What Is a Proper Epistemology?


Martha Robinson

Epistemology is the study of knowledge – what it is, how we acquire it, and what makes it valid. It is a branch of philosophy that has been extensively debated by thinkers throughout history. While there are different theories and perspectives on what constitutes a proper epistemology, there are some basic principles that most philosophers agree on.

Foundationalism vs. Coherentism

One of the most fundamental debates in epistemology is between foundationalism and coherentism. Foundationalism argues that knowledge is built upon a foundation of basic beliefs or truths that are self-evident, indubitable, or incorrigible. These beliefs serve as the justification for other beliefs and form the basis of our knowledge system.

On the other hand, coherentism holds that knowledge is not based on foundational beliefs but on a network of mutually supporting beliefs. According to this view, all beliefs are interconnected and derive their justification from their coherence with other beliefs in the system.

Empiricism vs. Rationalism

Another major debate in epistemology concerns the sources of knowledge – whether it comes primarily from experience or reason. Empiricists argue that all knowledge comes from sensory experience and observation of the world around us. Rationalists, on the other hand, maintain that some knowledge can be acquired through reason alone, independent of experience.


Skepticism is another important aspect of epistemology. It questions whether we can ever really know anything with certainty and whether our perceptions and beliefs accurately represent reality. Skeptics may argue that our senses can be deceived or that our reasoning can be flawed.

Coherence Theory of Truth vs Correspondence Theory

The coherence theory of truth states that truth is determined by how well a belief fits into a larger system or network of beliefs; whereas correspondence theory argues that truth is determined by how well a belief corresponds to reality.


In conclusion, a proper epistemology should take into account the different perspectives and debates within the field. It should seek to establish a foundation or network of beliefs that are justified through reason and experience, while also being aware of the limitations and potential errors of our perceptions and reasoning. Ultimately, the goal of epistemology is to provide a framework for understanding knowledge and its role in human experience.