Epistemology is a philosophical concept that looks at knowledge and its scope. Generally, epistemology tends to ask what knowledge is all about and how one can get hold of it. Further, it considers how relevant knowledge is to a particular subject. One of the philosophers behind the idea of metaphysics is Plato.
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Metaphysics attempts to explain how the world is understood by human beings. It is also concerned with the origin and structure of the universe. Metaphysics thus looks at what is in existence and what it is like. Drawing from s study by Ram-Prasad (2013), metaphysics tends to revolve around the use of language and the ultimate picture that one may have about the world. For Plato, epistemology is regarded as the understanding of what knowledge really is. Apparently, knowledge is about what exists. This is totally different from belief which looks at that which is present as well as that which is not present.
In epistemology, skepticism casts doubts about the existence and reality of knowledge. Arguably, the fact that a person believes in something does not necessarily imply that he or she has knowledge about it. In the same way, metaphysics presumes that there is nothing that exists unless it is possible to ascertain its existence.
Rationalism in epistemology looks at reason as the main source of knowledge. Consequently, the main criterion that is used to accept knowledge is based on intellectual arguments. Similarly, rationalism in metaphysics is concerned with the provision of sound reasoning to prove the existence of things. Apparently, nothing exists if its existence can not be explained through reasoning.
Both epistemology and metaphysics give consideration to what is real and not what is imaginary in a material sense. However, while metaphysics focuses on the physical existence of matter, epistemology applies the same reasoning to the existence of knowledge.
In epistemology, what really counts is the understanding of knowledge about a particular topic of interest. Although this is somehow different from what metaphysics looks at, both are concerned with reality.
Epistemology is concerned with the reality about knowledge while metaphysics is concerned with reality about the existence of material substances. According to Dicker (2002), it is imperative to ensure that a connection exists between epistemology and metaphysics. This is because of the obvious overlaps that are seen to bring the two together.
Contrasts between Epistemology and Metaphysics in Relation to Skepticism, Rationalism, and Materialism
Generally, epistemology looks at skepticism with regard to knowledge. It thus looks at different aspects of knowledge and the way knowledge can be acquired. Apparently, skepticism under epistemology is concerned with clearing any doubts that may exist about the existence of knowledge.
On the other hand, skepticism under metaphysics focuses on the actual existence. Under metaphysics, it is absolutely necessary to prove beyond any reasonable doubt, that what one claims to be present, does exist in actual sense. Often, doubts arise in the absence of such a proof.
It is not enough for people to simply be aware that something exists. For recognition purposes, proof must be presented.
As far as rationalism is concerned, epistemology relies on an intellectual perspective to explain the existence of knowledge. There has to be a reasonable argument that supports the existence of knowledge. In metaphysics, rationalism is with respect to the existence of something. Seemingly, there is nothing that can be presumed to exist without a reasonable argument. Everything that exists must be evidenced by a logical argument.
In metaphysics, materialism assumes the existence of a world that is completely independent of the human mind. In other words, the existence of the universe has nothing to do with the human mind. In metaphysics, material reality is not possible in the absence of physical matter. Therefore, while metaphysics is concerned with the existence of physical matter, epistemology looks at the notion of reality with respect to knowledge.
Metaphysics is also all about the exact nature of reality while epistemology is about what people believe and the kind of knowledge in their possessions.
Examples of Real Life Applications of Skepticism, Rationalism, and Materialism
Regarding materialism, several logical arguments have been presented concerning the existence of God. To a large extent, the arguments depend on the way human beings reason. According to research findings, this concept of materialism was proposed by Thomas Aquinas and Saint Anselm, two ancient philosophers.
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Apparently, most people tend to believe that God, being powerful and at the same time good, should be able to avert evil in the society. The fact that evil is ever present in the society makes people wonder whether God is really that powerful. As a matter of fact, there are some people who are convinced that there is another being other than God who in total control of what happens in the universe.
Generally, skepticism has to do with doubt.
One example about skepticism is about a common assumption that people like making about life. Oftentimes, people allege that we should eat, drink, and be happy since tomorrow we will be dead. While this may be true, it is surrounded by so much uncertainty. Since it is in God’s hand to determine our fate the next second, minute, hour, or day, it is wrong to make such assumptions. People who live by such a philosophy may end up in a sorry state in the event that they spend all they have and are unable to cater for their needs the following day. It is advisable to be prudent about such allegations.
Another common example of skepticism concerns the belief that taking a spoonful of sugar is helpful, for making the medicine sink down the throat. Usually, it is presumed while the medicine may taste bad at the moment, it has long term benefits. However, this belief may not apply if the medicine has no benefit in the long run or if the medicine is tasty without the sugar.
To a large extent, skeptics have very little confidence in anything unless there is solid proof to support any allegation that is made. Nothing is what it is alleged to be until solid evidence is presented to remove any form of doubt. However, according to Hetherington (2013), it is important to have physical matter in place before seeking to prove that it actually exists.
By and large, rationalists are people who believe that knowledge can only be understood through reasoning (Sharlow, 2007). Consequently, it is impossible to talk about having arrived at knowledge without reasoning. An example of rationalism in real life is where some people have denied religion because of the way they think. However, being rational does in any way overlook the presence of God in our lives. Advocates of rationalism such as René Descartes still believed in the existence of God. This notwithstanding, there is completely nothing to deny the fact that reason leads to the acquisition of knowledge. Rationalism can also be demonstrated by complex equations in mathematics created by René Descartes through reasoning. According to Descartes, this was one way of ensuring that errors are not overlooked when considering important matters.
As discussed in this presentation, epistemology and metaphysics help to explain why people behave or regard things in a certain way.
While epistemology looks at different issues with regard to knowledge, metaphysics considers the existence of things.
As pointed out earlier, epistemology is concerned with knowledge and as well as its reach. It asks what knowledge is all about and how can be accessed by any interested party. It also considers how relevant knowledge is to a given subject.
Metaphysics on the other hand is mainly concerned with providing explanations about the understanding of the world by human beings. To a certain extent, it is also concerned with the origin and structure of the universe. Metaphysics thus looks at what is in existence and what it is like.
While there are differences that exist between metaphysics and epistemology, it is equally important to be aware of the fact that there are similarities that bring these two branches of philosophy together with regards to different philosophical theories.
Dicker, G. (2002). Hume’s Epistemology and Metaphysics: An Introduction. New York, NY: Routledge.
Hetherington, S. (2013). Metaphysics and Epistemology: A Guided Anthology. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.
Ram-Prasad, C. (2013). Advaita Epistemology and Metaphysics: An Outline of Indian Non-Realism. New York, NY: Routledge.
Sharlow, M. F. (2007). A Warning about So-Called Rationalists.