Experience vs. Knowledge

In Book VI of Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle delivers an intriguing example explaining the connection between practical knowledge and experience.

“This is why some who do not know, and especially those who have experience, are more practical than others who know; for if a man knew that light meats are digestible and wholesome, but did not know which sorts of meat are light, he would not produce health, but the man who knows that chicken is wholesome is more likely to produce health” (7, page 1802).

Another example of this connection is the ability to play music. Suppose one man learned or was taught everything there is to know about playing music, such as how to read music, which keys produce which note, etcetera, but had never actually touched the instrument; and another man had experience playing an instrument with little to no formal instruction and learned via practice. Which of these men would be the better musician? Clearly the second man would be the second musician.

This conclusion is due to the fact that people need experience and to learn through trial and error, rather than just being given knowledge with no application. The first man with only the pure knowledge would not have the physical capability to play an instrument that only comes with practice. People need the ability to try, fail, and learn from their mistakes. This leads to the statement that practical knowledge is far superior to pure knowledge, because knowledge with out any sort of experience or practice makes it difficult to apply in a real world setting.

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