Most people are familiar with the philosophy of Ethics. It is the study of morality. We often think about how we should treat others and how we ought to be treated by others. Many people, even if they don’t know the branch by name, are familiar with Metaphysics, the study of the nature of reality. Most humans think a great deal about what really exists and, if it does exist, what is it like.
The third major branch of philosophy is the least well known. It is called Epistemology, or the theory of knowledge. What exactly is knowledge? How do we define it? This is a area where human beings have differed in opinions for centuries.
In my academic writings, I devoted a considerable amount of time and energy to the research of two epistemological theories that prove confusing to many. A thorough explanation in a blog post would just murky up the waters a little more. What would be interesting, however, is the variety of opinions that might result from touching upon the basic issues in conflict: Rationalism vs. Empiricism.
The Rationalists believe that human beings come equipped with an innate ability to reason things out, and that is how we acquire knowledge. The Empiricists believe that human beings come equipped with five senses in order to perceive knowledge as we age. In other words, do we reason that fire is hot, or do we touch it and learn it is hot.
Famous philosophers like Descartes, Spinoza, and Leibniz disagree with others like Berkeley, Hume, and Locke. Where do you stand? Do we learn primarily through our ability to reason things out, or do we learn through feeling our way through life by using our senses?