Epistemology, or how we know what we know, sounds like a very complicated, advanced philosophical concept. In some ways, it definitely can be. But in other ways, it is fundamental to every single learning enterprise on this campus.
Epistemology is the study of knowledge, and its essential questions center on knowledge production, verification, justification, validation and dissemination. In other words, epistemology is concerned with whether or not we count something as “good knowledge,” how we get there and how we spread it.
Theories of knowledge operate beneath any learning done by a student on this campus. Different disciplines call for different epistemologies, each with its own belief system baked in. For example, hard sciences depend on the scientific method as the main method through which knowledge is justified and verified. The scientific method is also present in social sciences, like political science, economics and sociology.
While easy to recognize, this kind of scientific epistemology is not the only one at work on campus. Critical epistemologies, such as Marixst and feminist theory, encourage thinkers to recognize and criticize the values inherent in the established epistemology of the academy.
Critical theory emphasizes first the need to see mainstream epistemology as flawed and next looks to those who are oppressed for alternative theories of knowledge.