Difference Between Ontology and Epistemology
Ontology vs Epistemology
Ontology and Epistemology are probably the most complex terms that one might come across while studying philosophy. Ontology and Epistemology are branches of philosophy. Let us try and simplify these complex topics.
The word ontology is derived from the Greek words ‘ontos’ which means being and ‘logos’ which means study. It tries to pin point things around us that actually exist. It is the study of the nature of being or becoming existence and their differences and similarities. It tries to answer questions that begin with ‘What’. The scope of ontology can be generalised from philosophy to other fields like medicine, information science or even advanced physics. Ontology helps us to understand questions like what is God, what is a disease, what happens after death, what is artificial intelligence etc. The field is dedicated towards understanding whether things exist or don’t exist. Ontology also studies how various existing entities can be grouped together on the basis of similar characteristics and it tries to find out those similarities. The field also tries to find a relation between the objects that exist. People who deal in ontology try to understand why a particular thing occurs how it is related to other things.
This is one of the core branches of philosophy which deals with the aspect of procuring knowledge. It is more concerned with the natural sources and scope and limits of knowledge. Epistemology is also derived from the Greek word ‘episteme’ meaning knowledge and ‘logos’ means study. This branch of philosophy aims at discovering the true meaning of knowledge.
The branch is divided into two parts:
Nature of knowledge: This tries to explain what is meant when a person says he knows about something or event or when he says he doesn’t know about a particular thing.
Limits of knowledge: through this researchers try to define the scope of knowledge. They want to know if knowledge is limitless. Can we know everything or there are certain limitations to what we can know.
According to epistemology, there are different types of knowledge.
Empirical knowledge is gained through prior experience. A person states a fact based on his previous experience or encounters related to a particular topic. For example when he says that fire is hot or ice is cold, it is because of his own experience. Whereas non empirical knowledge is based reasoning. When a person says Antarctica is cold he reasons that by saying regions near the south-pole get less sunlight and hence they are cold. Propositional knowledge is when a person knows facts about different fields. Individual knowledge is based on what one person claims to know. Collective knowledge is based on what a particular community of people know. Epistemology encompasses all these types of knowledge.
Epistemology believes that knowledge is a mental state. It exists in one’s mind. If a person doesn’t believe that a particular thing exists then he cannot be knowledgeable about it. The belief has to be true and only then will it be considered as knowledge. It has to be factual and justified by sound reasoning before it is considered as knowledge. Evidence and reasoning are a must to acquire knowledge. Facts based on misinformation or just lucky guesses cannot be construed as knowledge.
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