The epistemology of knowledge and the knowledge process cycle: beyond the‘‘objectivist’’ vs ‘‘interpretivist’’

Roy Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to critique current epistemologies of knowledge and intellectual capital, and provide a way forward within an integrated framework. Design/methodology/approach – The principles of linguistic philosophy and semiotics provide the basis for a rigorous analysis of the production of signs and of knowledge. The Knowledge Process Cycle is used to explore this further, to analyse how different types of communities produce a range of different kinds of information and knowledge, and to formulate a more coherent, theoretically rigorous epistemology. Findings – The current epistemological confusions can be resolved, by taking into account the arbitrary and conventional nature of signs, and the different epistemological requirements of the different phases of the Knowledge Cycle. Research limitations/implications – This research focuses on the confusions around ‘‘objectivist’’ and ‘‘interpretivist’’ epistemologies, and on how an analysis of the articulations of the various phases of the knowledge process cycle can resolve these confusions. A more detailed analysis of strategic knowledge and communities of practice will be explored in further research. Practical implications – Both knowledge management (KM) and intellectual capital (IC) will benefit from a resolution of the confusions surrounding the roles of ‘‘objectivist’’ and ‘‘interpretivist’’ epistemologies, and from a more nuanced understanding of the production of knowledge. Reporting on IC would benefit from finer distinctions, and from a more rigorous epistemology. Originality/value – The paper brings together concepts and analytical tools from different disciplines (KM, IC, applied linguistics, linguistic philosophy, and semiotics) to develop a new approach to the epistemology of knowledge and intellectual capital.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)72-85
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Knowledge Management Studies
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2008


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