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Distance Learning Workshop 9: What Is Knowledge?
One of Knowledge Management's mysteries is
the relative lack of attention paid to the theory of knowledge. Everyone who
writes a KM book seems to offer a definition of knowledge, but they usually
don't critically review the literature or attempt to explain why their
definition is to be preferred to alternatives. Since “knowledge” is certainly
central to KM as a discipline, and one can hardly develop coherent ideas about
KM, without having a clear notion of “knowledge” in mind, this “conspiracy of
silence” can give a person new to the field pause. The conspiracy exists
however, because 2500 years of discourse on the nature of knowledge have not
sufficed to produce a widely accepted theory of knowledge, and Knowledge
Management practitioners don't want to become mired down in age-old
controversies, that involve a level of theorizing that few of them have either
the desire or the capability to engage in.
However, no matter how much KM practitioners wish to place the issue of what knowledge is on the back-burner, it won't stay there. The reason is that what one thinks about the nature of knowledge impacts what one thinks the differences between knowledge and information are, and also impacts what one thinks KM intervention is, and the nature of the KM interventions one will favor or oppose. So, each KM practitioner, must know enough about the Theory of Knowledge to decide for themselves on the view they will adopt, and on how it is related to KM as they see it. It is the purpose of this workshop to enable people to begin this consideration by learning a little bit about the evolution of ideas about knowledge and the details of some contemporary views.
During the last century our ideas about knowledge changed. We used to think it was "Justified True Belief". We now think it is "Justified True Belief". But we don't mean what we used to mean by "justified". We also have a more complex view of "belief". And many of us now believe that knowledge doesn't even have to be "true".
This Workshop is the story of how and why our ideas about knowledge have changed, and what our ideas, on the cutting edge, are like now. It is the story of how we've moved from an absolutist supernatural perspective on knowledge to a natural and fallibilist, Darwinian one. It is also the story of how we've moved from justified to unjustified knowledge, and from a view that knowledge is unique to humans to one that views knowledge as an important feature of all life "from the amoeba to Einstein".
Finally, this Workshop is about the very fundamental difference the changes in our ideas about knowledge make in how we ought to go about making new knowledge in our own lives, in our enterprises, and in our Governments. The Workshop will cover:
Traditional Philosophical Views
The Views of Complexity and Second Order Cybernetics
Knowledge and Culture
Views of Knowledge in Knowledge Management
Tacit vs. Explicit Knowledge
The Popperian View
The Workshop Syllabus is available
The Workshop is taught by Joseph M. Firestone, Ph.D. Dr. Firestone's credentials are available here.
Text and other materials for the workshop include:
Joseph M. Firestone and Mark W. McElroy (2003), “Corporate Epistemology: Competing Philosophies of Truth in Business and How They Influence Knowledge Management,” available at:
Joseph M. Firestone and Mark W. McElroy (2003) Excerpt #1 from The Open Enterprise: Building Business Architectures for Openness and Sustainable Innovation, Hartland Four Corners, VT: KMCI Online Press, available at: http://www.dkms.com/papers/
Joseph M. Firestone's forthcoming book, Riskonomics: Reducing Risk by Killing Your Worst Ideas (.pdf file)
Fritjof Capra (1996) The Web of Life, New York, NY: Anchor Books.
Bruce Aune (1970), Rationalism, Empiricism, and Pragmatism, New York, NY: Random House.
In addition, a set of extensive course notes will be provided, and a
Certificate of Workshop Completion will be issued upon completion of this Workshop.
The Workshop is available weekly on Tuesdays and Thursdays. You can reserve it one week or earlier from the date you want to take it. After that time, you may still be able to enroll in the Workshop, if others have already scheduled it. But if it hasn't been scheduled, you still may not be able to enroll if another workshop has been scheduled for the same day. Register here for the What Is Knowledge? Workshop.