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Context:

I'm exploring how people acquire, share and efficiently apply knowledge and experience; structuring my thoughts by writing axioms, propositions and formulae.

When writing, I struggle with choosing the right words to accurately describe certain thoughts around these subjects, because some essential words are either ambiguous, synonymous or overlapping; yet I feel like there are subtle distinctions that I fail to discern.

Questions:

Specifically, I struggle with choosing between knowledge and experience.

These are the definitions I have in mind:

Knowledge: Facts, information, and skills acquired through experience or education; the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject.

Experience: The knowledge or skill acquired by a period of practical experience of something, especially that gained in a particular profession.

What are the nuances and differences between knowledge and experience?

My current understanding is that knowledge and experience are very much synonymous, however, knowledge emphasises theory, whereas experience emphasises practice. Whenever I struggle with choosing between the two, it's usually because I'm looking for an "all inclusive" word.

Here are a few excerpts from my own working definitions:

Knowledge is the sum of my impressions, based on how I understand my sensory input. Experience is the act of exercising and challenging my knowledge (or lack thereof), in order to obtain sensory input. There is a symbiotic relationship between knowledge (theory) and experience (practice).

One of the things I'm trying to figure out is if the mutualistic relationship between knowledge and experience is obligate or facultative in nature.

Does there exist a collective term that includes all nuances of both knowledge and experience?

I greatly appreciate any information and advice you can give me.

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    I would not say that knowledge and experience are synonymous nor broader than the other. You summarized them well, they just mean different things and one does not enclose the other. – Oldcat Feb 28 '14 at 22:47
  • I would summarize by staying knowledge tells what you can do and experience what you should do. – Oldcat Feb 28 '14 at 22:48
  • Thanks, @Oldcat. I like the way you sum it up. I'm still a bit puzzled by the nuances of these words. I feel like has a broader meaning than "experience", since its definition contains "theoretical or practical understanding", whereas the definition of "experience" says nothing about theoretical knowledge. (I'm not sure about this, thought.) – Leif Mar 2 '14 at 8:59
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    There IS a word which encapsulates pretty much everything of concern to you, vis a vis "knowledge" and "experience." It's called WISDOM. Wisdom is the product of openness to experience, keen observation and listening skills, the hard work of discipline, patience in learning, goal orientation, delayed gratification, efficiency, know-how, good memory, discernment, insight, humility, and probably a hundred or more character traits which unite knowledge and experience. A good antonym for wisdom is foolishness, which can be defined as immoral and unethical stupidity. Don – rhetorician Mar 2 '14 at 22:32
  • Wow, thank you so much, @rhetorician! A huge piece of puzzle just fell into place, thanks to you. I can't believe I didn't think of that (I was completely blinded by my own theories and asking the wrong questions)… Please add "wisdom" as an answer and I will accept it! – Leif Mar 3 '14 at 10:06
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There IS a word which encapsulates pretty much everything of concern to you, vis a vis "knowledge" and "experience." It's called WISDOM. Wisdom is the product of openness to experience, keen observation and listening skills, the hard work of discipline, patience in learning, goal orientation, delayed gratification, efficiency, know-how, good memory, discernment, insight, humility, and probably a hundred or more character traits which unite knowledge and experience. A good antonym for wisdom is foolishness, which can be defined as immoral and unethical stupidity.

Perhaps some connected writing might prove helpful in understanding how the different words you've provided might be used.

"After interviewing candidate Smith for the job, I decided to give him a hands-on test in the workshop. Before I administered the test I asked him point blank: Do you have any knowledge of modern-day automobile carburetors? He answered affirmatively. The task I then gave him was to disassemble and then reassemble in 30 minutes a carburetor from a late model GM Buick.

"After the allotted time, he had not yet managed even to disassemble the carburetor. I concluded then and there that he had little or no experience in working with a typical late-model carburetor. His skill level was virtually nil, save for removing screws, which was the only ability he seemed to possess. Since he had no expertise in disassembling and reassembling the carburetor, I had no alternative but to tell him,

'Feel free to re-apply for the job when you have the necessary hands-on skill in working on carburetors. You might think of getting some experience under your belt by entering an apprenticeship program, in order to acquire some skills and perhaps even some expertise, which would make performing the task I gave you as easy as pie! When you have that expertise, feel free to come back to me and I'll give you another chance.'"

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    Thanks for the illustrative story! It's very useful to see how others would use these words in practice. I'm still puzzled about the subtle nuances, thought. And I'm wondering if there is some other word which encapsulates all the meanings of both knowledge and experience. – Leif Mar 2 '14 at 8:54
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    @leif "know-how" might fit your needs: the (technical) knowledge and skill required to do something – Mari-Lou A Mar 2 '14 at 11:10
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I suspect that your confusion is from focusing upon the similarities between them, when your attention should probably be directed elsewhere in the sentences. I will try to edit the definitions slightly to make them clearer:

Knowledge: "Facts, information, and skills acquired through experience or education." — O.D.O.


Here Oxford Dictionaries Online (O.D.O.) is trying to emphasize that there are two methods of acquiring knowledge. You can gain knowledge through experience if you so choose when you have the opportunity, but you also have the alternative option to learn it by studying instead.

The only method of acquiring experience is experience:

Experience: The knowledge/skill acquired by a period of practical experience of something.


If the recursion confuses you, that is because the definition is referencing the prior definition of experience in this case:

"1. [MASS NOUN] Practical contact with and observation of facts or events:


If that still does not make sense, I would suggest changing dictionaries. The Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary & Thesaurus makes the point more directly:

Experience: (the process of getting) knowledge or skill from doing, seeing, or feeling things:


Anyway to answer your question:

Does there exist a collective term that includes all nuances of both knowledge and experience?


I doubt it because the nuances of experience in this sense of the word, rely upon it being a more restricted concept. Any broadened word would defeat the purpose of referring to experience specifically. It is often said that experience is the best teacher for instance:

Prov. You will learn more from things that happen to you in real life than you will from hearing about or studying things that happen to other people.


McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002


A word that meant both could not convey that concept.

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knowledge is the scattered information or data that we have inside our brain which is based from theory and Experience is the systematic information or data which is linked to each other based on both theory and practice. (777)

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This question was answered by @rhetorician in a comment.

Wisdom is the accepted answer; a word that encapsulates knowledge and experience.

Here's the entire comment, for future context:

There IS a word which encapsulates pretty much everything of concern to you, vis a vis "knowledge" and "experience." It's called WISDOM. Wisdom is the product of openness to experience, keen observation and listening skills, the hard work of discipline, patience in learning, goal orientation, delayed gratification, efficiency, know-how, good memory, discernment, insight, humility, and probably a hundred or more character traits which unite knowledge and experience. A good antonym for wisdom is foolishness, which can be defined as immoral and unethical stupidity. Don

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Knowledge is what you know (theory). Experience is what you have done yourself (practice).

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    You also gain knowledge through experience and practice. Your answer is too succinct to be of help to the OP. – Mari-Lou A Mar 2 '14 at 10:29

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