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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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418 news items

The National Interest Online

The National Interest Online
Wed, 01 Jul 2015 15:07:30 -0700

However, there's little question that China has stepped up its efforts at building experiential knowledge through improving its realistic training procedures (China's version of Red Flag) and by conducting more overseas deployments of air, land, and ...


Tue, 30 Jun 2015 10:37:30 -0700

Experiential knowledge is the best way to learn...She is ready." Johnston first joined the U.S. Soccer program in 2006 when she attended a National Identification Camp at the age of 14. She continued to play for several youth national teams and was the ...

Huffington Post

Huffington Post
Wed, 24 Jun 2015 11:00:00 -0700

Describing the divide between experiential knowledge and allegorical knowledge, Bellow's writes, "this is the difficulty with people who spend their lives in humane studies and therefore imagine once cruelty has been described in books it is ended.".
Bangkok Post
Wed, 24 Jun 2015 00:18:45 -0700

Synthesize trends in the regional and global environment and capture experiential knowledge. Ensure that this contributes to knowledge of staff across responsible countries of RSC and support capacity building, PFP, Corporate Partnerships, CSR as well ...
BG News
Tue, 09 Jun 2015 20:33:45 -0700

We may take our academic and/or experiential knowledge for granted, and assume those without our knowledge are stupid or ignorant. We may assume if others are having a hard time, it must be their fault, and we owe them no assistance. We may privilege ...
Times of Malta
Fri, 19 Jun 2015 22:26:15 -0700

The college also recognises and seeks the valuable experiential knowledge of personal and professional caregivers. After many e-mails back and forth and numerous meetings with relevant parties and bodies, the Gozo NGOs association has agreed to begin ...

Mad In America

Mad In America
Wed, 03 Jun 2015 01:10:51 -0700

Dutch peer support education has changed dramatically over time since its inception. Five waves of development can be distinguished. Peer support education has evolved over time from empowered and independent peer support education to ...
New Kerala
Tue, 02 Jun 2015 09:52:30 -0700

Flags communications deep experiential knowledge of emerging markets and capability to seamlessly implement national product launches with deep public relations expertise will be invaluable in strengthening our presence. The companys strategic ...

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