Intellectual, emotional and practical knowledge

Three forms of knowledge.

I have tackled this subject in previous posts, but I wanted to look at the subject of knowledge in terms of three new categories of intellectual, emotional and practical knowledge.

Intellectual knowledge

Knowledge of how things work.  This is a knowledge based on observation and then analysis of the observation.  I have been influenced strongly by Heraclitus, whose principles all came from observation.

Intellectual knowledge properly belongs to science, the study of the patterns of the natural world.  The observer is separated from the object under observation, thus it is a cold analytical form of knowledge.

The downside of intellectual knowledge is distortion through error or falsehood.  People form opinions that are wrong, but claim them as fact and true. Intellectual knowledge can further be distorted by abstraction, which is the elimination of observable qualities in an object leaving only a small fraction of the qualities left, then claiming these as true and representative of that object.

Practical knowledge

How to sew on a button.  This is a “doing” form of knowledge.  An individual can quickly work out if practical knowledge is true, since through the “doing” they will find if it works as claimed.

Emotional knowledge

Philosophy, metaphysics, religion, art and anything spiritual are all forms of emotional knowledge.  In contrast to intellectual knowledge the only way of approaching emotional knowledge is using emotions, the right side of the brain.

Intellectuals, scientists and academics attempt to approach areas best served by right brain thinking in intellectual ways distorting emotional knowledge into abstractions that are cold, wrong and dead.

Emotional knowledge is best served through concrete thinking, the experiential sensory approach.  Two recent videos I promoted on this blog are examples of emotional knowledge: Run Boy Run and Mother and Water.


11 responses to “Intellectual, emotional and practical knowledge

  1. This is very interesting. From what I’ve studied in Epistemology, I’ve heard to these different forms of knowledge as personal, procedural, and prepositional. The first is being acquainted with someone. You “know” Fred, your next-door neighbor. Procedural refers to skills. You “know” how to ride a bike or fix the transmission on a ’67 Mustang. And last there is prepositional which refers to facts. You “know” that that which has a shape, must have a size.

    But let me ask you a question that I’ve often pondered. Does it not seem as if procedural knowledge could be collapsed within the hierarchy into prepositional knowledge? For example, let’s take riding a bike. We know how to do it. But is there not such a way in which we could describe the necessary steps to be taken in order to learn the procedure through prepositions? Granted, it would be a very long text because one would have to be extremely precise with the language used, but it seems possible for this example as well as many, many others. So why not remove the second category of knowledge and place it within the third? What say you?

    • Hi Talfacory, thank you for your thoughts. I like the idea of simplicity, to reduce the categories.

      Through your definitions of “prepositional” and “”procedural” knowledge, I can see the possibility of combination. I am going to have a think about this some more, and a future blog will be made.

      • Alex, thanks for giving it time for reflection, Great post. Looking forward to future ones.

  2. I know the question was not originally proposed to me, but I took the liberty to provide my opinion regardless.
    So basically you want to hierarchically combine practical and intellectual knowledge – if I understand you correctly.
    If I think about it, I might know how to fix a transmission without understanding how it works. Simply by completing several steps as a routine. But if the source of the problem is not the one that I have a practical answer to then practical knowledge does not apply. I have to find someone who has the intellect to identify the problem and provide a routine solution.
    I think that proves that practical knowledge can work independently without intellect. If this is the case they can not be morphed into one category. Or at least we get the square is a triangle thing. Intellectual knowledge can be composed of practical knowledge also, but practical knowledge itself persist as a separate and autonomic unit.

    Please forgive me if I interpreted your question wrong Tafacory, and please point out any flaws in my way of thinking.


  3. Good observations, Alex. I agree that the reason that scientists dismiss what you call emotional knowledge is because they a trying to analyze it with the wrong ‘tools’.

  4. Interesting take. I do have a few bits that I disagree with (being picky, really)

    I disagree with characterizing Philosophy in the category of emotional knowledge – it’s quite misleading. After all, you’re engaging in an Epistemological question which is a sub-discipline of philosophy. Do you see yourself as taking a stab at intellectual or emotional knowledge with your claims regarding the different types of knowledge one can have?

    Also, the best scientists ten to be philosophers as well. Science began with philosophy and by philosophers. It’s foundation lies in the philosophical realm. Further, you described intellectual knowledge as “a cold analytical form of knowledge”. If it’s analytic in nature then it’s philosophy by nature. Analytic philosophers dominate the discipline and have for quite some time. Continental philosophers (like Sarte, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, etc.) are a dying breed. I’m assuming you’re thinking of philosophy in the continental tradition to place it in the knowledge category that you did and if so it’s misleading because most philosophy that’s done, and that has been done, is of the analytic variety.

    With that said, I suggest reading Ernest Sosa’s “Apt Belief and Reflective Knowledge, Volume1 and Volume 2”. He breaks knowledge down into 2 categories and a few subcategories; the categories being Reflective Knowledge and Animal Knowledge, the subcategories of Reflective Knowledge contain some of the suggestions you’ve given here. But I digress…

    • Thanks for your comments. Science is limited in that it will only deal with matters of the natural world, it has no interest in metaphysics.

      The definition of philosophy is a love of wisdom. There has been a move in the West away from wisdom to a making philosophy an intellectual exercise. Wisdom is a practical application of knowledge, which is where intellectualism falls down.

      Thanks for your source, which I will have a look at.

      I agree that at one time “physics” and “metaphysics” was all treated as philosophy, but the scientist and philosopher have long since diverged down different roads.

      Science and art are separate? Left and right brain approaches are different? Art and science use different sides of the brain, thus one has two different forms of knowledge.

  5. Damn!

    Killer insight.. u’ve solved a lot of things for me.. Thanks a million.. 🙂

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