The aim of the Epistemology Laboratory is to revive Kalam Epistemology as a platform for understanding, conceiving, evaluating, synthesizing, generating and disseminating knowledge in the context of contemporary extreme ideologies namely religious literalism, postmodern relativism and secular rationalism. The long established Kalam Epistemology of reconciliation between reason and revelation could play a meaningful role in providing an alternative epistemology given the state of crisis in contemporary epistemology.
By their community of practice own admission contemporary epistemology is in a state of disarray. The dominant 20th century epistemological standpoint of the view-from-nowhere have been opened up to multiplicity of epistemological views from the margins. In comparison to contemporary 20th Century epistemology which is overwhelmingly dominated by ‘foundationalist’ and ‘coherentist’ approaches in its quest for defining knowledge, oscillating between rationalism and idealism before transforming into full-fledged empiricism, Islamic epistemology in general and Kalam Epistemology in particular tends to emphasize on personal salvation, good virtues and human-God relationship in their epistemological adventure. Thus, it goes without saying that Kalam Epistemology could not have the aims, outlook and purpose similar to contemporary empiricist epistemology. However, Kalam Epistemology engagement with foundationalist and coherentist epistemology is vital for the revival of a robust contemporary Kalam Epistemology. Rather than simply dismiss contemporary epistemology as secular empiricist; we have to be a part of the contemporary conversation by learning to what a ‘foundationalist’ or ‘coherentist’ has to offer, thinking carefully about it, and then either agreeing or disagreeing, by giving epistemological reasons for why we do so. This is, in fact, the method of Kalam Epistemology, which is an ostensibly rational and analytic enterprise.
The rise of the post-positivist philosophy of science during the second half of the 20th Century which undermined the supremacy of empirical science as the only criterion for knowledge had relegated contemporary empiricist epistemology into trivial venture. The sudden revival of religious epistemology better known as reformed epistemology, the growing interest in virtue epistemology or intellectual virtues and similarly the emergent of virtue ethics have all pointing towards the merits of reconnecting to a more traditional epistemology to fill the gap and the recover the missing elements that constituted much of the 20th Century epistemological works. Thus, we will also try to look into reformed or virtue epistemology as they are adopted by other religious believing communities. Although the general approach of these epistemology sometimes is to downplay reason and emphasis spirituality and morality; it still has something to be learnt by the analytical Kalam Epistemology.
In retrospective, the disarray state of contemporary epistemology could be attributed to the narrow and limiting ways of conceiving knowledge by the 20th Century scholars working in the field of epistemology as a result of the positivistic and anti-metaphysical movements that dominated the 20th Century knowledge enterprise. Thus entering the 21st Century, it is just fitting the present state of epistemology being addressed and deliberated in order to map the big picture of the current state of affair with regards to our knowledge and its allied components.
It is in the context of finding a viable option for a renewed and sustained approach to traditional religious epistemology that Kalam Epistemology is selected. Kalam Epistemology is perhaps the more indigenous if not the more vivacious approach to knowledge within the main Islamic epistemological trends. Key concerns in Kalam Epistemology include the human attainment of knowledge of God, the nature of God’s knowledge, the nature and structure of knowledge, the benchmarks of knowledge and its limitations, the pursuit of truth and justice, the attributes of knowledgeable persons, and the role and function of knowledgeable persons.