Saturday, August 9, 2008

How Do We Know What We Know?

That question got asked in a session all about putting theory into practice. I found the session very fascinating because there were so many different disciplines brought up that study theory application and utilization - psychodynamic approach, leadership development, action learning, action research, just to name about half. Then someone asked that question that sounds so philosophical, yet made sense when he explained how many different cultures he had dealt with in his formative years and educational process (something like six cultures). Then each of these professors answered him in meaningful ways - one discussed that knowledge isn't a concrete thing but very fluid, another commented on "knowing vs. knowledge", and yet another simply pointed out that a lot of people can talk about what they know, but we can only count on what they can actually do with that supposed knowledge. I really enjoyed the session, and it wasn't even on my radar screen until one of the facilitators mentioned it last night at our AOM new member orientation.

So how do we know what we know, and does what we know really matter to others? Is knowledge, as one of them said, simply a security blanket that we use whenever we feel challenged or fear embarrassment? So often, people do just that in the midst of a debate - point out a fact they consider irrefutable, if only to show they are not stupid. The idea of putting knowledge into practice fascinates me because leadership development is such a big part of what first interested me in becoming a professor (and hopefully, a scholar). In the context of my other interests, throwing "facts" around lately seems to be at the center of the political debate. Facts are not being used to educate so much as to throw the next volley of arrows, or at other times they are being used to cover the ears, eyes, and mouth in the "hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil" pose. If facts became olive branches, perhaps we might find our way to a better future together.

-- Robert


le35 said...

Knowledge, to me, is a search for truth. There is no point in knowledge if you aren't going to use it for good. If you just want to show everyone how smart you are, knowledge is useless.

Robert said...

That would be what the scriptures say about knowledge. Knowledge without wisdom is dangerous. Wisdom in that context refers to eternal truth, i.e., gospel. Knowledge tempered with wisdom, though, can be quite powerful.

Natasha Becoming Something said...

Hmmm. That would have been a really interesting discussion. I would have enjoyed it. Even now, reading your post I'm a little bit frustrated wanting to know what they meant by this or that.

I always defined knowledge as knowing truth. Otherwise it's a supposition, isn't it? Wisdom to me is spiritual, even if not pertaining to a topic we'd normally define as "spiritual". And knowledge without wisdom? Definitely useless.

(I like how your wife changed her name without really changing it. Didn't her linky name used to be her real name?)

Robert said...

Her linky name on your blog would be what she typed in. Her linky name on here could be the same thing, but she's left it as her ID in her profile.

I am sure you would've loved the discussion. It was very enriching. I can't speak at this point to what they meant by things unless you ask specifics, but I'll try if you want. I think they see knowledge as less concrete than "truth" because in scientific elements, knowledge is continually evolving. That's where they get the idea that it is fluid. As for truth, I see that often as wisdom if we're talking eternal truth. Truth in terms of factual knowledge is not always as objective as we'd like, and therefore becomes somewhat hard to nail down. There are certainly truths out there, don't get me wrong. It's just that the search for truth is not necessarily what they're getting at. Knowledge is an evolving thing, and as it becomes perfected, perhaps it approaches wisdom (truth).

Natasha Becoming Something said...

Mmm, yes, science does evolve. Knowledge in that sense IS fluid.

Robert said...

Well, the study of entrepreneurship is definitely a social science, and uses scientific methods. So now I guess that point makes more sense.