Edited by Richard Arena, Agnès Festré and Nathalie Lazaric
Chapter 12: The Fragility of Experiential Knowledge
Dominique Foray 12.1 INTRODUCTION Every summer, forest fires make the headlines. With the arrival of the hot season, not only the Mediterranean regions but also central Europe once more become the scene of these anticipated disasters that wipe entire areas of forest and woodland off the map. When these blazes were at their height recently, some good news was announced, however. And, naturally, it came from the scientific domain. Researchers have developed tools for the numerical simulation of wind flow, allowing the analysis of the effects of variations in wind speed upon contact with a forest fire. According to these researchers, this tool can be used for the organization of the prevention and fight against forest fires. Ideally fire fighters would know, in real time, how a fire is likely to progress depending on the wind and would adapt their tactics accordingly. So this is a fantastic scientific breakthrough that provides very useful knowledge in this period of heat waves – knowledge that is all the more useful since certain other knowledge has deteriorated. And it is in fact this latter knowledge that enabled the problem to be avoided! 12.2 EXPERIENTIAL KNOWLEDGE Know-how or knowledge is what gives human beings the ability to act, on a practical or intellectual level. This ability to act is exercised in the domains of production (I know how to garden, I know how to solve a problem), consumption (thanks to my knowledge of music, I can appreciate opera) and also anticipation (my knowledge of the...
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