Polanyi, The Tacit Dimension LO25967

From: AM de Lange (amdelange@gold.up.ac.za)
Date: 01/23/01

Replying to LO25957 --

Dear Organlearners,

Winfried Dressler <winfried.dressler@voith.de> writes:

>At, you write "experential" knowledge. I would expect
>"experiential". After observing your and others use of
>"exper(i)ential" and consulting my dictionaries (which don't
>know the word "experential", I realize that you and others
>usually write "experiential". Only when you write about the
>first level of knowledge, you write consistently "experential".
>Does this have any deeper meaning?

Greetings dear Winfried,

You are right -- it should be spelled with the "i", i.e. "experiential".
Your level of observation is remarkable.

Yes, it has a deeper meaning -- my bad spelling because of bad memory.

I do not use a spell checker with MS Outlook Express because I do not want
to load MS Office. (Allowing people to program in an application outside a
consistent programming environment gives the bad guys the chance to infect
our computers with diseases. Its like allowing genetic manipulation in a
factory rather than selective breeding in a consistent farming
environment.) I do have a spell checker in a non-MS word processor, but it
is too tedious to use when writing in Outlook Express. I look up the
spelling of a word when I am not sure, but often my "sureness" is not
operating as it should do.

I once traced the etymology (evolution) of the word "experience". I had to
do it now again to find a possible reason why my mind did not pick up the
wrong spelling. It comes from the Latin -- the preffix "ex-"=out and the
verb "perio"=try. Thus experience meant "to try out". But the verb "perio"
itself seems to have originated from "per"=through and "eo"=go. So
"trying" originally meant "going through". Once we have this
understanding, an interesting connection can be made between the Latin
"expereo" (not "experio") as "out through going" and our own Germanic
languages like German (GER), Dutch, Afrikaans (AFR) and Old English (OE).

The words for "experience" in our languages are experience="Erfahrung"
(GER) and "ervaring" (AFR). The stem
"fahren"(GER)="vaar"(AFR)="faran"(OE)=go. I suspect that you are getting
excited because the prefix "er-" means what you suspect, namely
"er-"=out/up. This "er-" is used most interestingly in the words
"erken"(AFR)="erkennen"(GER)=acknowledge/admit which we have. It is not
merely knowledge, but knowledge which comes out from the inside! The
English acknowledge itself is actually a hybrid between
"cnawlec"(OE)=knowledge and the Latin prefix "ad-"=to.

It is also interesting that the prefix "er-" in OE has disappeared
completely in modern English through replacement by the Latin "ex-". It
makes me sad to think that the prefix "er-" is also not used any more in
Afrikaans to create new words. Its like a gene which got switched off --
it is still inherited, but it does nothing any more. I wonder how it is
for Dutch and German with respect to this "er-". How far can we go by
considering the prefixes and suffixes of a language (if it does have them)
as its genes? In a previous contribution I have reported on the suffix
"-sel". It is a gene still operating actively in Afrikaans for creating
new words. What will become of our langauges when we switch on the gene
"er-" on again? In English we have the word understand which tells
something which know and learn do not tell -- it is knowing standing on
something solid. It is easy to switch on the gene "er-" to create the word
"erstand". It will mean exactly the same thing which I now have to express
with two words as one concept: "emergent learning". I wonder which fellow
learners erstood this "er-" ;-)

What did the ancient peoples (Germanic and Romanic) know what we do not
know any more by articulating experience as "out going"? Did they perceive
it as something which goes out from sentience -- the sensations caused by
the five sensory organs taste, smell, touch, see and hear? Did they
perceive it as something to be gained when going out (travelling) to
another region with its own context? Did they, how meagre it may now seem,
try to articulate their tacit knowledge of openness -- opening up? Is it
not high time that we begin to think more seriously about "the thing"
which we map into the many words like complexification, development,
evolution, etymology, history and even "going out"? Will we ever be able
to give "the thing" a unique name and thus take the first step in
articulating it? How incredible is the dance of LEP on LEC not?

Winfried, I think that I began to write "experential" because of the
"expereo" rather than the "experio", but I was not even aware of doing it.
Thanks for pointing it out to me. Shall I correct my spelling?

By the way, Polanyi says that the "tacit knowing" (not "tacit knowledge")
has "two terms" or "two kinds of things" in a "from-to" relationship. He
also calls it "two kinds of knowing" which are both tacit. The first kind
has to do with the awareness of sensations and the second kind with paying
attention to this awareness in a functional manner. I am not sure whether
his "tacit awareness" as the first kind of knowing in the tacit dimension
is my (bottom level) of "experential knowledge" and his "tacit attention"
as the second kind of knowing in the tacit dimension is my (second level)
of "mute ( ;-) knowledge", but I suspect strongly that it is the case.

Try to tell directly about your experiences and see how difficult it is,
if not impossible in most cases. That is why I stopped taking pictures in
the deserts some fifteen years ago, saying:
. One picture is worth a thousand words, but
. one experience is worth a thousand pictures.

Interestingly enough, I have met several people through the years who
maintain that "ervaring" is more valuable than even wisdom (fourth level
of knowledge -- sapient knowledge). When I asked them (then using
specifically the English word experience) whether they really meant that
"experience" is more important than "wysheid"=wisdom, they said without
exception that "ervaring" is not the same as "experience". When I tried to
get them so far as to articulate what "ervaring" means to them, it indeed
manifested itself as a knowing which they could not tell !!!!!! What did
they know which they could not tell? I think it is experiencing within
themselves the wholeness of all knowledge and the rest of the levels of
their spirituality for they are indeed without exception very spiritual
(mental) persons.

With care and best wishes


At de Lange <amdelange@gold.up.ac.za> Snailmail: A M de Lange Gold Fields Computer Centre Faculty of Science - University of Pretoria Pretoria 0001 - Rep of South Africa

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