Liquid Knowledge Executive Summary

July 10, 2002

ABSTRACT: Liquid Knowledge is an original expression of applied philosophy, principally axio-epistemology, the foundation of which is a contemporary adaptation of ancient thought. As a form of applied philosophy, the purpose of Liquid Knowledge is to improve the quality of human communication throughout the digital information technology transformation of world society. Liquid Knowledge, if effective, should contribute widely to human endeavors. Early indications suggest significant benefit from its application to education, business, the professions, and the military.

The purpose of Liquid Knowledge is to improve the quality of human communication (and thus productive action) precisely when electronic digital media connect us more widely, more universally, and more quickly than seems possible for humanity to manage or comprehend.

It has been said that we have grown from agricultural to manufacturing to information eras. "Information" is too narrow: we are in and challenged by the era of knowledge transfer.


The strength of Liquid Knowledge is its essential simplicity and its universal applicability. That simplicity and universality is the basis for its effectiveness and the surprising range of fields (see below) to which Liquid Knowledge contributes.


In essence: Liquid Knowledge is characterized by the image that human knowledge is like a liquid which consists of the inseparable mixture of two other liquids: the liquid of information and the liquid of value or importance. Liquid Knowledge is these two stirred together. The beverage of chocolate milk exists only when the milk is mixed with chocolate syrup. Until that mixture, there is no chocolate milk; only milk and syrup. Similarly, unless information and values are inseparably combined like two liquids, we do not have human knowledge with which to work.


Within the last decade just as electronic digital media swooped into our personal and business lives, thinkers in several disciplines declared the existence of a field "Knowledge Management" and announced that Knowledge Management would dispose of the issues which Liquid Knowledge is designed to address.

Unfortunately, Knowledge Management, in its current and foreseeable form, will not likely succeed because it fails to establish a clear, central foundation. Rather, Knowledge Management has generated a large and growing literature and a mania of activity all comprising interesting but isolated ideas of varying utility.

Knowledge Management, at its foundation, divides knowledge into two kinds: explicit and tacit. Explicit knowledge is more like information and tacit knowledge is more difficult, perhaps impossible, to define (sometimes described as how one "knows" how to ride a bicycle). These Knowledge Management foundations grow from well-intentioned, but incomplete study of their intended scope and context. (For a specific epistemological discussion of the stages of this well-intended but incomplete growth, see Harrison’s Liquid Knowledge: Human Values in Knowledge Management.)

Yet, these Knowledge Management foundations are fatally flawed. They have the benefit of simplicity (though not the simplicity needed for the purpose) but they have no universal scope. Although the design of the great pyramids is simple, the physical foundation is immense. Current Knowledge Management seeks to build a great Egyptian scale pyramid on a foundation the size of a postage stamp.


In sharp contrast, the foundation of Liquid Knowledge is both simple and vast.* Liquid Knowledge has conceptual simplicity with a fluid character capable, we believe, of improving meaningful knowledge transfer precisely as electronic digital media continue their astonishing frequently overwhelming unfolding.

A concluding introductory note: the synopsis here has been about today and the future. Please know, again with regard to the integrity of Liquid Knowledge for its stated purpose, that the use of imagery, like that at the heart of Liquid Knowledge, derives directly from Plato, and, much more importantly, the very imagery used in Liquid Knowledge (both in synopsis and specific application) is loyal to and deliberately inspired by and based upon Plato’s axio-epistemological process. (See Plato, "Meno" and Republic.)*


Theory is good, but practice makes perfect. From this point, we will focus on areas of application for Liquid Knowledge, and the claims hereinabove can and should be judged by the practical results Liquid Knowledge achieves.

Even before Liquid Knowledge celebrates its first birthday, we find it insists upon application in the following four major areas of human knowledge transfer.



Professions (Law/Medicine …)


*See Supplement To Liquid Knowledge Executive Summary Below.




Supplement to Liquid Knowledge Executive Summary

July 10, 2002

I hope that, someday, Liquid Knowledge will justify a thorough philosophical examination leading to a systematic recitation. Presently, however, practical tasks take priority, so the following supplement of Liquid Knowledge philosophical foundations is brief and axiomatic.


Liquid Knowledge accepts Kant’s concept of the "Idea of freedom" which Kant describes as follows: "I maintain that to every rational being possessed of a will we must also lend the Idea of freedom as the only one under which he can act. For in such a being we conceive a reason which is practical—that is, which exercises causality in regard to its objects. But we cannot possibly conceive of a reason as being consciously directed from outside in regard to its judgments; for in that case the subject would attribute the determination of his power of judgment, not to his reason, but to an impulsion." While Kant’s genius is abundant, he did not have access to the Diagnostic And Statistical Manual Of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, (commonly referred to as the "DSM-IV"). We do. If one were to reject Kant’s "Idea of freedom" as a practical universal in human action, it seems that such rejector’s individual human action would simply cease, affording that individual no choice but to let the Universe move him or her. In short, the rejector would abdicate individual action in favor of external influence. This abdicative cessation of meaningful human action seems well-described by the DSM-IV in respect to Major Depressive Disorder With Catatonic Features: "The specifier With Catatonic Features is appropriate when the clinical picture is characterized by marked psychomotor disturbance that may involve motoric immobility, excessive motor activity, extreme negativism, mutism, peculiarities of voluntary movement, echolalia or echopraxia. Motoric immobility may be manifested by catalepsy (waxy flexibility) or stupor. The excessive motor activity is apparently purposeless and is not influenced by external stimuli. There may be extreme negativism that is manifested by the maintenance of a rigid posture against attempts to be moved or resistance to all instructions. Peculiarities of voluntary movement are manifested by the assumption of inappropriate or bizarre postures or by prominent grimacing."

Liquid Knowledge accepts that humans operating under the Kantian Idea of freedom do so in accordance with some rule or goal. Kant, as a rule-oriented ethicist, says the following, "Everything in nature works in accordance with laws. Only a rational being has the power to act in accordance with his idea of laws—that is, in accordance with principles—and only so has he a will." [Emphasis in original.] Liquid Knowledge extends beyond Kant in that it also affirms teleologically as well as rule-based ethics, such as the ethics of Plato’s Republic in which justice, in the individual, is a harmony of the elements of the individual soul. Republic

In Liquid Knowledge, we summarize the foregoing ethical assertions as the practical concept that each individual has an "ethical vacuum" which, in the process of living, is filled. An essential and priceless treasure of being human is that the occupancy of the ethical part of the individual is dynamic and educible for better or worse. Quite naturally, we stress the image of the admixture of ethics and information as "liquid" in character to stress and focus attention on the dynamic quality of the ethical.

Epistemology (and Metaphysics and Ontology). Liquid Knowledge accepts Plato’s view generally that knowledge and reality operate simultaneously on multiple levels and that there is a normative spectrum to the universe. If one disfavors such axiomatic positions, Liquid Knowledge suggests that the position be examined in accordance with the non-reductionist empiricism of William James and specifically in accordance with the formulation of his method in his essay "The Will to Believe".

Epistemology and Education. Liquid Knowledge admires Plato’s sensitivity to the challenges of higher level knowledge transfer. (Indeed, Liquid Knowledge believes that were he alive today, Plato would be absorbed with the issues of knowledge management!) This sensitivity permeates his work. It appears in the inconclusive ending of the "Meno" (addressing the topic of whether virtue can be taught). It is central to Republic, where Socrates declines to transmit the "Form of the Good" other than by reference to the metaphors of the divided line and the cave. As Liquid Knowledge develops, we honor Plato’s lead in that we strive to understand which kinds of knowledge are capable of which forms of transmission and under what circumstances. Truly, this is the essential philosophical mission of Liquid Knowledge.



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