Ontology vs Epistemology: Difference and Comparison

Ontology and Epistemology are both terms related to philosophical studies. Both Ontology and Epistemology are two different lines of study in philosophical studies. Both studies are different as well as similar.

Ontology can be stated as the field that studies the nature of reality and all other different kinds of subdivisions and categories made under this nature of reality.

The studies in Ontology show us what exactly reality is, mainly based on the activities and thinking of the human brain. On the other hand, epistemology is related to the field of knowledge.

The gaining of knowledge and the way its depicted in the human brain. This kind of study also is related to human brain activity. Epistemology describes what the human brain thinks of reality.

Key Takeaways

  1. Ontology concerns the nature of reality, the study of what exists, and categorizing of entities within a system.
  2. Epistemology focuses on the nature, scope, and limits of human knowledge, investigating the sources and reliability of knowledge.
  3. Both branches of philosophy contribute to our understanding of the world, but ontology addresses existence, while epistemology tackles knowledge acquisition and validation.

Ontology vs Epistemology

Ontology and epistemology are two core concepts in philosophy; ontology is concerned with the nature of being and reality, while epistemology studies the nature, sources, and limits of knowledge.

Ontology vs Epistemology

Ontology is all about ‘being’, which is seen to focus on the logical and realistic categories of the reality of being. The terms Ontology and Epistemology are divided through a thin line in a few spots.

When a mind’s thinking is pointed out to the reality of the universe, it falls under the branch of Ontology. This branch questions the reality of being and existence.

Epistemology is all about the knowledge of that ‘being’, which focuses on the knowledge which is present in the human brain regarding this being. This branch of Epistemology deals with the reasons which come over experience or over time.

This section of philosophy is always under continuous construction, which builds our reasoning and knowledge of different things we come across.

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Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonOntologyEpistemology
Questions asked What is existence? Or What is the nature of existence?What do you know? or How do you know it?
Some theories Ontological monism, pluralism, dualism, etc.relativism, rationalism, realism, etc.
Levels Levels: Top-level, domain level, task level, application/ realist, absolutist, multiplist, evaluativist Realist, absolutist, multiplist, evaluativist
Models or conditions General Trajectory domain model, domain knowledge or semantic model and temporal domain model Truth, belief and justification
Branches Agnotology, Alethiology, Formal epistemology Realism, idealism. Materialism

What is Ontology?

Ontology is a term that came from Greek roots. According to many researchers, the word Ontology was derived from a participle ὤν (on) of the Greek verb “to be” (inf. εἶ ναι, einai).

The field of study is related to reality. Ontology can be defined as the ‘study of reality or things that comprise reality. The questions that are asked in this study are ‘How things are in reality?’ or ‘How things work’ which gives quite an idea of what this study is looking for.

Ontology studies the structure of the reality of nature or the reality of the existence of the universe or nature in the first place.

Ontology studies not just reality about human existence but even further. It studies beings that exist as self-contained or, as we call it, independent of human influence.

This study focuses on what exists in reality. It is all about understanding what we see in the world which came into existence. Ontology doesn’t deal with knowledge theories rather is the things about which we know.

This studies works are concerned with the nature of the world and reality. Each being Ontology has its knowledge which is Epistemology. In this way, we can also form a connection. 

What is Epistemology?

Epistemology is a term that came from Greek roots as well. The word Epistemology from ἐπιστήμη (episteme) which means knowledge which gives us the idea of its theme of study.

This field of study is related to the knowledge we know. Epistemology can be defined ‘as the study of human cognition. The question that is asked in the studies of Epistemology is‘ What does it mean to know something or a thing?’ or ‘What exactly is knowledge and knowing ?’.

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Epistemology studies the structure of human knowledge and what exactly proper knowledge is accepted in the world. Epistemology mainly discusses assumptions about knowledge.

It talks about theories that can explain the knowledge we have and how we gain it. This studies how the human brain processes knowledge and even discusses it with fellow human beings.

It studies how humans can talk about things that are stored in the form of knowledge.

Epistemology is mainly limited to human thinking. This is all about knowing what reality is rather than just studying reality. This studies the knowledge and what we can know. This field studies how we know reality and even store it as a form of knowledge. 

Main Differences Between Ontology and Epistemology

  1. Ontology and Epistemology are two main branches of Philosophy that make it different in the first place. They also deal with different aspects of things and knowledge.
  2. Ontology and Epistemology are both related to things, but Ontology studies the reality of things while Epistemology studies the knowledge about these things.
  3. Ontology shows a subjective view and objective views, which are two main parts, while on the other hand, Epistemology shows or studies the relationship between research and researcher.
  4. Ontology studies relativism and realism, while Epistemology studies how we get knowledge or how we get to know things. 
  5. Ontology addresses the question, “What is reality?” on the other hand, Epistemology asks, “How we can examine reality?”
  1. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0539018412437108
  2. https://www.taylorfrancis.com/books/mono/10.4324/9780203201619/breaking-liz-stanley-sue-wise

Last Updated : 11 June, 2023

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6 thoughts on “Ontology vs Epistemology: Difference and Comparison”

  1. The reference articles provided offer substantial resources for further exploration of Ontology and Epistemology. This allows the readers to delve deeper into these topics.

  2. The detailed comparison table illustrates the distinct aspects of Ontology and Epistemology, serving as a comprehensive guide for students of philosophy.

  3. The breakdown of Ontology and Epistemology into clear, coherent explanations helps in understanding their significance in shaping philosophical thinking.

  4. The in-depth comparison between Ontology and Epistemology is fascinating. It provides a deep understanding of the two. The explanation of the focus of these two branches of philosophy is enlightening.

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