Suppose I have a question that is concerned not with 'what is knowledge' or 'how we acquire knowledge,' but instead how we are able to implement it, are we still talking about epistemology or about another branch of philosophy?

For example, let's suppose we have an agent who knows some collection of values and knows them to be good. I'm curious about the process by which she takes these values and applies them to specific situations. Is this still epistemology?

By way of another example, I know some assume, explicitly or otherwise, that people reason the same way that a computer does... sort of. While this assumption seems really weird to me (like I don't even know what it means), it does allow a philosopher to prove the existence of limits to human reasoning like mathematicians and computer scientists have proven the existence of an absolute unavoidable incompleteness in their fields. (Like Gödel's incompleteness theorems, for example.)

Is this still within the domain of epistemology? Or do discussion about the character, breadth and limits of rational thinking belong to a different branch of philosophy?

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    Why is this important? What is beyond the application of labels? Jul 12, 2013 at 12:54
  • Who is sophisticated ? - the monads or the earthlings ? Jul 12, 2013 at 13:03
  • "I'm curious about the process by which she takes these values and applies them to specific situations. Is this still epistemology? " This example sounds more like descriptive ethics.
    – Ben
    Jul 12, 2013 at 16:38
  • Knowledge is traditionally defined as justified true belief, the question of the reliability of justification is still inside epistemology. Jul 12, 2013 at 16:41
  • I am or was trying to write a paper taking Gödel's theorem and applying it to ethics saying that we can't have an ethical system that can answer every ethical dilemma. To do that, I needed to make some assumptions about the limits of how ethics and reason can work. As to the question's importance: I wanted to further study what philosophers had to say on this issue, so I could respond to them as opposed to start from scratch. I've been reading up on practical reason and now descriptive ethics, both pointers being really helpful. Thanks :)
    – Eddie Beck
    Jul 15, 2013 at 11:47

1 Answer 1


I would say that what you are describing is still epistemology, albeit perhaps of an applied or naturalized kind

Regarding your second point, formal epistemology takes logical rules and applies them to epistemic propositions. These types of logics have been directly applied in multi-agent computer systems that simulate human interaction. Again I would say this falls within epistemology.

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