Epistemology is the study of knowledge. The term comes from two Greek terms—episteme(“knowledge”) and logos (“reason”). As one of the major categories of philosophy, epistemology addresses the limits of human knowledge including issues such as the definition of knowledge, kinds of knowledge, the degree to which knowledge is possible, and the relationship between the one who knows and the object being known. Questions such as “How can I know anything?” and “How can I know what is true?” are questions related to epistemology.
Traditionally, there have been two main schools related to epistemology. Rationalism asserts that the basis for knowledge is the mind and reason. Empiricism, however, claims that knowledge is rooted in the physical world—in the data collected from our physical senses.
Epistemology has been debated throughout the history of philosophy. In the fourth century B.C. the Sophists questioned the idea of knowledge that was certain and universal. Plato argued that true knowledge was rooted in “forms” that exist in a different dimension. In the Modern Era, Rene Descartes, Baruch Spinoza, and Gottfried Leibniz were the leaders in promoting rationalism. John Locke and David Hume promoted empiricism. Immanuel Kant attempted to solve the issue by combining elements of rationalism and empiricism.