KNOWLEDGE: conceptual associations that facilitate pragmatic goal-oriented models

The armchair perspective of an epistemological gardener suggests that the granular elements of any intellectual structure... that might qualify as 'knowledge' for an individual... would be the innumerable existential associations retained in memory. The most elemental associations established would seem to be linguistic-sensory and object-name linkages. A new developing awareness needs to 'know'... sooner rather than later... who/what 'mother' is, where 'bed' is, what a 'door' is, what the 'sun' is, and so on, in order to be able to build up the most fundamental exisential model for independant survival. Once a data base of such associations is established, and word-symbols have further been associated with sensory variations... such as hot, cold, red, blue, green, loud, quiet, hard, soft... and so on... object-property associations can be made and generalized classifications induced, which all progressively contribute to the structure of a survival 'knowledge' model. Expressed linguistically, they would be such assertions as 'the sun is hot', 'water is wet', 'steel is hard', 'sex causes babies', 'that animal is dangerous', and so on ad infinitum. Any linkages or associations whatever... specific or general... that an awareness registers in its memory and can communicate about with others.

There may be a fleeting temptation to refer to such elements as 'facts', but this would be unwise. The elements are just remembered associations and may or may not be verifiable. Hallucinations and unverifiable linkages are just that... they are not 'knowledge'. If one of the remembered associations can be verified by other awarenesses, then calling it a 'fact' may not create too much dispute. The remembered association that 'an apple falls towards the earth when released' is easily verifiable and so we may all grumpily concede it to be a 'fact' and hence an element of knowledge. The assertion 'god created the cosmos' purports to promote an existential linkage that is entirely unverifiable. Such an association in the mind of an awareness does not qualify as knowledge.

Modelled knowledge... in the form of a simplified network of concepts... would appear to involve at least three essential aspects. The adequacy of its conceptual elements. The relevance of the model constructed from those elements to be pragmatic and predictive. The acceptability of the certificate of verification.

Conceptual elements are the primary aspect of any knowledge. Before one can construct a density thermometer, one must have adequate concepts of density, flotation, temperature, weight, fluid state, and so on. The knowledge needed for a metal-casting model adequate for the construction of a garden spade, must involve the concepts of ore, furnace, fuel, fire, temperature, mould, etc. The knowledge base required for an expansion of imperialistic power, would at least need to include the concepts of cultural group, assets, control, religion, war and armament technologies. The conceptual elements of alphabetic symbolism, writing, speaking, and listening are all essential to the knowledge that is literacy.

As well as utilising a fundamental set of concepts, the procedures undertaken to reach an objective must be systematically integrated into a relevant working model. The sequence, timing, physical arrangement, materials, control systems and measurement must all be coordinated into a model that is relevant to the construction of a density thermometer or a garden spade. Linguistic elements must be incorporated into a model that links words, sentences, grammar, book and publishing before the objective of becoming an author can be realised. Military structures, provisioning systems and strategic planning all need to be created before an imperialistic invasion is attempted. The core concepts, and the model constructed from them, is what guides pragmatic behaviour.

To be acceptably classified as 'knowledge', the modelled set of core concepts needs a certificate of verification, which in turn depends upon the credibility of the issuing authority. For many situations in the public domain, the evidence of the senses is normally adequate. If an individual has published a book... questions of quality aside... it would be generally accepted that they had the knowledge necessary. If someone actually makes a garden spade or a thermometer, then agreeing that they had the knowledge to do so would not be that difficult.

At least one of the functions of science is to examine what aspires to be considered knowledge about the physical world, and to verify or not its significance. The methods of science... whereby hypothetical models are subjected to controlled analytic procedures... provide validation certificates, that assign 'truth' probability values between zero and one. Thus for example, a scientific investigation, as to whether a knowledge of microbiology could assist in the treatment of disease, would verify the claim with a probability approaching certainty, whereas an investigation of the assertion that 'spirits can communicate with the living' would be allocated a value around zero. Very often however, a knowledge concept-model becomes controversial, because numerous organisations and individuals undertake to evaluate it with predetermined objectives. Whether the concept-model of astrology can be considered to be knowledge about the universe, ends up depending upon the credibility of the investigating authority. 'Knowledge' of astrology is valuable to an aspiring astrologer, seeking to become a member of the guild, but is useless nonsense to a professional astronomer.

Whatever is the source of the claim... be it mathematics, science, astrology, homoeopathy, god or chicken intestines... nothing can be classified as knowledge if it is either unverified or unverifiable. Even a claim that is probable (but unverifiable) cannot be allowed as knowledge. Before the advent of space-craft, it was unverifiable... but probable... that the far side of the moon was pitted with craters. Only after crater images were obtained by the first moon orbiting space-craft, was it entirely acceptable to present the knowledge model of the moon with craters all over its surface.

Some claims and assumptions as to what knowledge is are nothing less than absurd.
Suggesting that knowledge is:
... some kind of anointed poetic state of irrefutable certainty
... a box into which cosmic laws are accumulated
... a property of some statements having an absolute truth label
... is only to be found in the diverse publications of a virtual cosmic executive
are all about as helpful as an infection of blight is to a gardener.