“Wouldn't it be
wonderful if a group of people somewhere were for something and against nothing? Ernest Holmes
The term ‘epistemology’ is from Greek, from
episteme- (knowledge) + logos (theory). The theory or study of knowledge. Episteme is the Greek word
for knowledge or science, which comes from the verb “to know”. In Plato’s terminology
episteme means knowledge, as in “justified true belief”, in contrast to
doxa, common belief or opinion.
In Aristotle’s Nicomachean
Ethics, epistemology is found among his ‘five
There is no single definition of
knowledge. There are numerous theories to explain it and there are many ways to classify knowledge (types,
classes, qualities, structures). Many elaborate distinctions exist. For example, knowledge can be either
explicit (self-conscious) and implicit (hidden from
self-consciousness). It can be either propositional or non-propositional. Propositional knowledge can
be divided into empirical (a posteriori) and non-empirical
Epistemology is not your typical household
word. However, its discipline is important when exploring abstract metaphysical concepts, such as the
existence of angels, God, or Spirit or abstract physical concepts, such as the nature of reality behind Quantum Mechanics
(QM). The twin-sister to epistemology is ontology: the study of the nature of being, existence or
reality – the “modes of being”.
Genetic epistemology is a study of the
origins of knowledge.
A few key questions that concern the study of
• Do we perceive basic reality or only appearance that conceal basic reality?
of the Cave’)
• What is the basis of Knowledge?
Observation? Experience? Intuition? Inspriation?
In “The World as Will and Representation” (1818),
the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer wisely observes: “Our knowing consciousness is divisible solely
into subject and
Schopenhauer, and the many influential
philosophers before him, makes the premise that the world consists of Objects which are perceived by
Subjects. The Subject-Object division has been a longstanding philosophical investigation with philosophers
inquiring on how subjects relate to objects.
Inquiring on the Subject-Object division gets
us back to the question on how to validate true knowledge. The valid knowledge problem has two
1 - “What is Known”. The field of ontology deals with questions concerning what
objects (entities) exist or can be said to exist, like 'God' or an
2 - “How Does One Know What One Knows”. The field of epistemology questions
what knowledge is, how it is acquired (the Sources of
Knowledge) and the depth of how far we can know an object.
Epistemology includes both subjects and objects.
The dictionary defines subjective as "the
impression which an object makes on the mind." A concept or idea is subjective: an external object is the
percept while the impression in one’s mind is the concept. Subjective always means something that
The deepest issue of the philosophy of mind is
this: how is it possible that a material system such as the human brain/body gives rise to subjective experiences
of the mind? Current theories of mind explain certain structures or functions at work, but they cannot
explain this fundamental ‘phenomenon’ – subjective experience.
The skeptic may ask, “how do you know there is
subjective experience in the first place?”. This is axiomatic. It is a given. A fundamental fact
we have to accept. Schopenhauer, et al, would say it is the very fact that brought us the idea of
consciousness! Without it, we would never have discovered that thoughts and feelings
The Great Chain of Being
The Great Chain
of Being (Scala Naturae, "ladder/stair-way of nature") is a hierarchical classification of
matter-to-life-to-spiritual whose origins date back to Plato and Aristotle. The scala allowed for an ordering of
beings starting from God. It progresses downward to angels, demons (fallen/renegade angels), stars, moon,
kings, nobles, men, animals, plants and minerals.
2. Angelic Beings
The American spiritual writer and
philosopher Ken Wilber developed a similar macro
concept called the "Great Nest of Being". Wilber’s ‘Nest’ is a natural hierarchy with five levels:
Spirit, Soul, Mind/Emotion, Body and Matter.
Objective Being – Ontology/Cosmos: God,
Subjective Knowing – Epistemology/Psychology: Soul, Mind,
‘AQAL’ – Easy to
Use Epistemological Map
Before attempting any ‘deep diving’ of epistemology or ontology, like
inquiring on God, Beauty (I), Truth (It) or Goodness (We), the Golden Seat recommends Ken Wilber’s beautifully simple and powerful ‘AQAL’ model to help understand and
properly validate knowledge. AQAL is a 4-quad matrix of human consciousness that relates the Objective
and Subjective to the Individual and the Collective.
Knowledge validation follows the cycle:
(1) Directive, (2) Apprehension, (3) Interpretation, (4) Validation.
(1) Upper-Right: Directive. Individual-Exterior
(2) Upper-Left: Apprehensive. Individual-Interior
(3) Lower-Left: Interpretation. Collective-Interior (culture).
(4) Lower-Right: Validation. Collective-Exterior
To illustrate the utility of the AQAL matrix,
let’s consider the philosophical tenet known as ‘subjectivism’ which has be attributed to Descartes. Subjectivism is the belief
that “our own mental activity is the only unquestionable fact of our experience”. Subjectivism holds
subjective experience to be the supreme fundamental of all measure and law.
Thus, if we are to read “The world has no
existence whatsoever outside the human imagination – it’s all ghosts”, AQAL helps us to understand that this is very extreme position on the ‘subjective’
quadrant, to the point of rejecting natures within the objective quadrant. This is similar
to solipsism, another extreme form of
subjectivism, where the subject is unsure of any knowledge outside one’s own mind.
Phenomenalism or Logical
Positivism is the complementary example of extreme positions
on the objective quadrant that, in turn, rejects natures within subjective quadrant.
AQAL forces our philosophies to be
more integral and to avoid unhealthy