Traditionally, epistemology is a branch of philosophy that is concerned with the nature of knowledge and how we create knowledge as a formal consequence of various disciplines. In contrast, Gregory Bateson's use of the term "epistemology" referred to a more personal and dynamic sense of creating knowledge. From his perspective, each of us should be concerned with how we construct our own knowledge. Another key aspect of a Batesonian epistemology involves the notion of "the map is not the territory." In other words, the knowledge and understandings we construct are just that… a construction of knowledge. Our knowledge is not the reality or territory, but is a representation of what we perceive. As a result, we can never be absolutely confident that what we see and understand is absolutely true. There is always in element of uncertainty. This same idea is the basis of Werner Heisenberg's "Uncertainty Principle" in quantum physics. Uncertainty also has been discussed by Richard Feynman, among others.


LISTEN to Gregory Bateson talk about Epistemology

This audio file has been provided by Internet Archive at http://archive.org/details/GregoryBatesonOnEpistemology under Creative Commons.

WATCH a video of Richard Feynman discussing the uncertainty of knowledge:

Some Key Questions:

  • What assumptions affect our sense-making and what we consider to be "true"?
  • How are our perceptions affected by what we already know and assume to be true?
  • How do various cultures and societies project their own assumptions on other cultures and societies?
  • How do "news" programs and other journalistic outlets base their questions and stories on their own assumptions?
  • How do people's epistemologies affect our actions and inactions about local and global ecology?
  • How do people's epistemologies affect social equity and justice?


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