Academic Leadership: The Online Journal


Epistemology is a branch of philosophy, which provides an individual with tools for understanding what he or she knows, but epistemology cannot be separated from an individual’s metaphysics. It is almost impossible to separate a thinker’s epistemology from his or her metaphysics, because epistemology connects with specific ethics and politics and metaphysics connects all of that, in a coherent philosophical system. Metaphysics connects the philosophical system because epistemology does not fit well with randomness but does connect with specific ethics and politics. In 1854, the term epistemology appears to have been used for the first time, correlating with an intense move towards professionalism in academia. During this time, psychology branched out from epistemology, which created the need for a better understanding of knowledge, because some individuals were reasoning about the nature of the world without considering how we got that knowledge, and others were theorizing about the nature of knowledge without considering the nature of the mind. In addition, epistemology did not take into account social aspects, but recently this has shifted, and two types of epistemology have emerged: classical and social. Classical epistemology emphasizes individual knowing and knowledge, and social epistemology emphasizes organizational knowing and the social routes to knowledge (Nonaka & Nishiguchi, 2001). However, social epistemology existed well before the term recently emerged. Philosophers throughout history “have made critical discussion and deliberation central to their social epistemologies by…claiming…that rational dialogue between two or more individuals improves reasoning over what can be accomplished by individuals working alone” (Solomon, 2006, p. 28).