The Form of Knowledge LO25969

From: AM de Lange (
Date: 01/23/01

Replying to LO25960 --

Dear Organlearners,

Greetings to all of you.

I refer to a contribution of mine under the old topic
. Polanyi, The Tacit Dimension LO25960
but now under this new topic.

In it I wrote that both Michael Polanyi (MP) and Ilya Prigogine (IP) are
deeply aware of the dynamical "from-to" structure. MP uses it, for example
as "from knowledge to knowing" in his book "The Tacit Dimension" to tell
something crucial of tacit knowing. IP usues it as the main theme of his
book >From Being to Becoming.

Why do they share this deep awareness? It is no coincidence that MP worked
in physical chemistry while IP works in chemical physics. Both have to
come to grib with the actual meaning of the chemical reaction in a very
complex context which involves both chemistry and physics.

The most constraining Mental Model which any learner (pupil, student and
even you dear fellow learner) can have when trying to learn chemistry from
the beginning, is to think of the chemical reactions as a "being"
(picture) rather than a "becoming" (movie).

Consider as example the following expressions -- the first line in words
and the second line in symbols in exactly the same order:

sodium hydroxide and hydrochloric react to give sodium chloride and water
NaOH + HCl => NaCl + H2O

Having the Mental Model to try and understand everything in terms of
beings causes the following. The learner thinks that first he/she has NaOH
(sodium hydroxide) and HCl (hydrochloric acid) as separate beings. Then
they get mixed which result in the mixture as a common being. Afterwards
the mixture began to react to form a solution (again a mixture) of NaCl
(sodium chloride or table salt) and some H2O (water) which dilutes the
solution. Perhaps there are close to a billion of learners at present
trying to understand the chemical reaction with this Mental Model.

The articulation of the chemical reaction above, whether in words or
formulae, says something quite different. It says that there is actually a
conversion process going on $$from$$ the two compounds NaOH and HCl $$to$$
the two compounds NaCl and H2O. I can stress this becoming even more by
. While one unit of NaOH and one unit of HCl are
. disappearing, one unit of NaCl and one unit of
. H2O are appearing. This "becoming" happens right
. amidst all the units of NaOH, HCl, NaCl and H2O
. which are there as the "beings".

Try to understand the LO-dialogue in this latter manner of the movie
rather than a picture and a new world of understanding will unfold itself
before you. You will also begin to understand depths in what MP and IP
wrote which you previously were unware of. The fact that they know the
chemical reaction is essential to understand them. I have tried to
articulate the essence of this "knowing of reacting chemically".

Try not to think of form or organisation as "being", but as

By the way, to "understand everything in terms of beings" is called
ontological thinking in philosophy. Most philosophers claim that all
thinking is ontological. I know of many chemists who understand some
philosophy, but I do not know any philosopher thinking ontological who
understands the chemical reaction. Ontology without ontogeny is a serious
Mental Model.

With care and best wishes


At de Lange <> 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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