Re: Knowledge vs. Belief LO2660

Michael McMaster (
Thu, 31 Aug 1995 21:47:21 +0000

Replying to LO2624 --

It seems to me that "knowing" is being used in a very narrow sense in
this conversation. In an academic or conceptual sense, I can
usefully use what John Warfield proposed for definitions - ie
depersonalised belief. But there are other ways of knowing and
senses of knowing that are at least as old as the conceptual - and, I
suggest, at least as useful.

Try this exercise. Think of something that you believe. How do you
know that you believe it? If this leads to a conceptual exercise,
try another approach. Discover where you experience "knowing" in
your physical being. (Most discover a sensation in some location
that is in the centre line of the body.)

"Knowing" is a much more physical term - actually a whole system term
- for my useage.

In a biological sense, "knowing" refers to action potential and has
nothing to do with truth or belief. (I am doing my own
transformation of F. Varela to arrive at this.) Just as a belief
might be wrong, knowing may lead to a "wrong" ie. (life-threatening)
action. That which you claim to know but which has no action
potential - no action impetus - is not knowledge or knowing in the
sense in which I am using it.

If you say to me that you know how to play tennis, I hand you a
tennis racquet and take you out on the court. Your beliefs are
irrelevant. Your concepts are irrelevant.

I suggest a similar test for those who claim to "know" something
about systems, or complexity or Interactive Management - let them
demonstrate that their knowing is a source of effective action. (I
include Interactive Management because it's John's creation and I
know that he can provide the demonstration.)

Michael McMaster