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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]


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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72 news items

Sioux Falls Argus Leader
Fri, 19 Sep 2014 22:03:45 -0700

A chapter on the difference between abstract and experiential knowledge opens with O'Hara's young son asking him why he is fishing during a Canadian vacation when they don't need fish to eat. It closes with them finding an unusual species of freshwater ...

Bangor Daily News

Bangor Daily News
Thu, 18 Sep 2014 08:11:15 -0700

Michaud brings a wealth of experiential knowledge that could serve him well as governor: the relationships between levels and branches of government, how legislation plays out, when it's time to change your mind. Cutler's experiential knowledge is more ...
Daily Times
Fri, 19 Sep 2014 16:15:00 -0700

With this experiential knowledge in hand, I checked import policy related information on the high commission's website. I could not help smiling. The high commission seems to be frozen in the year 2009 as the import policy and related material was five ...
Pakistan Today
Fri, 19 Sep 2014 14:22:30 -0700

In the Kantian epistemic framework, religion is rooted in faith which is held on subjective grounds. Since Kant's philosophy does not provide assurance about the experiential knowledge of the Divine, it does not find wide acceptance in the theological ...
Thu, 18 Sep 2014 07:26:15 -0700

It is a light that God places in the chest, thus it is not something that comes from books but through experiential knowledge itself. Stop looking for the answers without and look within. The truth is not “out there” in the world and you need to find ...
Crookston Daily Times (blog)
Thu, 18 Sep 2014 05:56:15 -0700

He also has much experiential knowledge in the fields of terminal illness and grieving, having lost to death a brother and two daughters. *Hospice of the Red River Valley is an approved provider for continuing education for social workers in North Dakota.
High Country News
Mon, 15 Sep 2014 04:03:45 -0700

Outsiders might have a “preconceived notion of rural ignorance,” but the ranchers themselves rely on “a cultural system of common sense drawn from local, experiential knowledge of forage conditions, weather patterns, plant characteristics, diagnosis ...


Sat, 13 Sep 2014 13:03:32 -0700

In this way, reading comprehension of new information about subjects is enabled by their prior knowledge of those subjects, an experiential knowledge that comes not through reading but through the five senses, laying the necessary foundation for the ...

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