History of Uncovering the Act of Learning LO28773

From: AM de Lange (amdelange@postino.up.ac.za)
Date: 07/03/02

Replying to LO28747 --

Dear Organlearners,

Dileep Damle <Dileep.Damle@abbeynational.co.uk> writes:

>I have been burdened with this term knowledge
>management and am finding that this is still a debate and
>not necessarily knowledge.

Greetings dear Dileep,

Thank you for your contribution. Thank you also for mentioning "knowledge

I think personaly that "knowledge management" is a misnomer. It should
have been called "information managament". Knowledge lives within a person
whereas information exists outside a person. Knowledge from within is
needed to create novel information outside, but information from outside
cannot create novel knowledge within. Knowledge mangement in thse sense
means for one person to get into into the mind of another person and
organise knowledge there at will.

>After have been through the reductionist approaches, I
>have just within the last week or so come across George
>Lakoff's Contemporary Theory of Metaphor. I found it
>illuminating and credible.

>Anyone interested can find the papers by searching the
>web, but here I will describe my take on this.
>GL seems to that all (or most) of our concepts are made
>up of metaphors based upon some basic experiential
>concepts such as dark/light, near/far etc. which we sense
>directly through our sensory apparatus. Everything else
>is built on top of this.

Creating language comes in at a curious level of the act of learning. Both
Rousseau and Pestalozzi identified the levels sensation, experience and
then speach. It took another 150 years for Michael Polanyi to identify the
level tacit knowing between experience and formal knowing (of which speach
is its first and foremost formalisation). The problem in articulating
tacit knowing is to seek a word with an analogical meaning to express it,
but of which the original meaning by experience must already be known.

The use of metaphors in creating language has been known already for a
long time. For example, it had already been mentioned by W Skeat in his
1888 edition of "Etymology of the English Language". The usual pattern of
development is as follows.

All European, Persian and Indian languages have dveloped from a common
language ancestor called proto-Indo-European (p-IE). The proto means that
we no actual documentation of it is available so that it has to be infered
by every old languages derived from it like Ionian, Persian and Sanskrit.
Take for example the simple p-IE word "su". It refered to four things:
sea, rain, press juice out and generate. Already hear we perceive
metaphors in action. "su" (pressing juice out out of fruit) is likened to
"su" (experiencing rain).

In the p-Gm (proto-Germanic) languages derived from p-IE, the "seat of the
spirit and intellect" got likened to this "su" with the derivative
"saiwala" ("sauwala"). Via the Saxon "sauwel" it became the modern English
word "soul". Thinking of the soul metaphorically as sea, rain, juice
giving and generation gives an interesting viewpoint of what the soul
amounts to.

Here is more modern example. When physicists discovered empirically that
an atom has a lot of empty space with only a tiny "hard part" in its
centre, they had to give a name for it. They selected the Latin "nux"=nut
which they changed into "nucleus"

These examples illustrate of what you quoted from Lakoff:

>" ... The difference is that experiential bases precede,
>ground and make sense of conventional metaphorical
>mappings, while realisations follow, and are made sense
>of, via the conventional metaphors. And as we noted
>above, one generations realisations of a metaphor can
>become part of the next generations experiential basis
>for that metaphor"

You then write

>I think this sums up the act of learning. It involves,
>observing real world phenomena (through our sense
>and the phenomena include hearing language, reading
>text, viewing diagrams,...), then correlating the patterns
>of experience with existing metaphors and perhaps
>building new concepts.

I do not think that it goes as far as summing up the act of learning, but
it is definitely essential to the act of learning.

I want to stand still at the most interesting term which you have used,
namely "metaphorical mappings". The central feature of it is in my opinion
the concept "one-to-many-mapping". Why is "one-to-many- mapping" possible
at all???
>So, I suggest (and I am probably wrong) that learning
>is this act of correlating and solidifying through experience.
>Once learnt, we have knowledge - a concept structure
>that can be re-applied in the form of metaphor to correlate
>with new experience or to build new concepts.

I do not think that you are wrong. But I would suggest that you
contemplate this "one-to-many-mapping" by which our sensations diversify
into exprerience and the latter diversify into out tacit knowing.

Forgive me for not commenting on your last paragraph in which some
important things are said, but I have to rush elsewhere.

With care and best wishes,


At de Lange <amdelange@postino.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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