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Difference Between Ontology and Epistemology

ontology-dimensions-map_20070423bOntology 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.

Ontology

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.

Epistemology

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.

To wrap up we can say that ontology tries to find out what is there in the universe and epistemology finds out ways to know what exists in the universe.


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1 Comment

  1. In your opening paragraph you propose that there is no clear definition of “ontology”. This is insultingly false; the word, as do most words, and more to the point, ALL words utilized in classically derived western philosophy, has a clear definition, unambiguous albeit subtly nuanced, which is easily accessed by anyone with a third grade education and a passing familiarity with how dictionaries function.

    Your article’s author then seems to propose the argument that if others use words that one does not understand, that one is somehow at liberty to use words inaccurately, justified by sentiment, to mean whatever the fuck one feels, rather than thinks, or ultimately, and most consequentially, what one knows.

    That you claim the implicit mission of your url, yet open this particular page by suggesting that no one really knows what words mean, and thus it is implicitly inconsequential if we all shoot our mouths off without actually knowing not merely what the fuck one is talking about, but what the terminology one utilizes in doing so actually contains as semantic payload, is, to put it weakly, ironic.

    Language is far to important a human achievement to be allowed to regress to the point of “but what I feel when I say that is actually this other thing” points of view being considered valid arguments. That the editorial people, policy, interns or even fucking bots behind this site let’s nonsense of this type slide diminishes everyone, especially those who might come to your site looking for actual answers.

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References :


[0]http://www.webpages.uidaho.edu/engl257/Classical/ontology_and_epistemology.htm
[1]http://www.researchgate.net/post/Can_anyone_define_Epistemology_Ontology
[2]http://eddiechauncy.blogspot.in/2012/01/what-are-ontology-and-epistemology_12.html
[3]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ontology
[4]http://www.iep.utm.edu
[5]http://ontolog.cim3.net/file/work/OntologySummit2007/workshop/ontology-dimensions-map_20070423b.png
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