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Alternative formsEdit


From Ancient Greek ἐπιστήμη (epistḗmē, knowledge).



episteme (plural epistemes or epistemai)

  1. (philosophy) Scientific knowledge; a principled system of understanding; sometimes contrasted with empiricism.
  2. (specifically Ancient Greek philosophy) know-how; compare techne.
  3. (specifically Foucaultian philosophy) The fundamental body of ideas and collective presuppositions that defines the nature and sets the bounds of what is accepted as true knowledge in a given epistemic epoch.
    • 1997: Chris Horrocks, Introducing Foucault, pages 65{1} and 71{2} (Totem Books, Icon Books; →ISBN
      {1} An 'episteme' is the “underground” grid or network which allows thought to organize itself. Each historical period has its own episteme. It limits the totality of experience, knowledge and truth, and governs each science in one period.
      {2} Classical representation no longer needs a subject like royalty. It can only be made visible by its invisibility — by appearing in the mirror of representation. The true subject is never to be found in the table — or painting — as a historical subject of life, labour and language. The classical episteme did not isolate a specific domain proper to man.
      Axiom: In the classical episteme the subject is bound to escape its own representation.

Usage notesEdit

  • Episteme is not pronounced as “eʹpih-steem”.

Related termsEdit


See alsoEdit


  • episteme” listed in the Oxford English Dictionary [2nd Ed.; 1989]
      Deriving from Ancient Greek ἐπιστήμη (epistḗmē); pronounced: /ɛpɪˈstiːmɪ/; tagged Philos.; defined in the general and Foucaultian senses only.
  • Episteme and Techne” discussed in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (first published Fri Apr 11, 2003; substantive revision Sun Oct 28, 2007; accessed Sun Sep 27, 2009)
      Article discusses the Ancient Greek usage only.



  • IPA(key): /e.pisˈtɛ.me/
  • Rhymes: -ɛme
  • Hyphenation: e‧pi‧stè‧me


episteme m, f (plural epistemi)

  1. episteme