Ontology before Epistemology

Published: 2017-12-12 13:56:19
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It is beyond any doubt that both epistemology and ontology are significant proponents of the philosophy of knowledge. Ontology could be defined as the existence of things in the world or what things are in the actual sense while epistemology could be defined as the theory of what individuals knew about the things they encountered in their environment or the manner in which people perceived things in their environment. Epistemology provides individuals with the strategies they could adopt in understanding the world around them. It is precisely for the reasons as mentioned above and more that it could be proclaimed that ontology would always come before epistemology. This is because things have to exist first before individuals would develop their different perspectives concerning the item.

Secular worldview

According to primary secular worldview, human beings are considered to be at the center of everything . As such, truth and values adopted in individuals’ societies have always depended on the norms that humanity developed in their communities. Human beings would determine all that life and reality would entail. Therefore, based on the level of authority exercised by people in different localities across the universe humanity acted as gods as witnessed through their daily undertakings. Secular worldview helps individuals to understand their world from a naturalistic and materialistic point of view. The secular humanists had the strong belief that God did not exist. Some of the discoveries that have been made in the world of science have made God’s existence in different parts of the universe null and void. Humanists believed that only the things they were able to touch, prove, feel and study were real or existed. Most importantly, the concrete elements in the society were some of the components that have subsisted since time in memorial. Therefore, secular humanists did not believe in the existence of supernatural beings. Human beings were also considered as just matter with no soul of spirit as opposed to all that majority of people have had to believe about the nature of human beings. John Henry is of the opinion that the universe is knowable . This is to suggest that Newman did not believe in the existence of supernatural beings just in the same way that secular humanists did not believe in the existence of supernatural beings. People could only learn more about the things they could touch and feel in their environment, and supernatural beings could never be categorized as elements that could be touched and studied like matter.

Secular philosophy is based on the notion of naturalism, and it holds that only matter or the things that people could touch, and feel exists in the universe. Individuals who believed in the idea of naturalism had increased trust on the methods used by scientists through the experiments they did at different points in their lives as the sure way, by which one could know anything, in their surroundings . As such, the things that could never be seen, tested and experimented on did not exist. Hence, owing to the actuality that the human mind or spirit, God and hell are elements that could not be seen and experimented on then they did not exist despite what other people might have had to believe. Based on the discussions above concerning the humanists’ point of view, it is clear that ontology came before epistemology. The majority of people across the universe believed in the things they could see and touch way before they developed any belief about some of the things that they could never see and feel in their surroundings. 

Due to it being that, the people who believed in the secular worldview did not believe in the existence of God humanity decided the values and standards that they adopted as part of their societies. Humanists believed that people were in a better position of choosing between right and wrong based on their historical experiences, science, and people’s ability to make viable decisions in different situations they found themselves in while undergoing their daily life activities . Given the fact that people would always have different reasoning depending on where they came from individuals’ understanding of right and wrong would always differ. Similarly, diversities in individuals’ thinking and backgrounds there are always dissimilarities in the ethical standards and values that people upheld in their societies. Humanists believed that human beings developed the moral values they incorporated as part of their communities from their experiences in life. However, ethics is derived from individuals’ interests and needs in the society. 

According to the secular worldview, it is held that human beings were able to attain mental health by fulfilling their material and physical needs . Self-actualization is primarily focused on the inherent goodness amongst human beings. By claiming that humanity only consisted of matter and that their actions were as a result of mechanical impulses, is a clear opposition to the distinctively Christian worldview that holds that human beings were the determinants and masters of their fate. 

Humanists believed that culture and civilization shaped the manner in which individuals conducted themselves in the society . Therefore, one thing that makes people be considered primarily evil is the evil nature of individuals’ social and cultural environments. Hence, some of the evil deeds that people engaged in at different points in their lives were not through their fault but because of the influence the society had on people’s actions. Adverse influences of individuals’ societies in determining a person’s character have subdued the inherent goodness of humanity. The family unit has been categorized as one of the institutions that suppressed the natural goodness amongst humanity in different parts of the universe. 

Christian worldview

On the other hand, based on the distinctively Christian worldviews, it is believed that God exists and that means that supernatural beings subsisted even with it being that they could not be touched and felt . To add onto the proclamations above, it was believed that human beings had a spirit or a soul that lived on even after individuals died. It is by faith that Christians believed in the existence of supernatural beings. Persons believed that they would live comfortable eternal lifestyles even after their death as long as they followed in the doctrines of their Christian faith. God was always present to guide the people who were faithful to his teachings and even those who did not know anything about His existence through life so that people could lead productive lifestyles. God regarded people in the world as His children; thus He always had a place prepared for individuals who were willing to follow in the example of His son, Jesus Christ who died on the cross for humanity to be salvaged from God’s wrath.

The majority of Christians believed that reality was the same for every individual regardless of where people originated . Furthermore, reality would not only entail the things that people could feel and touch, but it also encompasses elements people did not understand or the things that individuals did not have any proof of to display to other people in their surroundings. This is unlike what people who believed in the primarily secular worldview would have to say about concerning the same issue of reality. Humanists who believed in the secular worldview held that things only existed in situations whereby there were pieces of evidence to show for their subsistence. 

Even with it being that, people’s knowledge of different elements in the society may be wrong this can never mean that such knowledge of useless . The crucial role played by various forms of knowledge that people elicited in their societies were only determined through the application of people’s knowledge in real world situations. It is only through applying knowledge in different circumstances that people would learn of the viability of knowledge. 

Ontological vs epistemological

However, the moral principles that individuals upheld in their societies were mainly dependent on the way in which people were brought up by their parents and loved ones. Children would always follow the example of the adults they encountered in their earlier years of growth and development more so their parents. Consequentially, people who followed in the Christian were always taught the value of educating their children the importance of upholding good morals. This is because it was believed that by teaching children about the best ways they could conduct themselves as part of their societies they grew to become morally upright individuals in the society who were fully informed of right and wrong . Parents who taught their children Christian virtues enabled their children to value other people within their surroundings without exhibiting acts of discrimination against other people. Children taught in the Christian way of life would be well informed of the important role played by other members of their communities in the society. Most importantly, such children who believe in themselves to be capable of achieving what a majority of people thought to be impossible to achieve. The assertions mentioned above support Sire’s viewpoint. “Total reality consists of the noumenal (a transcendent reality) and the phenomenal (an imminent reality)…” 

Christian worldview suggested that people were bound to enjoy countless benefits in their afterlife as opposed to what people yearned for on earth. The materialistic world was only but a passing point for humanity. The earth was a place people only occupied for a short while after which the righteous were bound to transcend to heaven after their demise. From the discussions above, it is clear that before individuals could understand the world of the supernatural beings, it was important that people recognized and learned more about the things they could see and touch in their surroundings. Understanding the physical elements in the society would help individuals understand the subsistence of supernatural beings.


Bardin, Andrea. Epistemology and Political Philosophy in Gilbert Simondon: Individuation, Technics, Social Systems. 2015. <http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&scope=site&db=nlebk&db=nlabk&AN=976890>.

Goodin, Robert E., and Charles Tilly. The Oxford Handbook of Contextual Political Analysis. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.

Ontose 2010, Miguel-Angel Sicilia, Christian Kop, and Fabio Sartori. Ontology, Conceptualization and Epistemology for Information Systems, Software Engineering and Service Science: 4th International Workshop, ONTOSE 2010, Held at CAiSE 2010, Hammamet, Tunisia, June 7-8, 2010, Revised Selected Papers. 2010.


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