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Experiential knowledge is knowledge gained through experience, as opposed to a priori (before experience) knowledge: it can also be contrasted both with propositional (textbook) knowledge, and with practical knowledge.[1]

Experiential knowledge is cognate to Michael Polanyi's personal knowledge, as well as to Bertrand Russell's contrast of Knowledge by Acquaintance and by Description.[2]

A priori[edit]

In the philosophy of mind, the phrase often refers to knowledge that can only be acquired through experience, such as, for example, the knowledge of what it is like to see colours, which could not be explained to someone born blind: the necessity of experiential knowledge becomes clear if one was asked to explain to a blind person a color like blue.

The question of a priori knowledge might be formulated as: can Adam or Eve know what water feels like on their skin prior to touching it for the first time[citation needed]?


Zen emphasises the importance of the experiential element in religious experience,[3] as opposed to what it sees as the trap of conceptualization:[4] as D. T. Suzuki put it, “fire. Mere talking of it will not make the mouth burn”.[5]

Experiential knowledge has also been used in the philosophy of religion as an argument against God's omniscience, questioning whether God could genuinely know everything, since he (supposedly) cannot know what it is like to sin.[6] On the other hand, that God is omniscient squarely lays the foundation of experiential knowledge, lies at its roots and acts as the cornerstone of its theory: In the beginning. It would be impossible for God to relate to a mortal human being with only finite knowledge and capabilities to understand the concept of being God and being omniscient. Therefore, it could be argued that it is the epitome of experiential knowledge.


Writer Barry Lopez writes about experiential knowledge and how it relates back to the environment,[7] arguing that without experiencing nature, one cannot fully "know" and understand the relationships within ecosystems.


Carl Rogers stressed the importance of experiential knowledge both for the therapist formulating his or her theories, and for the client in therapy[8] - both things with which most counsellors would agree.[9]

As defined by Dr. Thomasina Borkman (Emeritus Professor of Sociology, George Mason University) experiential knowledge is the cornerstone of therapy in self-help groups,[10] as opposed to both lay (general) and professional knowledge. Sharing in such groups is the narration of significant life experiences in a process through which the knowledge derived thereof is validated by the group and transformed into a corpus that becomes their fundamental resource and product.

Neville Symington has argued that one of the central features of the narcissist is a shying away from experiential knowledge, in favour of adopting wholesale a ready-made way of living drawn from other people's experience.[11]


Helen Vendler has characterised Seamus Heaney's art as, in one respect, recording an experiential learning curve: “we are earthworms of the earth, and all that / has gone through us is what will be our trace”.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Philip Burnard, Counselling Skills for Health Professionals (2005) p. 64
  2. ^ Bertrand Russell, Mysticism and Logic (1954) Ch. 5
  3. ^ Dadid K. Reynolds, The Quiet Therapies (1982) p. 95
  4. ^ C. Cheng-Chi, The Practice of Zen (1951) p. 71
  5. ^ Quoted in Reynolds, p. 95
  6. ^ experiential knowledge
  7. ^ Barry Lopez, Arctic Dreams (1999)
  8. ^ Carl Rogers, On Becoming a Person (1961) p. 184 and p. 103
  9. ^ Burnard, p. 64-5 and p. 78
  10. ^ K. Humphries, Circles of Recovery (2003) p. 15
  11. ^ N. Symington, Narcissism (1993) p. 88
  12. ^ Heaney, quoted in H. Bloom ed., Seamus Heaney (1986) p. 174

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Experiential_knowledge — Please support Wikipedia.
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416 news items


Thu, 03 Sep 2015 02:45:00 -0700

With that in mind, the areas of partnership with government should include; policy formulation, getting members to advise government on what kinds of policies that will be most appropriate for the industry, borrowing from the wide experiential ...

Huffington Post

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Fri, 28 Aug 2015 01:03:45 -0700

After all, they use their labor, ingenuity, experiential knowledge, and instincts to maintain crop yields, instead of relying on quick toxic chemical fixes or unproven genetic engineering technology. They produce healthy food that's good for the planet ...

The Citizen (press release) (blog)

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Fri, 28 Aug 2015 00:52:30 -0700

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Wed, 26 Aug 2015 05:22:30 -0700

Krishnappa standing on the edge of his food forest sharing his experiential knowledge of Zero Budget Natural Farming with local farmers. Photo credit: WhyHunger. We walk a good half mile to the farm we're meant to visit. Leading the way are seven men ...

Salt Lake Tribune

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Mon, 17 Aug 2015 05:57:10 -0700

Thanks, Governor, for making another decision for me without understanding the implications for me and other women. It is political, has no basis in experiential knowledge, but then, how could you? Once again, women's voices, concerns, access to health ...
Tue, 25 Aug 2015 08:45:00 -0700

Get to know the people, they are very helpful. Even potential competitors are willing to talk to you and give you the honest truth about business. Even if they do not, it's a learning experience. There is a great power in experiential knowledge and the ...
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New and complex techniques, as well as experiential knowledge and best practices, must be understood by new hires and other stakeholders across geographies. In addition, the need to find new oil reserves has driven companies to explore and operate in ...

The Globe and Mail

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Thu, 13 Aug 2015 02:00:54 -0700

The basics of marketing will, for the most part, stay the same but the landscape is continuously evolving. Technology is speeding everything up and companies who want to get the message out about their business need to constantly educate themselves on ...

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