Philosophical Assumptions

This week in class we discussed and learned 3 philosophical assumptions:

Epistemology: the study of knowledge

Ontology: the nature of being

Axiology: the study of values [1]

I will discuss my interpretation of these assumptions starting with epistemology.

The definition of epistemology stated by Merriam Webster is, “the study or a theory of the nature and grounds of knowledge especially with reference to its limits and validity.” [2]

Epistemology according to Littlejohn and Foss (2011),  is  how we define truth and the knowledge that supports those truths. Knowledge may be on the basis of personal experience or the authority of experts.[3] Basically how I interpret this is that epistemology is the study of what we know and how we know it.  Was it experienced, taught, or saw?

For example: Someone can say “I know that 2+2:4″. How do they know that? Is it because we were taught that and we were also taught to count in sequence? So 2+2 wouldn’t be 8 just because we were taught the numbers in chronological order? Someone can also say ” I know that if I touch this stove I will get burned”, but how did they come to that conclusion? They either have touched the stove, know that the stove is hot so in turn they will get burned, or was told that if they touch stove they would get burned. One last example is I know they sky is blue, how do we know that? We can see the sky, we have been taught that that shade of color is blue. Now if we had been taught that that shade is yellow, then we would know or claim that the sky is yellow.

The cliche saying:  “Know it like the back of my hand” means to know something very well. It builds on the epistemological assumption of how we obtain knowledge of something. Questions that may arise from that cliché are how did you come to learn “that something”? Was it through experience, or was it taught? If it changes, will you still know it and will you always know it?


Oncology is how a human makes choices  to meet a goal  or react to stimulus. For example, did I make the choice to attend grad school because it has always been personal goal of mine or did I make the choice because it’s the “right” thing to do, most people do it, family or friends urged me to?  Also another statement by Littlejohn & Foss(2011) is the question of what categorizes human behavior, states or traits? For example,  traits are charateristics that change over time and are fairly stable while states are moods that vary and often change . For example, is a person considered a mean or negative person because they have always been that way(trait) , or just when you interacted with them they were in a bad mood or having a bad day?(state).

This quote by Anais Nin ,“We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are” falls under the initial assumption of epistemology : The knowledge of what we see, but then changes to ontology: Seeing them as the being we are.


The last assumption is axiology , which is the study of values. Can you not put value into scholarship, as in your morals and values?  For example: can I write a scholarly paper on about the comparison of Democratic and Republican parties without being bias to the party that I represent?  At what point of the inquiry process, does my research on the topic seem accurate or inaccurate? Does your opinion/belief affect your theory? Another question that falls under axiology is “do we conduct scholarship or scholarly research to achieve change or to generate knowledge?”( Littlejohn& Foss, 2011) Hmm, good question. I believe  it depends on the subject being researched. In scientific research like finding cures for cancer for instance, is being studied to achieve change of course . An inquiry for the question: “does Rap music affect teens and and their lifestyle choices?” , would just be to put the knowledge out there.

Studying theories can be challenging because the material is so abstract. It helps to break them down and use realistic examples. I learned a lot this week  and hopefully you readers did as well!

[1] Littlejohn, S.W. & Foss, K.A. (2011). Theories of Human Communication (Tenth Edition). Long Grove, Illinois: Waveland Press, Inc

[2] Epistemology. (n.d.). Retrieved September 15, 2013, from

[3] Truncellito, D. ( 2007, June 16). Epistemology [Internet Encyclopedia].  Retrieved from 


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