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Option 1: Dictionary of Terms: Epistemology and Theology - Essay Example

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Option 1: Dictionary of Terms: Epistemology and Theology

From an epistemological perspective of studying human knowledge, empiricism stresses the function of experience and evidence, especially physical experience, in the establishment of ideas as opposed to the notion that knowledge is innate. For example, one can only know that a Styrofoam floats in water if he gets a piece of the material and throw it into the water. In this instance, the physical observation verifies the claim. Another example is the boiling point of water is at 99.98 degree Celsius. That proposition can only become knowledge if someone gets a glass of water then expose it to fire and then place a thermometer on it and find out if indeed the water boils when the thermometer reads at 99.98 degree Celsius. One of the fields of knowledge that the doctrine of empiricism has largely influenced is science. Over the years, science has been very stringent and meticulous in the production of new knowledge such that all theories and hypothetical propositions should be verified against empirical observations of the physical entities as against relying on pure reasoning, feeling or surprise. However, pondering over such philosophical views draws arguments that may try the soundness of the empirical methods. If knowledge comes from physical observation and is verified against empirical methods of investigation, how does physical observation apply to unobservable entities? If empiricism contends that one can only gain knowledge of things that are physically observable, why are theories qualified for further scientific observations or experimentations when theories are actually based on contemplative or rational thinking in the first place? Do abstract entities have to be observable before they can be considered knowledge? In gauging the extent of the applicability of empiricism, it is important to establish an operational definition for abstract entities. What are abstract entities? Abstract entities are objects, units, bodies etc. that cannot be accessed physically as opposed to concrete entities that includes houses, trucks, the moon, the stars, people, balls, etc. Most common examples of abstract identities are “numbers, sets, properties and relations, propositions, facts and states-of-affairs, possible worlds, and merely-possible individuals” (Swoyer, 1). Notice the adjective possible added before the words “individuals” and “worlds”: the notion of abstract entities are described by things that cannot be observed. While every person understands numbers or sets of odd or even numbers, or a hypothetical proposition, no one has ever seen them physically; how do they look like? Or do they physically exist? Has somebody seen a proposition? If yes, how can you describe a thought or a rational abstract? These are thought-provoking contentions that empirical methods have to deal with. In mathematics, theories exist. These theories are used in various scientific applications, most notably, in Physics and Engineering. One particular example is the Pythagorean Theorem, which states that in a right triangle, the sum of the squares of the two legs is equal to the square of the hypotenuse: c2 = a2 + b2. In the context of empirical methods, this theorem has been adopted as a practical knowledge. As a matter of fact, it has been used extensively in engineering and physics for so many years. However, the acceptance ...Show more


6 July 2013 The Epistemological Considerations of Empiricism: The Confines of the Applicability of Empirical Methods in Understanding Abstract Entities Following the reign of positivism in the philosophical spotlight is the birth of empiricism…
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Option 1: Dictionary of Terms: Epistemology and Theology essay example
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