Re: Emergent Learning LO2072

Michael McMaster (
Wed, 12 Jul 1995 15:42:30 +0000

Replying to LO2024 --

Jim, I'm going to use the "fondling" analogy. It should at least get
people's attention.

You can put "look into the wastebin" into the database but you can't
put in the integration that generated that brilliantly simple and
"obvious" approach.

Jim then goes onto the, for me, crucial point from the "fleece
fondling" that we all have this sort, that it's the main one of
importance, and that making it explicit would be trivial.

> I don't mean anything mystical here either. In particular, I'm _not_
> saying that this knowledge _can't_ be articulated. I _am_ saying that
> articulation into a spoken language is entirely irrelevant to the role and
> the genesis of this sort of knowledge.
> How did the fleece inspector acquire his knowledge? By fondling lots of
> fleeces. Period.

I don't think it was *only* fondling, however. How about "fondling
and feedback"? The feedback is from fondling and then looking,
fondling and then subjecting to test, fondling and then attempting to
sell it, (isn't "fondling" beginning to grow on you?) and the even
longer feedback loops of marketing the second and nth times.

Until finally, the individual has a rich set of distinctions *none*
of which are necessarily explicit at any point. It isn't in language
nor fingertips - it's integrated into the whole being.

> It's a premise of our
> argument here that the fleece inspector is not doing something mystical
> or occult: that the qualities he is evaluating with his wise and aged
> hands are in fact physical qualities and not spiritual ones
(deleted the computer bit because I doubt it - except maybe by
genetic algorithm or other complexity models - and I eeven doubt

> b) Nonetheless it's not a universal or a logical truth, for almost the
> same reason: because there is no tacit knowledge, as exemplified in the
> fleece story, that cannot _in principle_ be represented in propositional
> form. Given _any_ example of tacit knowledge, there must exist some one
> or more propositions expressing that knowledge.

I challenge the validty of this last statement. It seems to be
merely an extension of Western cosmology characterised by Newton.

Now, back to the pragmatics raised for me in what Jim has said. The
challenge is to transform "magic" or an art into a craft. The latter
can be taught. But not the kind that can be made explicit or
systematised by the propositions or formulae that Jim mentions. To
become a craft, in the way that I'm using the term, is to be able to
created processes (say of "fondling and feedback") that result in
reliable mastery when practiced by others.

This is a community of practice approach (thanks to John Seely Brown
for the term) which incorporates practice, obervations, feedback,
dialogue, metaphor and, yes, even explicit theory. The nature of
theory here is to provide testable approaches - not correct answers.

Michael McMaster