Back    All discussions

2009-03-16
Terminology: ontic/ontological, epistemic/epistemological?
Hello,

My question is pretty basic, I believe. Is there any kind of usage difference between "ontic" and "ontological"? And, similarly, between "epistemic" and "epistemological"? I get the impression that each may be swapped interchangeably with its mate, with the exception that sometimes "epistemic" is favored over "epistemological" for a subtle nuance I don't quite grasp.

Is that so, or is there no real difference in meaning/usage?

~NH

2009-03-17
Terminology: ontic/ontological, epistemic/epistemological?
Reply to Nathan Holmes
Hi Nathan,

In analytic philosophy there is rarely if ever a distinction drawn between 'ontic' and 'ontological' as Metaphysics is fundamentally understood as the study of what exists - entities.  But in Continental (European) philosophy Metaphysics is often understood as being primarily concerned with human existence.  Thus Heidegger in Being and Time differentiates between 'ontics' as the study of entities and 'ontology' as the study of the being of anything (and this is linked to our existence as questioners.

As I see it, 'epistemic' merely refers to knowledge, justification and belief (mental cogitations), whereas 'Epistemological' refers to the subject which studies epistemic matters.

I hope this helps.

Max Bini

2009-03-18
Terminology: ontic/ontological, epistemic/epistemological?
Reply to Nathan Holmes
Thanks Max! Exactly the kind of response I was hoping for. Very helpful.

2009-04-15
Terminology: ontic/ontological, epistemic/epistemological?
Reply to Nathan Holmes
All four words have a Greek etymological origin:

'ontic': is concerned with being (Greek 'to on', that which is)
'ontological': is concerned with the theory of being (Greek 'logos',among other things: theory)
'epistemic': is concerned with knowledge or with cognition (Greek 'episteme', knowledge)
'epistemological': is concerned with the theory of knowledge or of cognition (Greek 'logos': see above)

Up to the eighties in 'traditional philosophical education' the words were strictly reserved for the meaning derivable from their Greek origin.
These days, especially in Anglo-Saxon philosophy, 'epistemic' and 'epistemological', at least, seem to be used as synonyms. (an epistemic question = a question concerned with knowledge; an epistemological question: a question epistemology is concerned with, i.e. a question concerned with knowledge; etc.)

2009-04-21
Terminology: ontic/ontological, epistemic/epistemological?
Reply to Nathan Holmes
There are distinctions worth recognizing between 'ontic' and 'ontological'. The numbers are ontic entities. The theories of the nature of numbers are ontological. I would be reluctant to use the word 'ontological' in situations where explicit reference to the study of mind-independent reality is not called for.   
There are distinctions worth recognizing between 'epistemic' and 'epistemological'.  My knowledge of the numbers is  epistemic. Claims about my knowledge are epistemological.  I would be reluctant to use the word 'epistemological' in situations where explicit reference to the study of certain mind-dependent reality is not called for.   
There are distinctions worth recognizing between 'mental' and 'psychological'. The thoughts I am now having are all mental, not psychological.I would be reluctant to use the word 'psychological' in situations where explicit reference to the study of mental reality is not called for.

2009-04-22
Terminology: ontic/ontological, epistemic/epistemological?
Reply to Nathan Holmes
Totally agree. Susanne

2009-04-22
Terminology: ontic/ontological, epistemic/epistemological?
Reply to Nathan Holmes
Very clear and sharp.  Both the terminological and etymological responses are indeed relevant but the question of meaning/usage (end of intial question) also brings up matters of philosophy and language which can be seen to be practical and not just theoretic - context is important as are different approaches, ways of seeing and interpreting.