Re: Knowledge vs. Belief LO2718

Michael McMaster (
Sat, 9 Sep 1995 15:24:48 +0000

Replying to LO2683 --

I wrote:
> >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.)

And, Jack Hirshfeld replied:
> Aha, Michael. And just how do you "know" that John can provide the
> demonstration? Perhaps you've been there when he did it. If so, what's
> the name for my "knowing" it, now that you've assured me that it's so?
> Doesn't this take us back to the thread about knowledge embedded in
> stories, and the use of story to transmit "knowing".

A very good challenge from Jack, "How do I know if I haven't seen
it?" I don't *know* in the same sense that I was using the word -
and that takes us somewhere very interesting.

In this case, I *know* by story as Jack says. I don't think, though,
that I'll go to the point of the fleece that Jack does. The story
helps and the imagination that it allows helps - as in "feeling the
fleece". But there is something else that I am counting on.

Some Native Americans - I think the Anasazi - have a language tradition
that has no cause and effect in it. The source of knowing in their
language is direct experience (I saw, heard, smelled, etc) or the naming
of the chain of telling from direct experience to me to you. That is, A
said that B told her that C reported seeing a D hit E.

So *knowing* depends on the system accepted by the culture or the
language. In my case, *knowing* is function of direct experience OR
narrative where the language is consistent with the elements of experience
that I (or my culture) require as the qualities of *knowing*. Some of
these are:

- a theory or approach that is plausible
- reports of actual experience consistent with the above
- offers, promises, expressions consistent with the above
- outlines of "how to" consistent with the above
- ability to generate in response to questions consistent
with the above,
- etc.

I have participated in all of the above experiences with John without
actually seeing the result. If I'd seen the result, I would not be *more
knowing* for I would still need all of the above and, while I'd personally
feel more certain, I would also be aware that my interpretation of the
action and results would be a matter largely of the same process by which
I judged the above coloured by my existing theory about what worked and
why. Seeing the actuality would make very little difference - especially
if it was only once.

Michael McMaster