Knowledge, reasoning and Learning

From civicintelligence

Back to Constituents of Intelligence

Knowledge, both of self and of the outside world, is key to anything we do that could be considered intelligent. Reasoning is what we do with knowledge and learning is what happens when our knowledge changes, hopefully for the better.

Discussion of the capability in individuals

At the basic level, as children, we begin to understand society from observing our family dynamic, and their cultural norms and values. Observational learning as studied by, Albert Bandura [1] describes the process of social learning through observation and interaction. By observing our family interaction within our communities, and their civic involvement we can discover the dynamics of society. At it's best formal education teaches students the ability to engage in critical thinking in order to solve complex problems. While in the education system we gather not only the knowledge, reasoning and learning needed to have a functioning life but also gain perspective in institutional interactions with the greater community, such as service learning programs [2], sister-school programs [3], and foreign exchange programs [4]

One of the most useful concepts in relation to the consideration of knowledge in humans is that of a mental model. Although we are considering this as somewhat abstract, it is supported within the brain. A "mental model" is what allows us to understand the world (to the extent that we do). If someone asks us what something is or how it works we can tell them. It also dictates to some degree what we see and how we interpret it. Differences in mental models can help explain why two people interpret the same thing differently.

That same 'mental model' can be used to look at how individuals use the knowledge they've obtained to proceed through life. What we learn and know does us little good if we don't know how to apply it. Knowledge by itself does nothing unless we understand the tools needed to apply that knowledge. The ability to reason, to make sense of, the knowledge we obtain is sometimes more important then amount of knowledge we obtain at any given time.

Discussion of the capability in society

The structure of a society mirrors its ability to navigate and resolve complex issues, such as public health, city planning, education and emergency responses. The ability to understand intricate problems and impart that knowledge to the greater community is important to a societies process, such as political meetings, town hall meetings, and institutional collaboration. Non-profit organizations play an important role in bringing important issues to public attention. Often these causes are ones abandoned by governmental groups.

How it currently works

Non-profit organizations are often founded on the passionate ideals or causes of an individual, or concerned group. Through community awareness programs these causes gain support often through volunteer support and government charity tax bracket status. Non-profits usually have a mission statement defining their goals and policies.


  • Educational Institutions
  • Financial Institutions
  • Non-profits
  • Media: Radio, Television, Print, Internet, Arts organizations, Symphony, theater, dance, Film, etc.
  • Social Groups: 4-H, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, etc.
  • Political organizations: Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Socialist, Tea Party, etc.
  • Unions
  • Librarys
  • Museums
  • Historical sites and orgnizations, i.e UNESCO

Potential deficiencies

Idealized version of how the capability would work in society

According to Habermas, "the public sphere is a warning system with sensors that, though unspecialized, are sensitive throughout society. From the perspective of democratic theory, the public sphere must, in addition, amplify the pressure of problems, that is, not only detect and identify problems but also convincingly and influentially thematize them, furnish them with possible solutions, and dramatize them in such a way that they are taken up and dealt with by parliamentary complexes." [From Civil Society and the Political Publish Sphere [1996], pp 359-387 from Between Facts and Norms: contributions to a Discourse Theory of Law and Democracy (MIT, 1996)]


Just wondering, what about selective education? Like Christian Schools teaching creationism vs. evolution? Should there be section on the opposite of civic intelligence?