Knowledge is defined (Oxford English Dictionary) variously as (i) expertise, and skills acquired by a person through experience or education; the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject, (ii) what is known in a particular field or in total; facts and information or (iii) awareness or familiarity gained by experience of a fact or situation. Philosophical debates in general start with Plato's formulation of knowledge as "justified true belief". There is however no single agreed definition of knowledge presently, nor any prospect of one, and there remain numerous competing theories.
Knowledge acquisition involves complex cognitive processes: perception, learning, communication, association and reasoning. The term knowledge is also used to mean the confident understanding of a subject with the ability to use it for a specific purpose if appropriate.
Defining knowledge (philosophy)
We suppose ourselves to possess unqualified scientific knowledge of a thing, as opposed to knowing it in the accidental way in which the sophist knows, when we think that we know the cause on which the fact depends, as the cause of that fact and of no other, and, further, that the fact could not be other than it is. Now that scientific knowing is something of this sort is evident — witness both those who falsely claim it and those who actually possess it, since the former merely imagine themselves to be, while the latter are also actually, in the condition described. Consequently the proper object of unqualified scientific knowledge is something which cannot be other than it is.|Aristotle|Posterior Analytics (Book 1 Part 2)}}
The definition of knowledge is a matter of on-going debate among philosophers in the field of epistemology. The classical definition, described but not ultimately endorsed by, Plato, has it that in order for there to be knowledge at least three criteria must be fulfilled; that in order to count as knowledge, a statement must be justified, true, and believed. Some claim that these conditions are not sufficient, as Gettier case examples allegedly demonstrate. There are a number of alternatives proposed, including Robert Nozick's arguments for a requirement that knowledge 'tracks the truth' and Simon Blackburn's additional requirement that we do not want to say that those who meet any of these conditions 'through a defect, flaw, or failure' have knowledge. Richard Kirkham suggests that our definition of knowledge requires that the believer's evidence is such that it logically necessitates the truth of the belief.
In contrast to this approach, Wittgenstein observed, following Moore's paradox, that one can say "He believes it, but it isn't so", but not "He knows it, but it isn't so".  He goes on to argue that these do not correspond to distinct mental states, but rather to distinct ways of talking about conviction. What is different here is not the mental state of the speaker, but the activity in which they are engaged. For example, on this account, to know that the kettle is boiling is not to be in a particular state of mind, but to perform a particular task with the statement that the kettle is boiling. Wittgenstein sought to bypass the difficulty of definition by looking to the way "knowledge" is used in natural languages. He saw knowledge as a case of a family resemblance.
In An Introduction to Logic and Scientific Method (1934), Morris R. Cohen and Ernest Nagel reviewed the pursuit of truth as determined by logical considerations. They reviewed ways of eliminating doubt and arriving at stable beliefs or reliable knowledge, such as
- The method of authority
- The method of intuition
- The methods of experimental inquiry:
- Types of invariant relations
- The experimental method in general
- The method of agreement
- The method of difference
- The joint method of agreement and difference
- The method of concomitant variation
- The doctrine of the uniformity of nature
- The plurality of causes
Their final conclusion was, "Scientific method we declare as the most assured technique man has yet devised for controlling the flux of things and establishing stable beliefs."
In an essay entitled "Inductive Method and Scientific Discovery," Marcello Pera said, "In the first place, the scientific method is a procedure, a general strategy that indicates an ordered sequence of moves (or steps) which the scientist has to make (or go through) in order to reach the goal of his research." (In On Scientific Discovery, edited by Grmek, Cohen, and Cimino , published in the Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science Series.) The scientific method is not a method directly applied, but rather a guide to the mental activity stages of originating, refining, extending, and applying knowledge. It is subject neutral and flexible in use; it is thus suitable for all domains.
Statements about truth must be viewed skeptically. Rather than state something as "true," the following phrase should be used: "On the evidence available today the balance of probability favors the view that..." (V. Gordon Childe, Man Makes Himself, 1936)
The literature contains hundreds of formulas for the scientific method. They are basically the same but differ in length and terminology. In an article "Suggestions for Teaching the Scientific Method" published in the March 1961 issue of American Biology Teacher, Dr. Kenneth B.M. Crooks suggested this one:
- Is there a problem?
- Get the evidence
- Attributes needed
- Weigh all evidence
- Make the educated guess (hypothesis)
- Challenge the hypothesis
- Get a conclusion
- Suspend judgment
- Deductive reasoning
Symbolic representations can be used to indicate meaning and can be thought of as a dynamic process. Hence the transfer of the symbolic representation can be viewed as one ascription process whereby knowledge can be transferred. Other forms of communication include imitation, narrative exchange along with a range of other methods. There is no complete theory of knowledge transfer or communication.
While many would agree that one of the most universal and significant tools for the transfer of knowledge would be the different systems of writing, argument over the usefulness of the written word exists however, with some scholars skeptical of its impact on societies. In his novel Technopoly Neil Postman demonstrates the argument against the use of writing through an excerpt from Plato's work Phaedrus (Postman, Neil (1992) Technopoly, Vintage, New York, pp 73). In this excerpt the scholar Socrates recounts the story of Thamus, the Egyptian king and Theuth the inventor of the written word. In this story, Theuth presents his new invention "writing" to King Thamus, telling Thamus that his new invention "will improve both the wisdom and memory of the Egyptians" (Postman, Neil (1992) Technopoly, Vintage, New York, pp 74). King Thamus is skeptical of this new invention and rejects it as a tool of recollection rather than retained knowledge. He argues that the written word will infect the Egyptian people with fake knowledge as they will be able to attain facts and stories from an external source and will no longer be forced to mentally retain large quantities of knowledge themselves (Postman, Neil (1992) Technopoly, Vintage, New York ,pp 74).
Andrew Robinson also highlights, in his work The Origins of Writing, the possibility for writing to be used to spread false information and there for the ability of the written word to decrease social knowledge (Robinson, Andrew (2003) The Origins of Writing in Crowley and Heyer (eds) Communication in History: Technology, Culture, Society, Boston pp 34). People are often internalizing new information which they perceive to be knowledge but are in reality fill their minds with false knowledge.
Situated knowledge is knowledge specific to a particular situation. Imagine two very similar breeds of mushroom, which grow on either side of a mountain, one nutritious, one poisonous. Relying on knowledge from one side of an ecological boundary, after crossing to the other, may lead to starving rather than eating perfectly healthy food near at hand, or to poisoning oneself by mistake. 
Some methods of generating knowledge, such as trial and error, or learning from experience, tend to create highly situational knowledge. One of the main benefits of the scientific method is that the theories it generates are much less situational than knowledge gained by other methods. Situational knowledge is often embedded in language, culture, or traditions.
Knowledge generated through experience is called knowledge "a posteriori", meaning afterwards. The pure existence of a term like "a posteriori" means this also has a counterpart. In this case that is knowledge "a priori", meaning before. The knowledge prior to any experience means that there are certain "assumptions" that one takes for granted. For example if one is being told about a chair it is clear to him that the chair is in space, that it is 3D. This knowledge is not knowledge that one can "forget", even someone suffering from amnesia experiences the world in 3D. See also: A priori and a posteriori.
One discipline of epistemology focuses on partial knowledge. In most realistic cases, it is not possible to have an exhaustive understanding of an information domain, so then we have to live with the fact that our knowledge is always not complete, that is, partial. Most real problems have to be solved by taking advantage of a partial understanding of the problem context and problem data. That is very different from the typical simple math problems that we solve at school, where all data are given and we have a perfect understanding of formulas necessary to solve them.
Knowledge management is a management theory which emerged in the 1990s. It seeks to understand the way in which knowledge is created, used and shared within organizations. A significant part of Knowledge Management theory and practice aligns two models: (i) the DIKW model, which places data, information, knowledge and wisdom into an increasingly useful pyramid. (ii) Nonaka's reformulation of Polanyi's distinction between tacit and explicit knowledge. Both of these models are increasingly under challenge with different schools of thought emerging which are more fully described and referenced in the main article.
An objective of mainstream knowledge management is to ensure that the right information is delivered to the right person just in time, in order to take the most appropriate decision. In that sense, knowledge management is not interested in managing knowledge per se, but to relate knowledge and its usage. This leads to Organizational Memory Systems. More recent developments have focused on managing networks (the flow of knowledge rather than knowledge itself) and narrative forms of knowledge exchange.
Philosophers versus Biologists: — "Knowledge" of two types
This article deals chiefly with "knowledge" in its traditional form as viewed by philosophers, but it may be helpful to be aware of a broader usage which has been developing within biology/psychology—discussed elsewhere as meta-epistemology, or genetic epistemology, and to some extent related to "theory of cognitive development". [Note that "Epistemology" is the study of knowledge and how it is acquired.]
Until recent times, at least in the Western tradition, it was simply taken for granted that knowledge was something possessed by humans—or God alone—and probably adult humans at that. Sometimes the notion might stretch to (ii) Society-as-such, as in (e.g.) "the knowledge possessed by the Coptic culture" (as opposed to its individual members), but that was not assured either. Nor was it usual to consider unconscious knowledge in any systematic way until this approach was popularized by Freud. 
Other biological domains where "knowledge" might be said to reside, include: (iii) the immune system, and (iv) in the DNA of the genetic code. See the list of four "epistemological domains": Popper, (1975); and Traill (2008 : Table S, page 31)—also references by both to Niels Jerne.
Such considerations seem to call for a separate definition of "knowledge" to cover these more-general systems:
Defining knowledge (biology)
Knowledge is not just information. It must be usefully available to the system, though that system need not be conscious. Thus the criteria seem to be:
- The system should apparently be dynamic and self-organizing (unlike a mere book on its own).
- The knowledge must constitute some sort of representation of "the outside world", or ways of dealing with it (directly or indirectly).
- There must be some way for the system to access this information quickly enough for it to be useful.
Religious meaning of knowledge
In Islam, the prophet Muhammad has described himself and his vicergeant Ali as the sources of knowledge: "I am the City of Knowledge and Ali is its Gate".
Hindu Scriptures present two kinds of knowledge, Paroksha Gnyana and Aporoksha Gnyana. Paroksha Gnyana is secondhand knowledge: knowledge obtained from books, hearsay, etc. Aporoksha Gnyana is the knowledge borne of direct experience, i.e., knowledge that one discovers for oneself. 
The Old Testament's Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil contained the knowledge that separated Man from God: "And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil…" (Genesis 3:22)
In Gnosticism divine knowledge or gnosis is hoped to be attained and escape from the demiurge's physical world. And in Thelema knowledge and conversation with one's Holy Guardian Angel is the purpose of life, which is similar to Gnosis or enlightenment in other mystery religions.
- In Plato's Theaetetus, Socrates and Theaetetus discuss three definitions of knowledge: knowledge as nothing but perception, knowledge as true judgment, and, finally, knowledge as a true judgment with an account. Each of these definitions is shown to be unsatisfactory.
- Ludwig Wittgenstein, On Certainty, remark 42
- There is quite a good case for this exclusive specialization used by philosophers, in that it allows for in-depth study of logic-procedures and other abstractions which are not found elsewhere. However this may lead to problems whenever the topic spills over into those excluded domains—e.g. when Kant (following Newton) dismissed Space and Time as axiomatically "transcendental" and "a priori" — a claim later disproved by Piaget's clinical studies. It also seems likely that the vexed problem of "infinite regress" can be largely (but not completely) solved by proper attention to how unconscious concepts are actually developed, both during infantile learning and as inherited "pseudo-transcendentals" inherited from the trial-and-error of previous generations. See also "Tacit knowledge".
- Piaget, J., and B.Inhelder (1927 / 1969). The child's conception of time. Routledge & Kegan Paul: London.
- Piaget, J., and B.Inhelder (1948 / 1956). The child's conception of space. Routledge & Kegan Paul: London.
- Popper, K.R. (1975). "The rationality of scientific revolutions"; in Rom Harré (ed.), Problems of Scientific Revolution: Scientific Progress and Obstacles to Progress in the Sciences. Clarendon Press: Oxford.
- This "outside world" could include other subsystems within the same organism—e.g. different "mental levels" corresponding to different Piagetian stages. See Theory of cognitive development.
- Part Three, No. 1831. Catechism of the Catholic Church. URL accessed on 2007-04-20.
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