Second-Order Structure of Academic and Religious Personal Epistemologies

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John D. Hathcoat
Diane Montgomery


It was the aim of this research to examine how subjective viewpoints toward the source,
certainty, and justification of knowledge, known as a personal
epistemology (PE), combine across learning in school and knowing about
religion. Q methodology was used as a means to examine the higher-order
structure of the results of two PE studies conducted with the same Q
set, one in academic learning and another in religious personal
epistemologies. Results indicate that not only are academic and
religious personal epistemologies interrelated, but these viewpoints may
be described by three higher-order perspectives, named Doubtful Knower,
Truth Seeker, and Personal Truth. The Doubtful Knower is suspicious
about the existence of an accessible truth and sees no criterion by
which conflicting opinions may be evaluated. The Truth Seeker sees the
process of knowing as uncertain, and it is this element of uncertainty
that compels them to search for the truth. Personal Truth believes that
truth is idiosyncratic and personal to individual knowing. These
higher-order PE perspectives suggest that PE exists at both a
domain-specific and general level. The study further demonstrates that Q
methodology is an appropriate framework for illuminating the tacit
nature of PE while subsequently avoiding the methodological and
psychometric challenges faced by other research methods.

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How to Cite
Hathcoat, J. D., & Montgomery, D. (2010). Second-Order Structure of Academic and Religious Personal Epistemologies. Operant Subjectivity, 33(1/2). Retrieved from