Why is epistemology important to social research

What is science and epistemology

Table of Contents


1. What is science?
1.1 The term in everyday vocabulary and in other languages
1.2 Digression: Knowledge
1.3 Definition and aim of science

2. What is epistemology?
2.1 Definition of epistemology
2.2 Historical development of epistemology

Closing word



"The ability to wonder is the only thing we need to become good philosophers."1

Anyone who uses the words science or knowledge naturally assigns definitions to them. But can we assume that the understanding we have of the facts behind these words is correct? Can I assume that whoever I use these terms against will understand them in exactly the same way? This work aims to shed light on the meaning of these terms, to compare different definitions and to provide an overview of the historical development of the epistemological schools. In view of the wide field, the observation must remain on the surface and touches on the topic in order to give the reader and listener an idea of ​​the topic.

1. What is science?

1.1 The term in everyday vocabulary and in other languages

Differing views in everyday language alone make it clear that the question of science is not superfluous. Here is a summary of a small private survey according to the definition of science: Within the framework of science, we deal intensively with a certain discipline, investigate and dissect, want to create knowledge. We proceed systematically.

In Greek “episteme” is used for the word science (here “epistemology” is derived from epistemology), in Latin “scientia”. In the original languages, this can mean knowledge, knowledge, customer or science2. This conglomerate of meanings illuminates the background somewhat.

1.2 Digression: Knowledge

The word science includes “knowledge”. What is knowledge and how is it to be defined? How do I know that I know When is knowledge not knowledge? Various philosophical currents, such as skepticism, dealt with this question early on3.

According to SEIFFERT, there are two main types of knowledge. One is the episteme (Greek). He calls this the real "knowledge of what is to be justified, justified, demonstrated."4 Accordingly, it means that knowledge is only knowledge if it is clear and not refutable, comprehensible for everyone and cannot be discussed. For this form of knowledge it is essential that it can first be articulated linguistically,

Figure not included in this excerpt

Work published by Ehrenwirth Verlag, Munich 1992., p. 387

secondly, it can be taught and learned, and thirdly, it can be delimited from opinions by means of selection and evaluation criteria.5

Opposite is doxa (Greek). This is a rather diffuse, subjective “knowledge”, one to be sure, but not be able to prove it, like religion or the infinity of the universe. So "opinion or mere belief."6 More like conviction. SCHNÄDELBACH is even more radical: "To be certain of a thing obviously does not mean that you have recognized it, because even delusional people are quite sure of their cause."7 One possible conclusion: doxa can turn into episteme if suitable methods are available to justify and prove the doxa.

In the knowledge debate, two main tendencies, dogmatists and skeptics, can be identified.

The dogmatists are convinced that there is real knowledge, that this should also be known and explained. The skeptics - who found their origin in the teaching of the sophists8 - represent the opposite pole: The basic attitude is doubt. Every kind of truth is questioned. They believe that nothing can be known. A stream of radical skeptics believes that one cannot even be certain about this statement9. So it can also be that it is possible to know, since one cannot even know this statement for sure. The skeptics have chosen doubt as a basic attitude, view the world from a fundamentally critical point of view.

Figure not included in this excerpt

1.3 Definition and aim of science

The search for definitions leads to a broad field, starting with SPECK, who claims from science that it is "any intersubjectively verifiable investigation of facts and the systematic description and - if possible - explanation of the facts examined."10 On the one hand, science can be checked and understood by everyone. It proceeds in a structured manner and portrays, describes and tries to justify. SEIFFET: “That which is published in scientific journals. (according to DEREK DE SOLLA PRICE) or as an alternative: "Science is where those who are viewed as scientists do research according to criteria that are generally recognized as scientifically recognized."11

In summary, it can also be said that it is the acquisition and transfer of knowledge, the framework in which this is organized and also the totality of the human knowledge acquired in this way.12

So it also depends on the way in which knowledge is dealt with; not every process of acquiring knowledge is science per se, but is subject to specific conditions.

"Incidentally, every answer to the question of what science is depends on information about what it means to know something at all, and how one can also know that."13 This means that science needs the answer to the question of how knowledge is possible; only on this basis can it be carried out in a well-founded manner.

The general goal of science is to “produce knowledge - that is, to put it classically, true reasoned opinions. The (...) scientific knowledge that is to be gained in a specific way.14

2. What is epistemology?

"Epistemologists are particularly interested in questions that, after brief consideration, are unsolvable."15

2.1 Definition of epistemology

Here, too, the summary of a private survey in advance of what knowledge actually is: the recognition of causes and their elimination or the exploitation of them. The AHA effect when it "clicks". Knowledge often brings pain and gratitude all at once. Perceiving something as it is.

The concept of epistemology, also called epistemology, is one of the central theories within philosophy. It did not appear until the early 19th century, but its content has been determined by epistemologists since PLATON's Dialog Theätet.16 Epistemology asks: “Which insights can be called reliable or true? Which criteria can be used for this? How do true and justified opinions come about, how do they become recognizable as such? How are the central concepts of epistemology, such as knowledge or certainty, to be analyzed? What external conditions ensure that certain beliefs are considered valid or true? "17

The epistemology "examines (...) knowledge in general".18 So she is not busy

with the recognition and research of a certain discipline and would like to generate knowledge, assess, revise or the like. Basically, she asks: How is knowledge possible at all? Generations of philosophers since Plato have asked themselves this question and answered it in different ways. In the following I would like to give a rough overview of this development.


1 Author's source unknown

2 SEIFFERT; RADNITZKY (Ed.) Handlexikon zur Wissenschaftstheorie, unchanged reprint of the work published in 1989 by Verlag Ehrenwirth, Munich 1992. P. 387

3 http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skeptizismus

4 SEIFFERT; RADNITZKY (Ed.) Handlexikon zur Wissenschaftstheorie, unaltered reprint of the 1989 im

5 DETEL; Basic Philosophy Course, Volume 4, Epistemology and Philosophy of Science, Stuttgart 2007, Pages 48/49

6 ibid

7 SCHNÄDELBACH; Epistemology as an introduction, Hamburg 2002, p. 18

8 http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sophisten

9 SEIFFERT; RADNITZKY (Ed.) Handlexikon zur Wissenschaftstheorie, unchanged reprint of the work published in 1989 by Verlag Ehrenwirth, Munich 1992., p. 387

10 SPECK (Ed.) Handbook of Scientific Theory Terms Volume 3 (R-Z), Göttingen 1980, pp. 726/727

11 SEIFFERT; RADNITZKY (Ed.) Handlexikon zur Wissenschaftstheorie, unchanged reprint of the work published in 1989 by Verlag Ehrenwirth, Munich 1992., p. 391

12 http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wwissenschaft

13 SCHNÄDELBACH; Epistemology as an introduction, Hamburg 2002, p. 15

14 DETEL; Basic Philosophy Course, Volume 4, Epistemology and Theory of Science, Stuttgart 2007, p.89

15 http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erennennistheorie

16 SCHNÄDELBACH; Epistemology as an introduction, Hamburg 2002, p. 8

17 http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erennennistheorie

18 PROF. DR. KOMREY Philosophy of Science and Empirical Research, AKAD Lernheit, 2007, pp. 36/37

End of the excerpt from 9 pages