Second-Order Structure of Academic and Religious Personal Epistemologies
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.