I got this term explained to me that was called epistemological preference which is basically your preference for acknowledging the truth.

There are four categories:

  1. Truth by authority - this is true because a judge, a scientific authority, a person at the top of an organisation, or a well-recognised book/publication said it was true - and I don't need to question it further.

  2. Truth by reasoning (rationalism) - this is true because someone has given me a bunch of reasons, and I have weighed it in my head, and I can't come up with a competing set of reasons that knocks it down - so it is valid in my head.

  3. Truth by experiment (Empiricism) - this is true because I saw it or felt it. Further more I could repeat it, and if you repeat it, you will see the truth of it as well.

  4. Truth by message (testimonial evidence) - I heard this message from a person I trust, and I hold their observations of reality as true. You can choose to listen to their message as well.

The idea being that you can be strong in some of these categories and weak in others.

This is kind of like learning styles, kind of like influencing skills, kind of like negotiation skills, but not truly any of those.

The idea is also that people may disagree because one person is strong in truth by authority, and another person is weak in this area - and so the arguments don't carry across - they can't convince one another of the truth.

I think you should be able to fill out a four question sheet where you rank your epistemological preference out of 10 for the four categories - and people share this as a way of working together.

When I google search this online - there are only the fewest references to this online - so I think it must be called something else.

My question is: What is the common term for 'epistemological preference'?

  • 2
    You are missing "truth by intuition", where intuition goes beyond sensory perception, some people might also add "truth by revelation from God", "innate ideas", etc. But all these sources aren't guaranteed to produce "truths", so cross-corroboration is required to establish any particular claim as one. So "epistemological preference" might be ill-defined, and I suspect most people would hesitate picking an option in a questionnaire.
    – Conifold
    Commented Nov 26, 2016 at 0:07
  • There is no such thing as 'truth by authority'. or 'truth by message'. A truth is something we know to be true, not something we have been told. Maybe you need to consider the difference between the way we use the word 'truth' in ordinary conversation and the way it's used in philosophy, where the bar is set a lot higher.
    – user20253
    Commented Aug 5, 2017 at 11:32
  • Thanks @Peter - the set of categories are my own phrasing of the categories here: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Methods_of_obtaining_knowledge - See the category of revelation - which people hold to be 'true'. If you can think of a better way to phrase this - that would be helpful.
    – hawkeye
    Commented Aug 6, 2017 at 10:01
  • I suppose I'm arguing against the way truth is usually defined, and not just your definition. In my view knowledge is what we know, and truth is what we know to be true. After all, nobody can know something on our behalf. Our knowledge of truths must at least be able to survive Cartesian doubt.
    – user20253
    Commented Aug 6, 2017 at 12:02

1 Answer 1


What you're referring to falls under the umbrella term of personal epistemic belief (or personal epistemological belief). An individual's preferential ranking of the methods of obtaining knowledge would be one aspect of one's personal epistemic belief system.

This article mentions some contemporary psychological research on epistemological beliefs in the context of learning.

Here is a bibliography of more research on epistemic beliefs.

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