I am confused with the terms and the branches of phillosophy.

Here is an example where all 3 terms were used.

I always though phillosophy of science and epistemology were the exact same thing while gnosiology was the more idiomatic term used in Greek. As in it would be unidiomatic to say Epistemology instead of Gnosiology in the Greek language.

Gnosiology would be simply the "translation" of Epistemology.

All 3 terms would be equivalent with absolutely no difference in nuance.

What is the difference between Epistemology, Gnosiology, and Phillosophy of Science?

  • "essence" ? No essence in human affairs. They are disciplines/topics that eveolved over time. Epistemology (maybe synonym with Gnoseology) is the philosophical study of KNOWLEDGE. Philosophy of Science is about science, which is knowledge but not all of knowledge: only a specific and "modern" way of it. Nov 15, 2019 at 19:15
  • @MauroALLEGRANZA Maybe I should say nature and not essence! Nov 15, 2019 at 19:18
  • Epistemology is the study of knowledge and I think that Gnosiology is a synonim (an older term) : both derive from ancient Greek (as most philosophical technical words). Nov 15, 2019 at 20:22
  • Philosophy of Science is specifically dedicated to the philosophical problems of science (manly physical), like e.g. the anture of space and time, the concept of natural law, causality, etc. Nov 15, 2019 at 20:23
  • "Gnoseology" was a used in the USSR instead of "epistemology" as its direct synonym.
    – ttnphns
    Nov 15, 2019 at 21:18

1 Answer 1


Epistemology is the study of what can be known and how, in a truly abstract sense, not so much tied to practices, but to foundations. It is an ordinary subfield of basic philosophy.

Philosophy of Science as a noted discipline is very new, arising after the Scientific Revolution in Europe. In modern study it is often merged with History of Science, following the dictum that, particularly in this case, 'history without philosophy is blind and philosophy without history is empty'. It is dedicated to how people actually do science in particular, often as contrasted with how science describes itself and recounts its own history, and is generally not about theoretical foundations.

Gnosiology is theoretically a broader term, but not so much any more. It was introduced by Orthodox Christians as form of traditional epistemology with a provision for revealed knowledge. This sense is sometimes used purposely today by commentators like Quakers who place high regard upon inspiration (or 'experiment' in the archaic form) as a form of knowledge. (But also because we just love to be quaint and quirky.)

The root moved from 'episteme', 'certain', related to 'ascertain', to 'gnosis', a more general term for 'knowing', because revealed knowledge can, almost by definition, not be 'ascertained' -- it must be validated in different ways, through pedigree or mystical experience.

Attempts have been made to revive it to apply to fields like aesthetics, which also lack the kind of standards that can be 'ascertained' but where things can still be known. But few Western writers adopted the term.

Evidently this move from Epistemology to Gnosiology stuck in the East and Gnosiology is the popular Greek term for Epistemology among Soviet and post-Soviet philosophical writers. This usage has drifted back to the West as a synonym and not as something distinct from Epistemology.

  • So if I understood correctly Theory( rigorous, systematic and methodological but not necessarily quantitative) should be defined by Epistemology. How does Simon Blackburn who is not a Epistemologist think he qualifies as an authority to define Theory? Phillosophy has many branches so a single lexicographer will do a poor job. I do not think that Oxford dictionary of Phillosophy is of equal standards as Oxford English Dictionary. Nov 16, 2019 at 12:34
  • So many objections to this complaint... You don't establish the right to do philosophy of a given sort by slapping a label on yourself, or by going through some confirming ritual. This is not a religion or a guild.
    – user9166
    Nov 16, 2019 at 14:54
  • Even when someone does specialize, that provides leverage and recognition, not rules and limitations. People label themselves to guide others as to how to take them -- what they intend to have as a point. Anyone with a basic grounding can contribute anywhere, as long as they do it carefully.
    – user9166
    Nov 16, 2019 at 14:58
  • The boundaries between areas of philosophy are not clean in the first place, because, for a kind of trivial case, ontologies have to contain a category for thoughts, and what kinds of thoughts we can have are tied to what we know, which is epistemological territory.
    – user9166
    Nov 16, 2019 at 14:59
  • And nobody gets to define theory by right. Definitions compete for relevance, wherever they come from, and if they work, they get adopted, even if they arise spuriously in some unrelated area of work. Dictionaries of all sorts reflect usage, not prescription. Using them the other way around, at least in philosophy, is just the fallacy of appeal to authority.
    – user9166
    Nov 16, 2019 at 14:59

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .