What is Knowledge?
The goal of this
section is to spread out the large tableau of different views and
aspects of knowledge in order to widen the focus as large as possible to
the above question. Moreover, it will explore where the concept intrudes
into other fields or social problems in order to better see the concept
from its borders.
The odd thing that one first notices about knowledge is that it is a
seemingly obvious and ubiquitous phenomenon but that it is fuzzily
defined if at all. Traditional epistemology takes the view that
knowledge by acquaintance (e.g., knowing Rudolph) or by competence (how
to peel bananas) are incidental compared to knowledge of propositions
(that the Eiffel Tower is made of steel). And there follows endless
writings about true knowledge while conceding that the skeptical view
that there is no guarantee of truth just might itself be true. If you
havenít heard much news about epistemology lately, itís because this
circular frustration has kept things quiet on the epistemological front
for quite a while.
The story of our understanding of knowledge is parallel to our
understanding of the mind. Both were essentially made to disappear from
intellectual view when materialism took over the stage. Knowledge
disappeared into facts and objects while mind was subsumed into the
brainís mechanics or chemistry. Now mind has already made somewhat of a
comeback as researchers have stumbled with their mechanical assumptions
and as the sheer existence of conscious awareness continues to mock a
reductionist only program.
But knowledge has yet to emerge from its materialistic hiding place of
fact. In everyday usage this translates as knowing is oneís getting it
or not getting it where ďitĒ is somewhere between the obvious and
principled truths. To know is to turn the lights on and avoid the evils
of ignorance, stupidity or suckerdom. Leaving justification to
epistemologists, everyday knowers spend their time making sure they have
consumed a lot of facts and trashing othersí inability to keep up.
Knowledge then has become something like a status game and not anything
in its own right.
So much for current ignobility of a concept that is keystone to much of
our everyday, theoretical and religious life. However, as will be seen
in the web pages below there is a very wide array of attributes given to
knowledge beyond the narrow epistemological focus on true propositions.
The gathering of attributes is intended to give a fresh look at the
concept in order to foster renewed dialogue about the concept.
The list of attributes assembled here of course suffers from the usual
problems including the limitation of who does the gathering. Suggestions
and critiques are definitely wished and appreciated.
In characterizing knowledge the following schema has been used. All
general attributes of knowledge are listed under
General Attributes except for biological ones which are listed
separately under Biological Formulations.
There is no justification for this other than this author is taking
special care to include biologistsí views and research into
consideration even when there is low interest in epistemological issues.
In addition to
attributes of knowledge there is a listing of the ways that the
assumption of knowledge
as truth and its use impact our lives. The assumption is that the concept
of knowledge as truth has repercussions in society and that these repercussions
from the use of the current concept give insights into how knowledge
functions. These consequences of the use of heavily veridical, unique
and transparent knowledge are listed in the Social
Aspects section. Most of these are in the form of critique and are
examined from the light of social problems that allegedly derive at
least part of the problematic from the current knowledge conception.
From this vantage the issue of what is knowledge is as much a concern
for social reformers as for philosophers. And it is to be hoped that an
exploration of the consequences of knowledge use will offer motivation
as well as insight into that question. Separated out from social aspects
of knowledge were the Spiritual Aspects for
the only reason that religious and secular values are conventionally
separated even if they are both joined here under the effects of how
knowledge is used.
Finishing up the appraisal of the concept of knowledge is a simple
listing of the various ways we conceive of knowledge from the
Metaphors that we employ about it.
Thoughts and suggestions; Email