New and confused with techinical terms

Hi. I just signed in and am trying to make sense of all these discussions here in philosophy forum. I tried to understand the following by looking at a philosophy dictionary, but I am still confused. If someone could explain it to me plainly, I would appreaciate it a lot. My probLem is trying to understand the context in which posters are using these words:

  1. epistemology
  2. ontology
  3. phenomenology

I can understand when I read the description in the dictionary, but when posters use these in their discussions, I get lost. Please be patient, I am only 18. Thanks.

If you are going to study for any length of time I would recomend browsing around for a good dictionary of philosophy. Dictionaries are based on use, so a general dictionary will give you gereral use, and a philosophical dictionary will give you more on how philosophers tend to use the terms.

If you could give a more specific question it might be easier.

Epistomology is theory of knowledge. What is knowledge? how can one know…

Ontology is theory of existance

phenomenology is something I need to read about.

I recomend “The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy” it helped me out quite a bit when I was first starting in Philosophy.

Epistemology is basically the search for what can be known. How can I prove that water always boils at 100 degrees celsius? This would be an epistemolgical question. A good defintion comes from " [A] branch of philosophy that investigates the possibility, origins, nature, and extent of human knowledge." At it’s core, epistemology asks the question “how do we know what we know?”

Ontology is concerned with finding what actually exists, or what is real. What is reality? What is its nature? These are ontological questions that a philosopher would ask. As you may have gathered, epistemology and ontology are closely related.

Phenomenology is a bit more complex, so I’ll direct you to an old thread that does a good job of explaining it:

It will be a bit of a read, but I recommend you take the time to do it. The fifth paragraph of the first post begins the "guts"of the defintion. It’s a pretty good crash course on the subject.

Good luck and welcome aboard. :slight_smile:

Thank you very much everyone for responding. I will surely stay here and learn more from you.


Yes, this is my problem. I have seen posters discuss and drop something like “Well, that’s ontological…” They seem to be really comfortable using these words.

Matthew E.

Thank you very much. I will check it out as soon as possible. Yes, your little explanation helps because you give a specific statement that posters seem to use. This is where I need to understand these words—in discussions.

which is why english philosophy is largely unconcerned with being and more concerned with politics and knowing. (Except for Berkeley, but he was a wacky left footer, so what does he know)

I noticed this as well when studying Latin. I also wonder is this difference makes symbolic logic harder to grasp for some native English speakers?


In Latin, being, or existence, is tied to a subject in the same word (Sum and its various forms). Translated to English we have to interject am, is are ( along with the tenses) added to the subject.
I am
X is
The Y’s are

When taking the semantic and symbolyzing to the syntactical, in English at least, one has to denote existence, as if it was in question… whereas in Latin it seems to be assumed, unless you avoid it by avoiding that particular verb.