Epistemology is the study of knowledge. It attempts to answer questions regarding the origin of human knowledge, and considers especially how we can know with certainty. Epistemological answers are basic and necessary building blocks of any philosophy, worldview, or belief system. In fact, of the four major components of philosophy and worldview (epistemology, metaphysics, ethics, and socio-‐political thought), none can be adequately addressed until we answer the question of how we can know. Regarding metaphysics, for example, we can’t make legitimate assertions about the character of God or the existence of the human soul until we first address how such assertions can be verified or falsified. Further, unless we have a means for validating ethical prescriptions as either worthy or unworthy, we have no warrant for choosing one prescription over another – especially when we encounter apparently competing or conflicting goods. And if we have no mechanism for authentication, then how can we even arrive at a definition of what is good in the first place? Finally, in socio-‐political thought, on what basis can we choose one system of government over another, or how can we determine whether a law is commendable? Without correct epistemological answers, there is no basis for our understanding or choosing one thing over another. In short, epistemology is really about authority, verifiability, truth, and certainty.
Imagine a person – we’ll call him Bob. Bob has just received the gift of consciousness. For the first time in Bob’s existence he is aware. Bob examines his surroundings and he finds himself standing in rolling sun-‐drenched fields of dandelions under a beautifully clear mid-‐day sky. Of course, Bob has no knowledge of what anything around him is or what any of it means, because this is the first time he has ever encountered any of these things. Bob begins to ponder. “Here I am, I suppose, now what?” Bob has to figure out how to answer that question before he takes his first step, lest he make the wrong assumptions and step in the wrong direction. He begins a quest to decipher the right understanding of who and what he is, and how he must proceed, but he isn’t certain of whether or not he has the right tools for the task. In fact, he isn’t certain of anything.