Transferable & Experienced Knowledge (Paradox Pair #60), Bildung Part 2

Bildung occurs within relationships when we have the need to revise our view of the world. It is a currency that is created from friction, paradoxes, and pushback.

Transferable & Experienced Knowledge (Paradox Pair #60), Bildung Part 2
Transferable & Experienced Knowledge, JLP

This article carries forward a theme introduced in Paradox Pair #59: Naivety & Mastery, that of the German concept of bildung.

We seek to gain knowledge and develop emotional maturity. We seek to apply this knowledge in ways that allow us to thrive as a member of society and to have individual autonomy. We desire to co-create, to apply our unique upbringings to a solution, and to be receptive to other's perspectives. We learn directly from others (transferable) and we learn from our experiences and emotions (non-transferable). All of this is bildung, a combination of education and knowledge that build both our communities and our selves.

Bildung occurs within relationships when we have the need to revise our view of the world. It is a currency that is created from friction, paradoxes, and pushback. It can occur in direct interactions with others (dialog, lectures, conferences, Q&As, etc...) and indirectly (reading, how-to videos, podcasts, viewing art).

Two essential elements of bildung are:

  1. transferable knowledge
  2. non-transferable (experienced) knowledge.

Transferable Knowledge

The Bildung Rose, copyright Lene Rachel Andersen & Nordic Bildung

The bildung rose above depicts the seven domains of transferable knowledge: Production, Technology, Aesthetics (Arts), Power (Politics), Science, Narrative (Moral values), and Ethics. In each of these domains we can be taught and teach others. How to drive, how to balance a checkbook, how to speak a language, how to program a computer, etc...

Ideally we would be well versed in each of these domains, striking a balance that brings our full selves to society. Often we have an imbalance, where formal education and on-the-job training concentrate only on three domains — Production, Technology, and Science. This imbalance diminishes us: leaving us vulnerable to poor decisions and behaviors, with an underdeveloped ability to communicate and connect with others, prone to echo chambers and subjugated to those that seize power.

Experienced Knowledge

Non-Transferable Knowledge Domains, James LaPlaine

Examples of non-transferable knowledge, that which must be directly experienced rather than taught, include: setbacks, finding our sense of belonging, culture expectations, when to pause and reflect, how we care for others, falling in love, etc... It is a combination of both emotional and societal intelligence that we cannot learn by reading a book. It is both the joy and sorrow, the experiences of life. Without a deep knowledge of what it means to be human, we are reduced to a cog in the system, a laborer for other's rewards, an unfulfilled existence.

Our work requires a devotion to learning in all the domains of transferable knowledge combined with the human experience we gain along our individual paths. This combination sets us up to be fully contributing members of society, something we will probe in more depth in the next article.

You can learn more about bildung at the Global Bildung Network.


The Paradox Pairs series is an exploration of the contradictory forces that surround us.  A deeper study finds that these forces often complement each other if we can learn to tap into the strength of each. See the entire series by using the Paradox Pairs Index.