About Knowledge and Experience

The noun ‘knowledge’ and the verb ‘to know’ are used in a large variety of ways. – Robert M. Martin

The word ‘knowledge’ is nearly useless because of how imprecise it is. If we are going to talk intelligently we need to be much clearer.

I will, usually, use ‘knowledge’ to refer to claims that are accepted as true because they are justified and reliable. Whole books are devoted to this subject, so we won’t dwell on that here. The main point here is that knowledge deals with words and concepts.

My purpose today is to specify what is not knowledge. What is usually called know-how is not knowledge. It is better-termed as experience, by which I mean “direct observation of or participation in events.” It is only when you translate this experience into words and concepts does it become knowledge.

Another case is when we say that we know someone. Again, it is primarily an experience of “direct observation of or participation” with the other person. And again, it becomes knowledge when we translate that into words and concepts.

We could say that there are two kinds of experience, the procedural experience of doing, and the personal experience of being. And knowledge can also be of two kinds, propositional knowledge of an individual claim, and perspectival knowledge of a synthesis of many claims giving one an overall view of things.

The thing about perspectival knowledge is that it is the place where knowledge is compared to experience, where the map is matched to the territory. It is only here that we know whether or not our philosophy of life corresponds to reality.

So all knowledge deals with words and concepts, while experience deals with non-verbal interactions.

Published by

Jay N. Forrest

We are old too soon, and wise too late! I am a philosopher, a pursuer of wisdom. I have spent my life seeking to know the truth and discover wisdom for living. I don't claim to be a wise man, just an old man. But I do think I have something to say that might help those interested in living a good life without the supernatural.