What Are the Two Types of Epistemology?


Vincent White

Epistemology is the branch of philosophy that deals with the study of knowledge, belief, and justification. It seeks to answer fundamental questions such as “What is knowledge?

“, “How do we acquire knowledge? “, and “What makes a belief justified?”. Epistemology is divided into two main types, which are foundationalism and coherentism.

Foundationalism is a theory of epistemology that suggests that all knowledge and beliefs are based on a foundation of basic beliefs or truths. These basic beliefs are considered self-evident or indubitable, meaning they cannot be doubted or questioned. According to foundationalism, all other beliefs and knowledge claims must be built upon this foundation.

One example of a basic belief is the law of non-contradiction, which states that something cannot both be true and false at the same time. Another example is the existence of our own consciousness – we know that we exist because we experience our own thoughts and feelings.

However, critics argue that it’s difficult to identify what these basic beliefs should be and how they can be justified. In addition, if the foundation upon which all beliefs rest is incorrect, then all subsequent beliefs will also be incorrect.

Coherentism is another theory of epistemology that suggests that knowledge and beliefs are not based on basic or foundational beliefs but rather on coherence among a set of beliefs. In other words, a belief is justified if it coheres with other related beliefs within a larger system.

For instance, if someone believes in the concept of democracy as a good form of government but opposes certain policies within their own democratic government, then they may adjust their belief system by examining how those policies cohere with their overall view on democracy.

Critics argue that coherentism can lead to circular reasoning since it relies on mutually supporting beliefs without any independent support for them. Moreover, it’s unclear what the criteria are for determining which beliefs cohere with others.

In conclusion, epistemology is a vital field of study that deals with the nature of knowledge, belief, and justification. Foundationalism and coherentism are two types of epistemology that provide different answers to fundamental questions about how we acquire knowledge and what makes beliefs justified. Both theories have their strengths and weaknesses, but they continue to shape our understanding of how we know what we know.