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The Five Types of Knowledge

Updated on June 21, 2011


My father has been telling me something since I was very little; That there are five types of knowledge, and you could know one thing in 5 different ways. The five types are: Empirical, Theological, Philosophical, Historical, and Experiential. Throughout this article, I will be using the example question; "how do we know the sun is always shining?"

Empirical - Science

Empirical knowledge is the kind of knowledge science studies. Wikipedia says that "Empiricism asserts that knowledge comes (only or primarily) via sensory experience." What that means is that empiricism is the knowledge of observation. You know the sun is shining, because you observe it shining every day. You also know it is shining because people around the globe also say it is always shining.

Theological - Religion

Theology is the study of religion, typically the christian religion. It would be the systemic study of religious texts, and drawing rational conclusions from what these texts say, and what we see in the world around us. In a simple sense, we would know the sun is always shining in this sense because the bible says it is so.

Philosophical - Reasoning

Philosophical knowledge would be the knowledge we get from reasoning things out or thinking. You know that 5+5=10 because you were taught that 7+3 and 4+6 equal 10, and that 5 is one less then 6, and one more then 4. We would know the sun is always shining because we never see the sun go out, we only see it set and rise. Therefore it is going somewhere else in that time but it does not stop shining.

A good example of the 3 types of reasoning I have explained so far is with this story: “Imagine you walked into the kitchen and saw the kettle boiling on the stove. You ask, “Why is the kettle boiling?” Your wife might say, “Well, because the kinetic energy of the flame is conducted by the metal bottom of the kettle to the water, causing the water molecules to vibrate faster and faster until they're thrown off in the form of steam.” That would be the Scientific explanation. Or she might say, “I put it on to make you a cup of tea.” That would be a Philosophical explanation. Both are legitimate, but they explain the phenomenon in different ways.”


Historical knowledge is obtained by finding out about the past and documenting what happened. Because of this type of knowledge, we know that the civil war happened and that China was sieged by Japan in the manchurian incident and that the radiation in Japan was caused by the atomic bombs. We would know the sun is always shining because it always has been and has never been recorded in history to stop.

Experiential - Living Life!

Experience is what you get when you live! You know skinning your knee is painful, because you have had that experience. You know hot dogs taste good, because you have been blessed with the experience of tasting a hot dog. You know the sun is always shining, because never in your lifetime has the sun ever stopped shining.

Conclusion - What Does This Mean?

What does there being different types of knowledge mean? Well, put simply, it means that science and religion are not at war. Lets take the common example of the beginning of the universe: Did it begin with the big bang, or did it begin like it says in the bible; God created it in 6 days. The answer could be both. Scripture and science could be looking at the same event with different goggles. I don't know the answer, but it is entirely possible. We could be looking at all kinds of issues we disagree with others over, just through different goggles.

Take this riddle about 5 blind men and an elephant. One blind man feels the leg and exclaims, "It is a tree!" The second says, "Don't be daft." Feeling the side he says, "It is a wall!" The third, feeling the ear, says "No no no, it is leather!" The fourth says "It is a snake!" Feeling the tail. The fifth, feeling the end of the trunk, says "It is a pig!" The five blind men are feeling the same thing, but are only feeling part of the big picture.

Maybe we are like the blind men. Maybe we are all looking at the same, brilliant truth, but we are seeing it with covered eyes.


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    • profile image


      17 months ago

      Great explanatriion and exellent riddle to explain.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      waw!! these is really good and usefull ..thank you for the knowldge that you enrich me with....hub be blessed richly more.

    • onelove2728 profile image


      9 years ago from Worldwide ?

      Great hub.. !

    • tsadjatko profile image

      The Logician 

      9 years ago from now on

      Well, I beg your father's pardon, but there are 6 types of knowledge not the least of which (you left out) is Instinctive knowlefge. A turtle knows how to dig a nest and where and when, animals know the seasons, when to migrate, when to hibernate, how to mate, you name it most knowledge necessary for existence of any species is inherent, instinctive and not learned. Because it is not learned makes it no less knowledge. Wood turtles are born knowing if they stomp on the ground a meal of worms will arise as I explain on my hubpage. None of the other types of knowledge can explain this but scripture does. Nice hub - gave me an opening to put in my 2 cents!

    • Jo_Goldsmith11 profile image


      9 years ago

      Thank you for sharing this..I learned something new. Have a blessed day..

    • someonewhoknows profile image


      9 years ago from south and west of canada,north of ohio

      Science and religion may have mutual goals without realising ethics and morality are required for them to have integrity.


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