Notes : Instrumental and Existential Knowledge

Notes from ‘The Thinking Hand’ by Juhani Pallasmaa

“In addition to operative and instrumental knowledge and skills, the designer and the artist need existential knowledge moulded by their experiences of life. Existential knowledge arises from the way the person experiences and expresses his/her existence, and this knowledge provides the most important context for ethical judgement. In design work these two categories of knowledge merge, and as a consequence, the building is a rational object of utility and an artistic/existential metaphor of the same time

All professions and disciplines contain both categories of knowledge in varying degree and configurations. The instrumental dimensions of a craft can be theorised, researched, taught and incorporated in the  practice rationally, whereas existential dimensions are integrated within one’s own self identity, life experience and ethical sense as well as one’s personal sense of mission. The category of existential wisdom is also much more difficult to teach, if not outright impossible.” (119)