Organizational Epistemology St. Rachel E. Ustanny University of Phoenix
There are different perspectives about the origin of knowledge, which have influenced the development of concepts such as a priori and a posteriori truth, epistemic regress, and sensual perception—Descartes (as cited in Cooper, 1999) argued that there are certain undeniable truths, which are obtained from our senses; Feldman (2003) noted that truth is obtained through one of or a combination of six means: perception, memory, testimony, introspection, reasoning, and rational insight; Feldman (2003) also reported that evidentialists believe that propositions must be substantiated; Bonjour (1978) articulated that truth is based on the existence of a priori knowledge, which is proven by engaging in epistemic regress; Schnapper (2009) noted that modern democracy calls for greater equality, including the recognition and acceptance of all perspectives as truth; and Webb (2007) reported that truth is that which is naturally experienced. In light of these varying perspectives about the origin of truth or knowledge, one cannot deny that the study of epistemology is very important to the development of new information, and socioeconomic progress. From an organizational perspective, epistemology provides a framework for critically analyzing and planning for the management and leadership of contemporary businesses—The change in the mode of production to that of knowledge work as reported by Drucker (1999) points to the need for contemporary organizational leaders to manage knowledge as a means of increasing productivity. This situation underscores the importance of deconstructing the origin of knowledge that workers produce on a daily basis. Epistemological Theories The multiple perspectives about the origin of knowledge have stimulated much criticism and skepticism about the validity and generalizability of epistemological theories. Nevertheless, this situation has continued to fuel the development of new theories, which have contributed to
the persistence of the epistemological debate over several centuries, and influenced its applicability to contemporary social problems. New theories about the origin of knowledge are still emerging as society is faced with unique challenges and alternate ways of learning and testing validity. Natural epistemology and the knowledge work theories will be examined as a means of garnering a better understanding of how modern society deals with and conceptualizes knowledge and uses it to improve social structures and systems. Four longstanding knowledge theories will also be discussed to facilitate an evaluation of the influence of past knowledge theories on contemporary problems—these four theories are: empiricism, rationalism, pragmatism, and relativism. Naturalized epistemology challenged the belief that one has to engage in epistemic regress to justify truth. It was proposed that truth is determined by scientific investigations and explanations (Feldman, 2003, p. 167). The tools, methods, and principles of science provide epistemologists with the means of testing and justifying knowledge, therefore machinery such as a lie detector enables contemporary investigators to examine individuals’ reactions (heartbeat, sweat production, and levels of anxiety) to determine if they are being truthful about a situation. This approach directly contradicts empiricism, which articulated that sensual perceptions enable human beings to determine truth. In this case, a lie detector would not be necessary to determine truth as the investigator would be able to use his or her senses to detect truth and untruth. While there is some merit in the empiricists’ approach, naturalized epistemology presented a replicable method that is less likely to fail due to human error. Knowledge work as argued by Drucker...