7 junio, 2024

What are the Elements of Knowledge?

The four of them elements of knowledge The most prominent are the subject, the object, the cognitive operation and the thought. The definition of knowledge is very complex since it arises from a spontaneous and instinctive fact. It can be described as the contact of the being with the world.

Knowledge is characterized by the presence of a subject in front of an object. When the subject sees the object, he captures it and makes it his own through a cognitive operation.

Knowledge depends on the nature of the object and the means used to reproduce it. Thus, two large groups of knowledge can be distinguished, sensory knowledge and rational knowledge.

Sensory knowledge is found in men and animals, and is captured through the senses. Rational knowledge is inherent to humans and is captured through reason.

The main elements of knowledge

The elements of knowledge will be described below, where an example will be added to make it as clear as possible. These examples will revolve around a child who goes to the kitchen and finds a banana, a food item that he has never seen before.

– Subject

You can not talk about knowledge without a subject that has it. The subject is the person who captures some object of reality and obtains a thought about it.

For example, in the case of scientists, they are subjects who, through their observations and experiments of science, provide rational thoughts about them and form the series of knowledge that we know as science.


The child who discovers a banana would be the subject. The little one is the one with the ability to observe and generate a representation about the fruit.

– Object

The object is the thing or person recognized by the subject. For example, a person can observe a cell (object) to know its elements and properties. The known thing would not be called an object if it was not recognized, so it is a necessary condition that a subject sees and recognizes the object, for it to be an object.

There is an interesting relationship between the subject and the object. When these two interact, the object remains unchanged. However, the subject undergoes a modification during knowledge by obtaining a series of thoughts towards the object.

Exceptions can be generated, for example if a person believes that they are being observed and modifies their behavior despite not being sure if they are the object of some other subject.

Here the difference between objective knowledge and subjective knowledge is manifested. Subjective knowledge is inclined to the interests of the subject against objective knowledge that expresses exactly what has been observed without adding external elements.

Reaching fully objective knowledge is very difficult for any subject, since there are limits to the impulses of others that can interfere with the extent of knowledge.


The object would be the banana observed by the child. This is shown to be unalterable at all times, since it will not gain or lose properties or conditions due to the context. It is the child, as a subject, who undergoes some type of modification when observing and analyzing the banana.

– Cognitive operation

In the cognitive operation is where the thought about the object arises. It is a necessary psychophysiological process so that the subject who encounters an object has some thought about it.

The cognitive operation only lasts an instant, however, it is necessary so that a thought can be established about the observed object. Cognitive operation is a mental operation that results in a thought.

Despite the fact that the cognitive operation is extremely brief, the resulting thought remains in the subject’s knowledge for some time.

In order to understand this relationship, we can give an example such as taking a photograph.

In this case, the cognitive operation would be the action of pressing the button to capture an object, which only lasts an instant. The photograph obtained by this action lasts much longer, as happens with thought.


This part would be the representation of the banana (object) in the mind of the child (subject). This is due to the child’s learning, thanks to his cognitive faculties, about the characteristics of the banana.

– Thought

Thought is an intramental content referred to an object. We can refer to thought as an internal imprint whenever an object is known. That trace in memory provides a series of thoughts that are evoked each time the object is glimpsed. It is a mental expression of the known object.

The object, on the other hand, is extramental, it exists outside the subject’s mind regardless of how he perceived it. But there are also intramental objects that are produced when we try to focus attention on knowledge that we have previously acquired.

The thought differs from the object, since it is the subject’s representation of the object he is perceiving. It does not work like a photograph that captures the object, but rather is a mental construction representing the object.

There are neurophysiological studies that conclude that between the thought of the represented object and the object itself, there is a radical difference.

We must also distinguish between idealistic thinking and realistic thinking. In an idealistic thought, the object of our knowledge is immanent, in contrast to realistic thought, where it is argued that it captures the object in an extra-mental way.

However, realistic thinking occurs once the subject draws his attention back and reflects on the thoughts he has previously obtained, provoking new thoughts that are different from the observed object. This is what we call thinking.

There is an exceptional case of knowledge about oneself, the subject captures himself not as an object but as a subject.


Once there has been contact between the subject (child) and the object (banana), the former elaborates a series of thoughts that will remain engraved in the mind, generating a mental construction. This mental construction will vary from one subject to another, since the same object can be perceived in different ways.

For example, while the boy-subject may have a positive thought about the banana because he likes its bright yellow color, a girl-subject may generate a negative thought for reminding him of a cartoon character that scares him of the banana.

Integration of the four elements of knowledge

Gutiérrez (2000) defines knowledge through the relationship of the four elements as the phenomenon where a person or subject captures an object and internally produces a series of thoughts about said object. That is, the mental ideas that the subject generates from that object.

The act of knowing requires the assimilation of the object by the subject. This causes an expansion of the cognitive horizon and obtains the qualities and characteristics of the object. This is where the subject begins to acquire an existence within the person he knows.

When the subject assimilates the object, this helps the subject to grow; this is the essence of knowledge. To know is to be more, not to have more.

We must differentiate knowing from thinking. To know is to obtain the series of thoughts of an object. Thinking is shuffling those thoughts and, as they are obtained, combining them. In the case of scientists, other new thoughts can even be inferred.

Therefore, the final distinction between knowing, thinking and knowing results in the following form. Knowing is transcendent.

Thinking is the combination of ideas that are known. And knowing is the set of thoughts available to the subject.


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GADAMER, Hans-Georg; ARGULLOL, Rafael.The beauty of the current. Barcelona: Paidos, 1998.
HOROWITZ, Irving Louis.History and elements of the sociology of knowledge. 1974.
MATURANA, Humberto R., et al.The tree of knowledge: the biological bases of human knowledge. Madrid: Debate, 1990.

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