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Epistemology: The Concept of Individual Knowledge Essay

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Updated: Jun 28th, 2022

Philosophers and researchers have been trying to define and analyze the concept of individual knowledge for centuries. For most people, the difference between personal perception and truth is not clear. This paper includes descriptions of several approaches regarding the nature of knowledge, objectivity, and how it may affect people. It also considers the methods of interacting with reality that would be appropriate for the Christians.

Philosophers try to understand the origin of environmental and social comprehension, its essence, and the potential practical effect on humans. Entwistle (2018) analyses Epistemology as a humanitarian field that explains the nature and grounds of knowledge. Basset (2006) considers it the process of searching for the truth. There are three models of connecting human perceptions with reality: naive realist, anti-realist, and critical realist. The first describes a person who believes that everything they see or think is completely synchronized with the world (Entwistle, 2018). Such a view is typical for children, as they cannot analyze the surroundings from someone else’s point of view or abstractly. An anti-realist believes that all people see and feel reality, distorted by social theories. Finally, critical realists hold the middle position, as according to them, the objective reality is somewhat influenced by human biases (Entwistle, 2018). Most people choose one of the mentioned models unconsciously and do not change their views easily.

My position supports the critical realism model, as I choose to believe that absolute objectivity does not exist in human society, but the general truth could be acquired through observation and analysis. Such a view is comfortable for me as I can study my environment and make conclusions, but other people have the right to their opinion and beliefs. In the critical realism model, people with various world perceptions can co-exist peacefully as long as they respect each other and their environment.

Different methods of knowing include logic, empiricism, revelation/interpretation, and hermeneutics. The first one states that people can separate the belief from the truth by analyzing the rational consistency of human reasoning. It could be done through deductive arguments, using premises, inferences, and conclusions, or inductive logic requiring generalizations. This method is limited by its reliance on one’s sense that could be erroneous. Empiricism analyzes experiences to evaluate claims; people who follow this method of knowing check the incoming information sources to form their opinion. Its limitations contain the possible irrelevance or invalidity of the chosen events or documents. Revelation and interpretation focus on observing the signs and events and deciding what they mean. However, one can use their imagination to twist the meaning of the phrases or events for their benefit. The last method, hermeneutics, assumes that careless freestyle conclusions may lead to misunderstanding of the source or event (Entwistle, 2018). It is limited by the unclear difference between the correct and false findings of the observer.

For Christians, the revelation/interpretation and hermeneutics methods of knowing seem to be fitting. The former supports the idea that human understanding of the world is fallible, but God reveals Himself and his guidelines for the people. Romans 1:20 (The new student Bible, 1986) says that “God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen” (p. 1220). Sermons, Sunday schools, and Bible studies aim to help the Christians understand their purpose by interpreting His Word. Hermeneutics warns the people against the mistakes they could make when attempting to understand the Bible. 2 Timothy 3:8 (The new student Bible, 1986) claims that “scriptures are God-given and are trustworthy,” but careless interpretation may lead to misapplication of the biblical instructions (p. 1314). The combination of revelation/interpretation and hermeneutics methods would be most beneficial for the Christians.

To conclude, philosophers organized the knowledge models into naive, anti-, and critical realism categories. People choose their preferred methods of knowing from logic, empiricism, revelation/interpretation, and hermeneutics. The last two seem most appropriate for Christians as they allow following the Bible and God’s Word after analyzing this book. While theologists and religious leaders worldwide attempt to explain the meaning of the Scriptures, they make mistakes as any humans.

References

Bassett, R. (2006). Integrative approaches to psychology and Christianity: An introduction to worldview issues, philosophical foundations, and models of integration. Journal of Psychology and Christianity, 25(4), 354.

Entwistle, D. (2018). Integrative approaches to psychology and Christianity: An introduction to worldview issues, philosophical foundations, and models of integration. Cascade books.

The new student Bible. (1986). Zondervan publishing house.

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