From the Greek γν[symbol omitted]σις, a term used to designate the science or the study of knowledge. Originally signifying any investigation of a cognitive procedure, it took on a more specific meaning as the critique of knowledge assumed importance in philosophical inquiry; eventually its cognate forms in Italian, Spanish, and French came to have the same meaning as the German Erkenntnistheorie and the English epistemology. This shift from a purely psychological signification to one stressing the value of knowledge began, however, only after R. descartes and I. kant had emphasized the critique of knowledge as primary and essential—an emphasis that not all philosophers have been able to accept. The term gnoseology is frequently used in Italy and Spain to designate the study of knowledge in general, and in this sense it is opposed to epistemology, which is usually applied in these countries to the study of knowledge deriving from modern science alone. With the introduction of the term criteriology by J. L. balmes and its popularization by Cardinal D. J. mercier, the use of the term gnoseology has tended to decline among Catholic philosophers.
See Also: criterion (criteriology).
Bibliography: p. coffey, Epistemology, 2 v. (New York 1917; repr. Gloucester, MA 1958). d. j. mercier, Critériologie générale ou théorie générale de la certitude (His Cours de philosophie 4; 8th ed. Louvain 1906). p. prini, Enciclopedia filosofica, 4v. (Venice-Rome 1957) 2:813–840.
[g. c. reilly]