Collins’s Taxonomy of Tacit Knowledge: Critical Analyses and Possible Extensions

Abstract : In this paper, we discuss and extend the taxonomy of tacit knowledge proposed by Collins in his 2010 book, Tacit and Explicit Knowledge. First, we question the definition and the name of one of Collins’s three categories of TK, namely Relational Tacit Knowledge (RTK). After having explained the true fundamental principle that individuates RTK as one category distinct from the two others (Somatic Tacit Knowledge STK and Collective Tacit Knowledge CTK), we suggest an alternative name for RTK, which fits this principle better. Second, our analyses identify a possible ambiguity in the interpretation of RTK, STK and CTK, and indicate how to avoid the related possible confusions. For this purpose, we introduce several notations that specify Collins’s ones. The corresponding developments strengthen and specify a point implicitly suggested in Collins’s book, namely the existence of a serious asymmetry between RTK on the one hand, and STK/CTK on the other. Third, the paper attempts to elaborate and complete Collins’s framework. In this vein, we introduce the possibility of different sub-types of RTK. One of these sub-cases raises the issue of individual, intellectual tacit knowledge—a case that does not seem to have any place in Collins’s picture. We also look at Collins’s framework in a dynamical perspective, and discuss the possibility—not considered by Collins—of dynamic transformations between some of the three categories. Finally, we make two suggestions in order to avoid confusions or misunderstandings when using Collins’s distinctions. When the qualities “explicit”, “explicable” or “tacit” are attributed to some knowledge, these qualities should always be accompanied by the specification for whom and when. Moreover, the attributions “explicit” and “explicable” should always indicate which of Collins’s four senses is meant—elaboration, transformation, mechanization or scientific explanation.
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Léna Soler, Sjoerd Zwart. Collins’s Taxonomy of Tacit Knowledge: Critical Analyses and Possible Extensions. Philosophia Scientiae, Paris; Editions Kime; [2014], 2015, 17 (3), pp.107-134. ⟨10.4000/philosophiascientiae.1103⟩. ⟨hal-01867441⟩

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