is coherent, it is true.
The study of Epistemology includes A priori knowledge which is independent of experience usually attained by reason and A posteriori knowledge that is acquired through experience. Epistemology is made up of theories of knowledge including Rationalism and Empiricism which are the other ways to acquire knowledge. According to rationalism everyone possess’ rational principles that reside in the mind and is basically immutable as it is independent of experience. According to Empiricism knowledge is acquired through experience based on sense perceptions.
Epistemology analyses and explains our thinking process and determines a sound technique of evaluation that helps to differentiate between what is true and false. Epistemology is important as it helps in obtaining and using knowledge of the things around us. In the absence of epistemology, one would not be able to think properly or assess whether the thinking is correct and true. Similarly an incorrect epistemology would blur the difference between truth and error leading to disastrous consequences and failure to achieve anything. A proper understanding of reality would lead to acquiring correct epistemology that would help in achieving one’s life goals.