The Competitiveness of Nations in a Global Knowledge-Based Economy


7.0 Knowledge as Content

7.0 Knowledge as Content

7.1 Etymology

7.2 Psychology

7.3 Epistemology & Pedagogy

7.4 Law

7.5 Economics


* Index & Epithet not in published dissertation



The desire of knowledge is first stimulated in us when remarkable phenomenon attract our attention. In order that this attention be continued, it is necessary that we should feel some interest in exercising it, and thus by degrees we become better acquainted with the object of our curiosity. During this process of observation we remark at first only a vast variety which presses indiscriminately on our view; we are forced to separate, to distinguish, and again to combine; by which means at last a certain order arises which admits of being surveyed with more or less satisfaction.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

The Theory of Colours, 1810.

7.0 Knowledge as Content

1.         I have argued that the biological human need to know is the material cause of knowledge and that Science by Design is its efficient cause while its formal cause is personal & tacit knowledge embodied in a natural Person as bundles of neuronal memories and muscle & nerve reflexes.  What remains to complete a theory of knowledge is its final cause. 

2.         For Goethe, the “desire of knowledge is first stimulated in us when remarkable phenomenon attract our attention” (Goethe 1810, li).  In Grene & Depew’s philosophy of biology (2004), the desire to know arises when an affordance attracts our attention or when an environmental invariant changes forcing us to adapt.  In terms of Thomas Kuhn’s philosophy of science, the affordance involves the puzzle-solving of ‘normal science’ while a change in an invariant involves the paradigm shift of ‘revolutionary science’ (Kuhn 1996).   No longer subsidiary, the changed invariant or environmental change becomes a focal concern, e.g., global warming. 

3.         Having pursued the need to know through Science by Design it is, I will argue, the content of the knowledge so acquired, rather than its form as memory and reflex, that constitutes the final or teleological cause of knowledge.  It is the ‘what, why, when, where and who’ about an affordance or changed invariant that completes our search.  To sum up: the biological need to know is the material cause of knowledge, Science by Design is its efficient cause; the Person is its formal cause; and, content is its final cause.

4.         Such treatment is consonant with Heidegger’s interpretation of causality in its original Greek sense of indebteness, one to the other, i.e., the four causes – material, formal, efficient and final - are “all belonging at once to each other, of being responsible for something else” (Heidegger 1955, 7).  It is also consonant with his interpretation of final cause, or telos, as that “which gives bounds, that which completes” (Heidegger 1955, 7).  Content completes the puzzle.

5.         The content of human knowledge, however, is rapidly accelerating as the second Cambrian Explosion roars on.  From biology, chemistry and physics to anthropology, economics and sociology to language, literature, music and religion to accounting, engineering, law and medicine, human knowledge is continually expanding.  It is also becoming increasingly incommensurate, one field to the next.  While the content of knowledge may be incommensurable,


the question becomes: Are there common or shared patterns for its presentation? 

6.         In effect, I applied trans-disciplinary induction (TDI) to search for commensurable sets or systems of ideas, i.e., ideological commensurabilities, across seventeen sub-disciplines.  The survey revealed such patterns.  One already identified is gestalt knowing found in aesthetics, biology, economics, science and technology.  Others will be presented in due course.  For now, however, I present one to permit taxonomical comparison concerning ‘knowledge about knowledge’ across domains and disciplines.

7.         This common pattern is a qubit or four-fold unit of knowledge.  The traditional binary bit of information theory (0, 1), ‘on-off’, is extended and alternatively expressed as: (0, 1, 2, 3) or (1, 2, 3, 4).  Explicit in sub-atomic physics, genomics and analytic psychology, the qubit is an ideological rather than a substantive pattern.  Simply put, the number ‘four’ appears to be a descriptive common denominator for the organization of knowledge.  One can only speculate why the human minds likes to see things in fours, e.g., Pythagoras’ Tetraktys, Aristotle’s four-fold causality, the four Gospels of the Christian New Testament, etc.  Causally, perhaps, the qubit is an artifact of carbon-based life with its chemical valence of four.  If life, as we know it, is rooted in the number four then it should not be surprising that as cognitive carbon-based beings we would tend to pattern knowledge using the number four.  Such thinking – linking psyche to physis -was in fact pursued by Carl Jung and Nobel Prize physicist Wolfgang Pauli (Meier, 2001).  Alternatively, the qubit may be an acausal, coincidental or synchronistic product of the human mind.  Whatever may be the case, the qubit will serve as a metric to summarize findings of ‘knowledge about knowledge’ in six disciplines of thought: economics, epistemology, etymology, law, pedagogy and psychology.  

8.         First, I will establish the presence of the qubit in physics, genomics and analytic psychology.  Second, I will demonstrate a possible modeling of the qubit, i.e., how it expresses the content and context of knowledge.  Third, I will examine in detail the content of the six disciplines of thought noted above and summarize or reduce my findings to qubits that will subsequently be used to assess the competitiveness of nations in a global knowledge-based economy. 

9.         First, in sub-atomic particle physics the quark is the smallest known structure of physical nature.  Quarks combine to produce a field effect called hadrons, e.g., protons and neutrons (Nielson 2002).  Weizsacker’s quantum theory of Ur-objects argues that the foundation of physical reality – the quark – can be operationally described as a qubit of information (Lyre 1995; Card 1996).  That Weizsaker’s qubit is not just ‘theory’ is demonstrated by ongoing


efforts to develop the quantum computer based upon one implication of his theory – entanglement (Economist June 6, 2002).

10.        Second, in genomics DNA is based on combinations of four nucleotides made up of adenine (A), thymine (T), guanine (G) and cytosine (C).  These are always paired A-T or C-G.  A sequence of three pairs is called a codon encoding an amino acid.  Amino acids, in turn, combine to form proteins “the molecular machines of life” (Hood 2002).  Current understanding of the Central Dogma of molecular biology indicates that the genetic machinery is dynamic and will respond to environmental signals that can modify the DNA bases (e.g. methylation of Cytosine), messenger RNA (e.g. slicing of introns) and proteins (e.g. post-translational glycosidation).  That the genomic qubit is not just theory is demonstrated by efforts to develop DNA computers which run “more than 100,000 times the speed of the fastest PC” (Lovgren 2003).  The genomic machine-readable code is also, of course, used to manipulate the chemical bonds of atoms and molecules to analyze or synthesize biological compounds and living organisms with intended or designed characteristics.  Such code is fueling the development of a whole new spectrum of scientific instruments (Hood 2002). 

11.        Third, in his study of the human psyche – patients as well as the myths, fairy tales and ‘black arts’ of human cultures throughout history and around the world – Jung uncovered that four is “the minimal number by which order can be created” (Jung 1966, 46).  He called this ‘the quaternary’ or ‘union’.  He also identified four basic ways of knowing consisting of thinking, intuition, feeling and sensation – the results of which combine to generate human consciousness.  That these four ways of knowing are not just ‘theory’ is demonstrated by the fact that they have spawned one of the most widely used psychological testing instruments in the world: The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator ®. 

12.        The qubit can arguably be used to model or pattern the content and context of knowledge.  The following brief sketch demonstrates how.  Anticipating the next section, in English, there are four different etymological ways ‘to know’ by the senses, mind, doing, and experience.  This I will call the ‘WIT’ in honour of Kenneth Boulding (Boulding 1966).  There are five ‘pure’ cases : (1, 0, 0, 0), (0, 2, 0, 0), (0, 0, 3, 0), (0, 0, 0, 4) & (1, 2, 3, 4).  In most cases, I suspect, more than one but less than four gates will be open, e.g., (0, 2, 0, 4) or, to know by the mind and experience, e.g., re-processing memories.

13.        While absence (0) is clear, presence is not.  Rather a coordinate may vary in intensity.  And, like quarks, qubits are entangled.  In physics this means, among other things, that having been in physical contact at one point in time they remain connected or entangled when separated in Space and Time.  It is entanglement that provides the foundation for quantum computing. 


14.        I now turn to the content of knowledge in etymology, psychology, epistemology, pedagogy, law and economics which I will reduce to qubits.  I will not, however, attempt to operationalize them at this time.  Nonetheless I will subsequently use the qubit as the foundational unit for the production function of a knowledge-based economy.  In effect, any piece of knowledge – personal & tacit, codified or tooled - may be classified by reference to the six resulting qubits. 



7.1 Etymology

The Competitiveness of Nations in a Global Knowledge-Based Economy