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Personification of knowledge (Greek Επιστημη, Episteme) in Celsus Library in Ephesos, Turkey.

Knowledge is what is known as opposed to what is not known to a human being. It is the product of thinking or thought, which usually employs or works with concepts, like truth, belief, and wisdom. The definition of knowledge should comply with the prerequisites of a definition and should reflect the nature (or further specifics or descriptors) of knowledge. Therefore the best way to define knowledge is to take an analogy, and use it as a model for defining knowledge.

A convenient analogy is the definition of a number. A number is an abstract entity that represents a count or measurement. Thus knowledge is a collective name for the abstract entities that represent the end result of complex cognitive processes, such as perception, learning, communication, association, and reasoning, all coming from a different discipline using different paradigms to describe reality and experience. A non-scientificly sounding term for such a mental exercise is called chunking, a process by which we get different results on seeing the very same thing. The term knowledge is also used to mean the confident understanding of a subject, potentially with the ability to use it for a specific purpose.

Knowledge is said to be acquired, or created through familiarisation, hece what is known is then familiar to us. Familiarity breeds through differentiation and sophistication, and typically works with smaller groups of people who share the same social experience, consisting mostly of the skills and competences of a trade or a profession, and a common language, meaning a vocabulary and the pragmatics of the same, the two basic factors related and associated in defining knowledge.

Defining knowledge[edit | edit source]

By claiming that knowledge is what we know, as opposed to what we do not know, we are actually engaged in defining an ontology, probably of the highest, or start-off level, just as in the Bible, or any similar venture to grasp existence, life or being as opposed to their opposites that we have no direct experience, or knowledge of, despite the fact that they, as terms are part of our systems of representations of knowledge.

See also: epistemology

We suppose ourselves to possess unqualified scientific knowledge of a thing, as opposed to knowing it in the accidental way in which the sophist knows, when we think that we know the cause on which the fact depends, as the cause of that fact and of no other, and, further, that the fact could not be other than it is. Now that scientific knowing is something of this sort is evident-witness both those who falsely claim it and those who actually possess it, since the former merely imagine themselves to be, while the latter are also actually, in the condition described. Consequently the proper object of unqualified scientific knowledge is something which cannot be other than it is.

Aristotle, Posterior Analytics (Book 1 Part 2)

The definition of knowledge is a live debate for philosophers. The classical definition, found in (although not ultimately endorsed by) Plato[1], has it that in order for there to be knowledge at least three criteria must be fulfilled; that in order to count as knowledge, a statement must be justified, true, and believed. Some claim that these conditions are not sufficient, as Gettier case examples allegedly demonstrate. There are a number of alternatives proposed, including Robert Nozick's arguments for a requirement that knowledge 'tracks the truth' and Simon Blackburn's additional requirement that we do not want to say that those who meet any of these conditions 'through a defect, flaw, or failure' have knowledge. Richard Kirkham suggests that our definition of knowledge requires that the believer's evidence is such that it logically necessitates the truth of the belief.

In contrast to this approach, Wittgenstein observed, following Moore's paradox, that one can say "He believes it, but it isn't so", but not "He knows it, but it isn't so". [2] He goes on to argue that these do not correspond to distinct mental states, but rather to distinct ways of talking about conviction. What is different here is not the mental state of the speaker, but the activity in which they are engaged. For example, on this account, to know that the kettle is boiling is not to be in a particular state of mind, but to perform a particular task with the statement that the kettle is boiling. Wittgenstein sought to bypass the difficulty of definition by looking to the way "knowledge" is used in natural languages. He saw knowledge as a case of a family resemblance.

Because any knowledge incorporates concepts and will be expressed using terms, the interdependencies between knowledge and language are essential for the definition itself. This has been demonstrated by Hey recently.[3]

Situated knowledge[edit | edit source]

Situated knowledge is knowledge specific to a particular situation. Imagine two very similar breeds of mushroom, which grow on either side of a mountain, one nutritious, one poisonous. Relying on knowledge from one side of an ecological boundary, after crossing to the other, may lead to starving rather than eating perfectly healthy food near at hand, or to poisoning oneself by mistake.

Some methods of generating knowledge, such as trial and error, or learning from experience, tend to create highly situational knowledge. One of the main benefits of the scientific method is that the theories it generates are much less situational than knowledge gained by other methods.

Situational knowledge is often embedded in language, culture, or traditions.

Partial knowledge[edit | edit source]

A discipline of epistemology is focused on partial knowledge. It states that in most of realistic cases, it is not possible to have an exhaustive understanding of an information domain, but that we have to live with the fact that our knowledge is always not complete, that is, partial. Most real problems have to be solved by taking advantage of a partial understanding of the problem context and problem data. That is very different from the typical simple math problems that we solve at school, where all data are given and we have a perfect understanding of formulas necessary to solve them.

Knowledge management[edit | edit source]

Main article: Knowledge management

Knowledge management is a management theory which emerged in the 1990s. It seeks to understand the way in which knowledge is used and traded within organisations and treats knowledge as self-referential and recursive. This recursion means that the definition of knowledge is in a state of flux. Knowledge management treats knowledge as information within some context. Knowledge in this context consists of information augmented by intentionality (or direction). This conception aligns with the DIKW model, which places data, information, knowledge and wisdom into an increasingly useful pyramid.

The main objective of knowledge management is to ensure that the right information is delivered to the right person just in time, in order to take the most appropriate decision. In that sense, knowledge management is not interested to manage knowledge per se, but to relate knowledge and its usage. This leads to Organizational Memory Systems.

Rapid Knowledge capture tools are being combined with knowledge management to transfer knowledge easily and effectively from one person to another.

Taboo knowledge[edit | edit source]

Many people feel that there are genres or fields of knowledge which should not be explored, or in other words that should be taboo. Oftentimes, knowledge appears to threaten religion, philosophies, and personal beliefs or values, and therefore is suppressed from investigation. Knowledges sometimes appears to offer more harm than value, and therefore is deemed to merit controls or restrictions.

An other classification of knowledge[edit | edit source]

Knowledge, scientific or otherwise, is basically of two types, namely lexical and procedural. Lexical knowledge is a collection of representations on objects, properties and relations and they tend to be labels, headings and titles with the associated verbal passages or other modalities relating to them. They are by nature static and nominal, and are used to describe the world in terms of a still picture and a frozen time frame. They are used to outline a topology, to show spatial arrangement of knowledge. There are billions of instances of such knowledge, and their representations are usually arranged in the form of some kind of lists, yet we do not really need them all, as there are easy ways to by-pass them. Therefore they are of minor importance for survival, and their lowest grade is called trivia.

Procedural knowledge on the other hand is a more important type knowledge, as it is the "how to", or the "know-how" type of knowledge. Normally, this is the type of knowledge that carries novelty, hance kept secret and has therefore a price tag to it. They are of the form message, that is, they have a verbal component in them, and are therefore used to describe temporal relations. They may also be arranged, or sorted into lists, but of time sequences, as opposed to spacial sequences. They are more important, because they can refer to the future, the essence of all knowledge, as opposed to knowledge about the past that cannot be helped. And knowledge of the future with a capacity to adjust or to adapt to it is called intelligence.

And finally, all our knowledge is derived from our concept of a space-time continuum, which is the lowest level of recursion used by our thinking, meaning that our intial and fundamental knowledge of existence relates to a specific point of time and a point of space, in relation to which the rest of our knowledge is defined. And such a specific points of space and time are just names or words in our thinking, that we need to sort all the time as we all know since Shakespeare wrote it down.

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. Plato, Theatetus
  2. Ludwig Wittgenstein, On Certainty, remark 42
  3. Hey, Jonathan (2004). The Data, Information, Knowledge, Wisdom Chain: The Metaphorical linkPDF (238 KiB). Publisher: Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (UNESCO)

See also[edit | edit source]

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