Horizon of Perception

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Knowledge Accretion and the Jigsaw Puzzle of Experiential Knowledge

The Theory of Knowledge Accretion

Knowledge has a way of piecing itself together in the human mind. When we experience or are fed information we see if it fits in with what we already 'know' and if it does generally we just pop it into place and assimilate it. If it doesn't fit with our internal puzzle we either reject it, or if we (really) trust the source of the information re-evaluate our puzzle (a little).

Our mental jigsaw puzzles of knowledge are the basis for our actions, but our puzzles are not necessarily whole and singular. If we have items of faith, theories or ideas about the unknown, these items form the basis of other faith based puzzle sections, disjoint from those related to the individual's personal experience. 

Just as tiny crystals immersed in a saturated solution grow by grabbing molecules out of solution, each one popped perfectly in to place in the crystalline structure. So our mental jigsaws of knowledge develop within us, continuously assimilating ideas and concepts from the rich world of our experience.

These sections of faith based knowledge contribute to our actions and decisions just as effectively as those of experiential knowledge. The larger a section of puzzle becomes the more difficult it becomes to change and the more it impacts our conscious and subconscious choices.

This is not a perfect process. We crave coherence in these mental models and will jam the pieces to make them fit if we trust the source enough or are under stress and as we age we lose some our ability to assimilate new pieces and maintain the integrity of existing sections.

Intelligence could perhaps be described as a measure the complexity and consistency of the puzzle sections which an individual is capable of maintaining and their ability to generate and expand the domain of knowledge by inference and experimentation

Maintaining the separation between faith based knowledge and experiential knowledge is an optional, but active conscious process. This idea is important to Rational Action and is described here