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Difference Between Epistemology and Metaphysics

What are Epistemology and Metaphysics?

Both concepts are associated with philosophy. 

Epistemology (in Greek “episteme” means ‘knowledge’ and the suffix “ology” means ‘the science of’ or ‘the study of’) is the branch of philosophy that involves the study of scope and nature of knowledge and justified belief,  while metaphysics (Greek word “metaphysika” – literally meaning “after physics”) is the branch of philosophy that involves the study of truth and reality. Epistemology looks at how we know what the actual reality or truth is and are there are limits to this knowledge specially in terms of its validity, scope and methods, while metaphysics aims to get a thorough understanding about the nature of reality including abstract concepts (identity, time, space, being, knowing) and existence.

What is Epistemology?

The term “epistemology” in the Greek means “episteme” and “logos”. “Episteme” meaning “knowledge”, and “logos” meaning “reason” or “account”. Epistemology is that branch of philosophy that involves the study of knowledge acquisition. It is based on reality, facts, rationality, justification, and belief. This branch of philosophy addresses cognitive sciences (the study of learning, thought, and mental organization), cultural studies (teaching that investigates the different ways in which “culture” develops and transforms experiences of different individuals, their day to day life, power and social relations).

Epistemology includes questions like “What do you know?” and “How do you know it?”. 

What is Metaphysics?

Metaphysics (“first philosophy” or sometimes just “wisdom”), is the foundation of philosophy. It encompasses everything that exists, including the nature of existence itself. Metaphysicians seek an irreducible foundation of reality or “first principles” from which an absolute knowledge of the truth can be induced or deduced.

Difference between Epistemology and Metaphysics



It is a branch of philosophy that includes the theory, nature and scope of knowledge. It also focusses on notions like rationality of belief, truth, and justification.

It also deals with means of production of knowledge, and scepticism about knowledge claims. This branch of philosophy addresses questions like, “What is knowledge?”, “Are we part of knowledge?”, “How it is acquired?” and, “What do people know?”. Two main perspectives for knowing in epistemology are positivism and interpretivism.


It is a branch of philosophy that emphasizes on structures of reality: time and eternity, being and nothingness, time hood and personhood, space and time, freedom and determinism, mind and body, thinghood and personhood, and a supreme being and nature. It basically encompasses everything that exists, fundamental concepts and beliefs about them.  



The branches of Epistemology include;

  • Agnotology – the study of ignorance, sceptical situations or doubt, particularly the publication of imprecise or deceptive scientific data.
  • Alethiology – a branch of logic that involves the study of the truth and evidence 
  • Formal epistemology – makes use of formal methodologies (knowledge and reasoning) from probability theory, logic, and computability theory to elucidate traditional epistemic issues.
  • Meta-epistemology – it is the branch of epistemology which involves the study of methodologies and objectives of epistemology, matter, subject, (the study of first-order epistemological questions) and of approaches to understanding and structuring our knowledge of knowledge itself.
  • Social epistemology – is the philosophical study that construes knowledge about social dimensions of human knowledge as a collective achievement. 


The three branches of metaphysics include;

  • Ontology – It is the philosophical study of the nature of being. It includes studies concepts and categories that directly associate to being, in particular existence, reality, and the domain that exhibits properties of being and the relations between them.
  • Theology – Religious beliefs of the nature of God. It is constituted by a triple aspect: what does God teach, teachings of God and leads to God.  Types of theology include; Moral theology (Christian ethics and casuistry), Ecclesiology, Pastoral theology, and Missiology.
  • Universal science – (the study of first principles of reasoning and logic, such as the law of noncontradiction – contradictory propositions cannot both be true in the same sense at the same time)

Conservative thought


Man/Individual is able to discern truth and reality through his tendency and capacity to reason 


Individual/Man is good.

Liberal thought


Individual/Man is disqualified from being able to discern reality or truth. 


Individual/Man is good.


The points of difference between Epistemology and Metaphysics have been summarized as below:

Epistemology Vs Metaphysics: Comparison Chart

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References :

[0]Campbell, D. T., Heyes, C. M., & Callebaut, W. G. (1987). Evolutionary epistemology bibliography. In Evolutionary epistemology (pp. 405-431). Springer, Dordrecht.

[1]Campbell, D. T., Heyes, C. M., & Callebaut, W. G. (1987). Evolutionary epistemology bibliography. In Evolutionary epistemology (pp. 405-431). Springer, Dordrecht.

[2]Collingwood, R. G., & Collingwood, R. G. (2001). An essay on metaphysics. Oxford University Press.

[3]Harding, S., & Hintikka, M. B. (Eds.). (2003). Discovering reality: Feminist perspectives on epistemology, metaphysics, methodology, and philosophy of science (Vol. 161). Springer Science & Business Media.

[4]Tennis, J. (2008). Epistemology, theory, and methodology in knowledge organization: toward a classification, metatheory, and research framework. Knowledge organization, 35(2/3), 102-112.

[5]Image credit: https://live.staticflickr.com/3784/13289771453_23b1bda1aa_b.jpg

[6]Image credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Aristotle,_Metaphysics,_Incunabulum.jpg

[7]Image credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Aristotle,_Metaphysics,_Incunabulum.jpg

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