Friday, March 28, 2014

Is Knowledge Transferable?

Is Knowledge Transferable?

I study, there I am - transferable? 

The Greeks Knew Knowledge

The key to answering this question lies in the use of the word "knowledge" itself. In English it has various meanings across the spectrum of BOTH what can and cannot be transferred. To get a better handle on this we have to go to the ancient language of the Greeks where these original ideas were first birthed before morphing into the condensed language of English.

Greek has at least 10 words that can get translated into English as the noun "knowledge". Most all these have the basis of "(k)no" from which our word derives.

  • Gnosis - primarily a seeking to know, an inquiry, investigation, denotes knowledge, especially of spiritual truth
  • Epignosis - denotes exact or full knowledge, discernment, recognition, and  is a strengthened form of "gnosis", expressing a fuller or a full knowledge, a greater participation by the knower in the object known, thus more powerfully influencing him
  • Nous - mind, denotes, speaking generally, the seat of reflective consciousness, comprising the faculties of perception and understand, and those of feeling, judging and determining
  • Dianoia - a thinking through, or over, a mediation, reflecting, signifies the faculty of knowing, understanding or moral reflection, 
  • Ennoia - an idea, notion, intent, is rendered "mind" 
  • Noema - thought, design, is rendered "minds" 
  • Gnome - thought, design, is rendered "minds" 
  • Sunesis - to set together, to understand, denotes understanding, reflective thought
  • Phronema - denotes what one has in the mind, the thought or an object of thought
  • Agnosia - the negative of "gnosis", ignorance, is rendered "no knowledge"

Greeks Specialized in Knowledge
So asking if each of the above Greek depictions of "knowledge" are transferable, we are given a broader understanding of the question. For starters, just asking the question implies that knowledge is something that exists as an object—exists even outside the human realm! That in itself could be debated (and rightfully so) but being in the age of mass media with the computer, modern man assumes at some point knowledge can be gathered on disk or written down in books; if all humanity died out on the planet, knowledge itself would somehow still exist. This is knowledge as information.

Network and Context of Knowledge
With this definition of knowledge, it would seem quite logical that knowledge indeed is transferable. It can be written down, spoken into a microphone, recorded into a computer and at some point, read, listened, or decoded into transferred knowledge. (Wah-Lah!)

Network and Context of Knowledge

Now at the other end of the spectrum we have knowledge as understanding. Or, knowledge that can be applied and added to other knowledge to gain intelligence, possibly even insight and wisdom - giving direction or paths of pursuance for individual or group goals. This is the type of knowledge one must ask is transferable or not. Can I put this into a computer? Can I record it and expect others to take it in?

God creates man, man create himself?
This is where the temptation is to say, "No, knowledge is not transferable." This is true partly out of pride in thinking that certain insights and wisdom and accumulated knowledge are special to me and my life's efforts. It is innate to me the subject and not simply an object.

Only objects are literally transferable

If knowledge is an object it is transferable. If it is some unique quality residing within myself that has been birthed out of my own thinking and experiences that are unique to me, then when I die - it dies also. It can only be generated in real time from within me.

I can write it down.
I can try to express it.
I can tell you all about it.
But I can never transfer the whole network of context that resides around and networks to it. That is unique to me and my living self.

"Hi! I am you trans-placed!"

Self as Object

This is where the issue hits home. In this age of information where "smartness" is the quintessential virtue worthy of praise (think about it... what do you praise your child for mostly?), then this is the version of knowledge that is most worthy of asking if simply an object that can be replaced, moved, replicated, handed off, transferred or is it something else?

Self as Object
If this kind of knowledge is simply an object, then that makes you and your "self" - the very core of the accumulation of all you have sought, gathered and valued in your life - a thing that neither is unique nor even worthy of solitary existence. We can just transfer all of "you"... your "self" into some other container - (containers hold objects) - and give it movability and arms and “Wah-Lah!”, you and all your value has been transferred. You have been replaced. Transferred to a CPU with memory and algorithms into machinery that walks and talks - yes, of course - a robot, with "you" trans-placed into it.

So, how special are you? How replaceable are you? Is all that you are and have and become ultimately... transferable?

I study, therefore I am - transferable?


As for me, I like to think, the knowledge that the Greeks called Epignosis, Dianoia, or Sunesis is unique to the context generated by and generated from decades of experience, thinking, and gathering of my own insights -  of life, science and humanity - into a living breathing human process.

A process that, although, not transferable, can be experienced and delighted in -  by other living, breathing human processes seeking also to define themselves and define what they offer as value greater than that which can be transferred as an object.

A process I'd call - me.