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Rethinking Knowledge: A Bergsonian Critique of the Notion of Tacit Knowledge

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  • *The author would like to thank the four anonymous reviewers for their comments and suggestions for the paper.

Abstract

The recent focus on the intangible resources of the organization in general, and specifically the notion of knowledge, has problematized the notion of organization. Rather than seeing organizations as systems that integrate the use of all kinds of physical, financial and human resources, the knowledge-based view (KBV) of the firm and knowledge management literature emphasize the organization as a site for the development, use of and dissemination of knowledge and other forms of intellectual resources and assets. KBV and knowledge management literature also address the notion of knowledge as such; is knowledge what can be represented by concepts, figures, and statistics, or are there qualities inherent in knowledge that cannot easily be described, disseminated, or procured? The notion of tacit knowledge has been used to denote all forms of knowledge that cannot be represented: knowledge that cannot be fully articulated, expressed in formulas or described in documents. This paper aims to provide a critique of the notion of tacit knowledge as it is used in KBV and knowledge management literature. It examines the notion of tacit knowledge through the philosophy of Henri Bergson and concludes that the notion of tacit knowledge is little more than an umbrella term for unrepresentable knowledge. Thus, the notion of tacit knowledge should be used with care rather than being a residual category of knowledge.

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