Of Subsidiary And FocalPosted: October 14, 2008
Over the years, i have managed to build an understanding of the Bengali language. I can read the language, although with a considerable amount of effort (though writing is something i am still struggling with, given the differences in the spoken and written language, but thats another story altogether …). The other day, i managed to lay my hands on a collection of stories of Feluda, written by Satyajit Ray (and yes, i do believe the character was primarily modelled around Soumitra Chatterjee, while Santosh Dutta was just the right actor for Jatayu).
So what, you might ask. Exactly … not much. I have really enjoyed reading these stories … they are available in an English translation. However, this one is the original … written in the Bengali language (Bangla). And, this is when i realized … while i could read the book (although haltingly), i just wasnt enjoying the stories as much as i had enjoyed them in the English translation. This was because most of my attention was taken up trying to understand whats written in terms of deciphering the language, rather than focussing on the plot of the story. And this is where i realized the importance of “subsidiary” knowledge. When reading a text in a language we understand, we dont have to focus on trying to understand the language, but rather, we need only try to understand the concepts which are written there.
What this highlights is the fact that even when we talk about knowledge, knowledge is not a simple, single-layered entity. Rather, most knowledge is multi-layered, in that it consists of a number of layers of meanings, and we need to understand all of them in order to make sense of it. For example, one would not be able to understand the mathematics behind the theory of relativity without first understanding basic algebra. And this is where illustrations, examples … concepts which serve to simplify some of the concepts come in handy. This is an important concept to understand, both for trying to understand the representation of knowledge, as well as for training professionals.