Knowledge Management LO29155

From: Mark W. McElroy (
Date: 09/09/02

Replying to LO29146 --


Thank you for your support, tentative though it was. If I may, I'd like
to clarify what I see as a possible confusion in your position, and
explain mine while I'm at it.

You said:

"For me knowledge is understood more by the processes of its use than in
its content. Knowledge involves the intentional and effective application
of nformation to the manipulation of our environment in the pursuit of the
satisfaction of needs. Maybe this is what Mark means - we validate what we
know by trying it and finding that it works. Learning is what we do when
we find that it doesn't work."

I think this is quite close to what I do, in fact, mean. But I'm still
troubled by what I see as vestiges of the "knowledge is the use of
knowledge" argument. Also, telling us what knowledge "involves" doesn't
tell us at all what knowledge "is."

My problem with the "knowledge is the use of knowledge" argument is that
(a) it's a circular definition, and (b) it fails to account for the
existence of knowledge. The existence of knowledge, and hence its
production, necessarily precedes action. First we produce knowledge, then
we integrate it into our schema, after which we practice it.

Think of it in reverse. First we practice knowledge, then we sometimes
find that our knowledge is inadequate. We then acquire/produce new
knowledge (i.e., we learn). Then we change our actions. The knowledge
that inspires our actions, in either case, is never the same AS our

If that doesn't work for you, try this: if I reduce my knowledge to the
form of a written claim, and you then read it and think about it, was the
lingusitic expression of my knowledge (what Karl Popper called world 3
knowledge) any less 'knowledge,' simply because it was not expressed in
the form of action? Further, if I hold a belief without taking action at
all, is my belief any less 'knowledge' simply because I have not put it to
'use' (yet)?

Next, your argument fails to account for the fact that I can practice BOTH
information and knowledge. If I have 'information' that tells me one
thing, and 'knowledge' that tells me another, I am equally in a position
to practice either, or both. Or do people never put the 'information'
they have into action? How am I supposed to tell the difference between
them if not for how I feel about the veracity of one versus the other?
And clearly, the action I take is different from either one of them.
Moreover, some information or so-called knowledge may be false. Are false
actions 'knowledge'? Are the modified actions I take afterwards also
knowledge? If so, on what basis? Are all actions that people take
something that we should regard as knowledge regardless of the closeness
of their bases to truth? If so, this still leaves us with the problem of
'information'-in-action being no different than what you would have us see
as 'knowledge'-in-action. Further, is all action knowledge?

No, knowledge, information, and action are not equivalent.

Indeed, the "knowledge is the use of knowledge" argument fails to make the
distinction between truth and falsity, or the relative truth of the claims
we hold. Claims, and the record of testing and evaluation that lies
behind them, are essential to our capacity to adapt. How else are we to
make the distinction between reliable claims and unreliable ones -- i.e.,
between 'just information' and knowledge? And if the distinction I speak
of is not the province of knowledge, then of what province is it? Or is
the relative truth of claims not at all of interest to knowledge
management -- or to humanity?

I appreciate your comments.



"Mark W. McElroy" <>

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