Knowledge as Activity? Moving Knowledge to Knowing

Dr Clive Kanes
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In studies in the humanities, the category of knowledge is often used as a way to hinge diverse phenomena, suggest connections or structures between these, identify positions of privilege and types of value, discuss power, account for and explain economic practices and development, etc as well as mount critiques of these and engage in processes of transformation. Thus, in the English/North American tradition, at least, ‘knowledge’ is used to refer to a vast range of alternative things and kinds of things. However, in many of these the use is generic and typically imprecise. By this I mean the application can often be replaced by more exact words reflecting more accurately the context and purpose. For instance, saying of a fact, “I know”, we might better have said: “I report”, “I inform”, “I consider”, “I recollect”, “I figure”, “I judge”, “I conclude”, etc. Or saying “I know” of a perception, we might have said: “I recognise”, “I see”, “I witness”, “I perceive”. And of a process, we sometimes say, alternatively: “I do”, “I render”, “I perform”, and so on. Such lists, can be structured in various ways, such as “knowledge of fact”, “knowledge of process”, “knowledge by recognition”, etc.

However, as with all lists are created by convention, expendiency, need, desire, necessity, and so on. This suggests we might want to ask by what criteria we can compose lists of knowledge words and from what theoretical space these criteria can be evolved? Now, as the literature – from philosophy in the British/North American and Continental traditions - is considerable, I first offer a schematic overview of certain types of responses. Side-stepping detailed and technical debates, say, between, foundationalist and coherentist accounts, I fix attention on a presupposition often made, I think, about the separation of subject and object in knowledge. In my discussion I draw on Fichte’s famous privileging of what he calls ‘Act’ over ‘fact’, and I show that an activity approach to knowledge leads away from the usual noun-al notion of knowledge, towards, instead, a verbal . I argue this approach has consequences for psychology, education, and other epistemology engaged fields. Drawing on Fichte introduces new problems, however, and leaves a number of old issues unaddressed - some of these are identified and briefly discussed.

Keywords: Knowledge, Epistemology, Foundalism, Coherentism, Fact, Activity, Fichte
Stream: Knowledge, Philosophy, Ethics, Consciousness
Presentation Type: Virtual Presentation in English
Paper: Thinking about Purposes of the Idea of Knowledge

Dr Clive Kanes

Department of Education and Professional Studies, King's College London
London, UK

Ref: H06P0573