During one of our class’ initial discussions on our beliefs about knowledge and how and where it exists, the idea of knowledge only being considered true knowledge when it is applied practically was put forward. After assembling my own ideas about what I believe knowledge to be and how I believe it exists, I decided that I didn’t necessarily agree with this and here’s why:
Proposition: Knowledge can exist in both theoretical and applied forms.
P1: We generally require previous knowledge on a matter prior to its practical application.
P2: Prior knowledge on a matter that has yet to be applied is theoretical knowledge.
C: Knowledge can exist in both theoretical and applied forms.
I tend to believe that knowledge exists within us as a collection of experiences, processed by rational thought and packaged into a unified body of the two. I don’t view knowledge as something essentially external to us and consider ideas which exist prior to their application to be a form of knowledge. To construct my argument I defined theoretical knowledge as the prior knowledge we possess on a matter that has yet to be applied. We generally require this type of knowledge (theoretical knowledge) before performing new tasks (applying knowledge). For example, when learning to ride a bike, it helps to have it described to you verbally or for you to witness someone else do it before attempting to do it yourself. I consider the information obtained through this witnessing and/or description of an activity to be theoretical knowledge. It is this type of knowledge that (hopefully) keeps us from falling on our faces when learning to do things such as ride a bike.
My argument is heavily influenced by Immanuel Kant and his ideas about the unity of consciousness. He stresses the idea that knowledge is based on a combination of rationalism and empiricism; the synthesis of experience and critical thought. If knowledge is influenced by both experience and rational thought, it in itself must exist in forms that coincide with each. Unless we are performing an activity which is instinctual to us, we cannot perform it without some prior knowledge on it. Whether this prior knowledge is derived through observation or explanation, this is knowledge that has yet to be applied to us or by us and is therefore merely theoretical as far as our experience is concerned. This to me though, is still knowledge nonetheless and while its value may differ from that of practical knowledge it is still significant. Theoretical knowledge and the ability to make predictions is of great importance. It ensures that when our knowledge finally is applied, it is applied the right way and with purpose.