Mark My Words 3.0

"[Machinery] will never be a substitute for the face of a man, with his soul in it, encouraging another man to be brave and true." — Charles Dickens

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Reflections on Sociology: Ontology, Epistemology, and Methodology

Today, I learned about ontology, epistemology, and methodology. Let’s interpret these concepts using my science brain as a jargon filter:

  • Ontology is the study of reality.
  • Epistemology is the study of knowledge.
  • Methodology is the study of methods.

In my head, they are linked. One must consider what reality is, how we should describe that reality, and what methods are appropriate. But, it’s not as simple as that. It seems, in Sociology, nothing ever is! If one can argue their case, they’re on the right tracks. Apparently this journey will take me a long time to fully understand and appreciate, as each concept has related “big questions” such as:

  • Is reality real or not?
  • What is reality made of?
  • How many realities are there?
  • Is reality constant, or does it change?
  • How do we acquire knowledge?
  • How can we describe or create reality?
  • What is knowledge?
  • What are the activities during knowledge acquisition?

We discussed some of Aristotle’s ideas about describing knowledge in terms of phronesis, techne, or episteme. Funny, in Computer Science we call them explicit, implicit, and tacit. An essay question was given as class discussion. Who’d have thought answering the question “to what extent do philosophical issues underpin the choice of methods?” would be so hard! The discussion took me from Marxism, to feminism, to postmodernism. I still have no idea what all the fuss is about. In time, they say.

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