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The Practice of Knowing and Knowing in Practices

Bengt Molander

This book is a philosophical analysis of knowledge in practices, focused on knowing how, tacit knowledge and expert knowledge. Knowing in action is the key concept. It covers understanding, well-functioning routines as well as successful learning processes. It is argued that knowledge-in-action is more basic than propositional or theoretical knowledge. Key notions are knowing as a kind of attentiveness or a way of being in the world, knowing as continued learning, and knowledge as what leads people in the best way. The book is a contribution to the contemporary philosophical discussions about knowing how, tacit knowledge and expert knowledge. At the same time, it is written as an interdisciplinary and case-based introduction to the epistemology of knowing and learning.
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This is a book about knowledge and learning. As the title indicates, I emphasise the active side: knowing in practices. In a sense, knowing in practices is learning as an ongoing project. This book is written by a philosopher, but its aim is primarily to say something both interesting and well grounded to people, in all kinds of professions and practices, who want to reflect on their own epistemological position, and on the role of skill and “practical” knowledge in society.

I start with a number of examples, which are described in some detail; these will be used as points of reference throughout the book. Most philosophical discussions in the analytic tradition, which is where I come from and partly stay, very quickly go into detailed discussions about issues such as the exact relationship between “knowing how” and “knowing that”, or between “tacit” and “explicit” knowledge. Such discussions tend to become technical, referring to tricky and elaborate cases. I prefer to stay close to the examples and, step by step, to construct a general picture of the kinds of knowledge we meet. It should be possible to use this picture as a framework for analysing other cases, without asserting that it is a blueprint for all kinds of situations.

It is not altogether easy to say what a “theory of knowledge” is. I would like to think that one aspect of it is captured in the words said by the teacher in the architect...

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