Epistemology is a word meaning the study of knowledge and truth, while etymology is the study of the origins of words and the way in which those words have changed throughout history. When using etymology to help break down the word “epistemology” we learn that the definition of “truth” stems from the Indo-European word *deru meaning “tree” and that “knowledge” stems from the word *gno meaning “diagnosis.” In retrospect this means that epistemology has many branches and roots informing about knowledge and truth. Three philosophers that help us better grasp the concept of epistemology are Plato, Henry David Thoreau, and Jean-Paul Sartre. Although from different periods of time these three have a deeper understanding than most that should be re-examined.
In Plato’s “The Apology of Socrates,” it implies two things: 1) knowledge is unattainable by humans, but attainable by gods, and 2) knowledge is supernatural. This quote from helps support the implication of knowledge being attainable only by gods: “...but the truth is, O men of Athens, that God only is wise; and in this oracle he means to say that the wisdom of men is little or nothing...” The implication that knowledge is supernatural can help be supported by the following quote:
“ Can a man believe in spiritual and divine agencies, and not in spirits or demigods?
I am glad that I have extracted that answer, by the assistance of the court; nevertheless you swear in the indictment that I teach and believe in divine or spiritual agencies (new or old, no matter for that); at any rate, I believe in spiritual agencies, as you say and swear in the affidavit; but if I believe in divine beings, I must believe in spirits or demigods; - is not that true? Yes, that is true, for I may assume that your silence gives assent to that.”
Plato wrote this version of “The Apology” to help defend his teacher, Socrates, who believed that “the unexamined life is not worth living.”
Henry David Thoreau’s book “Walden” is about his reflection on simple living in natural surroundings and his experience of living in the woods over the course of about two years. In the second chapter titled “Where I Lived, and What I Lived for” it is implied that Thoreau thinks knowledge of the here and now is gained by simplifying life and expanding your imagination by connecting with nature, that we fell nature with our bodies. “Such was not my abode, for I found myself suddenly neighbor to the birds; not by having imprisoned one, but having caged myself near them.” is a quote that sufficiently embodies his thinking. He also implies that knowledge is found through the imaginative response to nature in the here and now physical experience, not in civilization. The following quote expresses this:
“Let us spend one day as deliberately as Nature, and...