What is the essential or fundamental entity that triggered the emergence of reflection of knowledge (lately known as Epistemology) as a declarative or descriptive knowledge ?

May the origin be found in our ability to synthesize and describe associations ?

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    Origins ? the term Epistemology "was first used by Scottish philosopher James Frederick Ferrier in 1854." The reflection on knowledge, starting from the question: “What is knowledge?” dates at least from Plato's Theaetetus. Dec 20, 2017 at 11:56
  • @MauroALLEGRANZA thanks many, reworded question.
    – elm
    Dec 20, 2017 at 12:05
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    The phrasing is odd, but anthropologists date the emergence of self-representation and reflection to pre-historic times. "The essential or fundamental entity" was a mutation, or a sequence of mutations, that enabled cumulative learning in our ancestors, see Henrich's book on cultural evolution.
    – Conifold
    Dec 20, 2017 at 23:48

1 Answer 1


Epistemology, as systematic reflection on knowledge, is traced back to Aristotle who was the first to discourse explicitly about logic, e.g. how some true propositions are obtained from others and cases where it is not so. Gaining epistemological awareness is much like becoming aware of grammar: people can talk and they know lots of things without any 'theory', but, except for radical pragmatists, doing is usually taken to be different from knowing.

As the later name suggests it is second order knowledge: bio-logy is knowledge about life and epistemo-logy is about knowledge. Distingishing meta-knowledge became rather important in modern times when the cases science vs. religion were debated. However philosophy also rapidly lost credibility on empirical grounds and it turned more and more into epistemology. Raids into the domain have been carried from the factual side by psychology and cognitive science and from the theoretical - by mathematics.

(No need for refs about such well known history.)

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