The Perception-Language-Knowledge Complex
The possibility that knowledge wasn’t a standalone entity did not occur to me early on. I had to go for a while thinking about knowledge as a thing on its own. Just to realize more than once that the discussion gets mixed “out of necessity” with other aspects.
The first of these aspects was language. And it was a relatively easy one to spot.
My interest in representations and obsession with geometry were strongly coupled to linguistic pursuits. Quite obvious was the fact that these thoughts found a natural home in this new mixture. From there, all that was inquiry about knowledge became about, the Knowledge — Language complex.
Here is a note I wrote back then,
“The relationship existing between knowledge and language isn’t a trivial one, in the sense that, one cannot take them separately and find use or meaning in them unless they influence each other.
That is why, one should speak of a complex — something that is manifest only when the elements interact, they give meaning to each other and thus are tangled in the most intimate ways.
It is only through interaction that Language and Knowledge came to be things of their own. The distinction is merely superficial. Deep down these cannot be divorced nor separated as they will both cease to have meaning.” — Self, edited. March 21st, 2021.
The merit of such shift is, (1) the realization that, “knowledge as a thing” is unattainable thus all we can hope for are good approximates and these are highly dependent on our formulations, leading us to, (2) the emphasis of the importance of the linguistic apparatus in providing a good representation for the knowledge in question.
From the above it is clear that, one has to be careful about interpretation. Not all of what we consider knowledge content is “knowledge”. A direct consequence of the fact that, “knowledge is always coupled to a language” is that representation inadequacies and linguistic artifacts are always a part of the game.
Moreover, the kind of language in which we write the knowledge decides what can be done with it. In fact, the solvability of problems and practicality aspects are highly language dependent. The quality of the language used do affect the value we see in the knowledge in question.
To illustrate, a theorist would find little to no value in a representation that is geared toward practicality in contrast to one that emphasizes abstraction, generality and conceptual links.
A complex is a totally different creature compared to simple entity. Digesting the implication of the first conceptual shift was crucial. The journey didn’t stop there, there was still something missing.
In my head, it spelled clearly. Knowledge isn’t just decided by its relationship with language, there is something extra; less abstract and more direct that has to do with the object of knowledge itself. The answer was quite obvious.
When added to the mixture everything made sense. The final picture is a Perception — Language — Knowledge complex or as I dubbed it, the Epistemic Trinity. It is a composite of 3 two — fold irreducible complices.
To speak briefly about these substructures I offer below three arguments for their necessity.
Argument #1. Perception — Knowledge Complex
Knowledge is necessarily about something; an intuited object. One cannot presume to know or even start to know something never perceived. Knowledge is then the product of a relation, mediated by perception and intuition. These processes are defining and significant, as all that is absorbed and distilled at that stage will to varying extents affect how one engineers the knowledge.
Argument #2. Knowledge — Language Complex
There is no knowledge without the ability to express it. Knowledge cannot be in any state but represented. When knowledge of a certain kind is evoked, a language comes with it naturally. That language isn’t the unique possible representation of the knowledge in question yet it is at least necessary for us to access it.
Argument #3. Language — Perception Complex
Of perceived objects we forge impressions and of these impressions we crystallize expressions. Perception and language just as expression and impression are moments of the same cycle. The very purpose of language is to provide faithful description of perceived objects. Thus it is impossible conceive of a language without an underlying perspective on things and vice versa.
“To know an object is to reverse its perceived expression and engineer a language — an approximate of the one behind its making — that would provide accurate descriptions about it.”
Even though, Perception, Language and Knowledge are distinguished at the linguistic level by having their own words. Inquiries about them and especially about knowledge start to be insightful only when they are considered in relation. Either as doublets or a unifying triplet.
To speak of any of them independently is nothing but an invitation to misconception. To some extent one can view them as aspects of the same entity — unnamed and known to differentiate at the linguistic scale. To back this claim I invite you to contemplate the following.
The main interests of knowledge, language and perception are descriptions, expression and phenomena respectively. Each of these interests accept a dichotomy into its underlying ingredients. A description is the product of an ontology and a logic, expression of vocabulary and grammar and a phenomenon of kinematics and dynamics.
If you inspect these products up close. They all are the same.
Ontology, vocabulary and kinematics are constructs to account for the possibilities and freedoms of the object under investigation. While logic, grammar and dynamics encode the rules and constraints of its evolution. The underlying ingredients map perfectly as if they are instances of the same category in different contexts.
One can push the conceptual mapping further and propose that calculus — the manipulation of constraints and freedoms — is instantiated as, reasoning for both knowledge and language or the unfolding of processes in phenomena.
“Reasoning is that mechanism through which one can combine descriptions to generates further descriptions.” — Self.
To conclude this discussion, I’d like to forward an interesting consequence.
The thesis advanced in “Knowledge as the Art of Drawing Distinctions” about knowledge engineering is now understood as a three — fold process which starts with, (1) perceptual contrast, followed by (2) linguistic distinction which provides the ingredients to get at last a (3) knowledge description.