6 Different Types Of Knowledge You May Not Have Known About


6 Different Types Of Knowledge You May Not Have Known About

The word ‘ask’ may be an acronym, as far as inspirational talks (and stock photos) go. It means to always seek knowledge.’ Witty, right? There are different types of knowledge. 

Knowledge is as inevitable as change. Even if you don’t want to, you’re instinctively learning one way or another because of everything you see, hear, and feel. You can opt not to watch the weather report; the late-day downpour will teach you to bring an umbrella next time. To put it in the context of today’s culture, you’ll learn things the hard way.

Knowledge comes in many shapes and sizes—tangible or intangible, books or experience, or even the known and the unknown. Epistemology is the field devoted to studying knowledge, and even they’re still learning something new, like what tacit knowledge is. It’s knowledge not transmittable through the spoken or written word. 

Tacit knowledge is relatively new in epistemology, first coined in 1958. Other types of knowledge date back as far as ancient times, discussed among great minds like Plato. Below are a few examples, grouped in order of their nature for simplicity’s sake. For the record, keep in mind that one isn’t necessarily superior to the other. 

1. Knowledge By Experience (A Priori VS A Posteriori)

A Priori is knowledge derived without experiencing, while A Posteriori is knowledge derived after the experience. A Priori means knowing that you can cook a simple recipe after watching a video, while A Posteriori means realizing that you almost set your kitchen on fire.

2. Knowledge By Scope (Dispersed VS Domain)

Dispersed knowledge means no single entity holds all the knowledge, whereas domain knowledge means one has in-depth knowledge about the subject matter (not absolute). In domain, a surgeon knows what they must do to save their patient’s life. In dispersed, a surgeon knows that they need the help of other professionals (e.g., anesthesiologists, nurses).

3. Knowledge By Observability (Empirical VS Encoded)

Empirical knowledge is from something you’ve seen firsthand, while encoded knowledge is from recorded media. Reading up on cases of injuries caused by running with scissors is encoded, while proving in a study how it can be dangerous is empirical. 

Empirical knowledge isn’t the same as A Posteriori knowledge. The former requires observing the phenomenon using your senses, while the latter also includes sensations experienced in dreams or the like.

4. Knowledge By Mastery (Imperative VS Descriptive)

Imperative knowledge involves learning how to perform tasks step by step; descriptive knowledge involves grasping the task in detail. In education, active learning is imperative, and passive learning is descriptive—each is more effective in certain situations. Descriptive knowledge works better in preparing for exams, but imperative knowledge is more effective in hands-on exercises.

Parents can also use these in motivating children to learn. Parents are encouraged to be flexible in this regard, striking a balance between giving their kids control over their studies to guiding them when they hit a dead end.

5. Rumsfeld’s Wisdom

When then-U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was asked about the lack of evidence linking the then-Saddam Hussein’s Iraq to weapons of mass destruction, he replied with his famous ‘there are known knowns’ statement. Michael Shermer, monthly columnist for Scientific American, calls this Rumsfeld’s wisdom and is broken down to three parts:

  • The ‘known knowns’ are everything that’s general knowledge
  • The ‘known unknowns’ are those that people are aware of but don’t understand
  • The ‘unknown unknowns’ are those that people are neither aware nor understand

When you know a particular information, it’s a ‘known known.’ When you don’t know something and want to look it up, the knowledge you gain is a ‘known unknown.’ When information involves complex questions, like, “Is there a God,” it’s an ‘unknown unknown’ because finding the answer to that is beyond human comprehension.

While this knowledge trended during Rumsfeld’s tenure in 2002, the concept has been explained in detail by various thinkers in the past.

6. Metaknowledge

This article about knowledge is an example of metaknowledge—knowledge about knowledge (as in the ‘dream within a dream’ from the movie ‘Inception’). This type usually involves mechanisms on managing it more effectively; in this case, grouping these types of knowledge based on nature.

Final Thoughts

The vast scope of knowledge makes sure that you learn whether you’re aware that you’re learning. It’s a certainty that people can choose to manage to help them in their daily lives. Treat knowledge as a blessing and it’ll pull you through.

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