I am interested to explore different ways to organize information, for example in different libraries and archives or even museum. And I wonder whether there are philosophies that discuss the epistemology of structures of organization of information - are there? Will appreciate any assistance also by references that might be relevant.

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    Intriguing question and challenging. In archives and museums, arrangement and description practices govern how collections are organized and described to facilitate access and use. Different arrangement and description practices used in archival and museum contexts, such as hierarchical arrangement, chronological arrangement, and functional arrangement. Perhaps try to explore how archival and museum professionals apply these practices to organize and provide access to collections to yield philosophical insight.
    – Luna
    Apr 25 at 11:00
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    I believe that defining categories based on the information is an important step and many philosophers have discussed categories: plato.stanford.edu/entries/categories Apr 25 at 20:00
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    It's the sort of thing you could study ad museum.
    – Scott Rowe
    Apr 26 at 0:23
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    @ScottRowe Grooooaaaannnnnn.... Apr 26 at 3:55
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    I think taxonomy is relevant to this question. I found one paper on the philosophy of taxonomy behind a paywall.
    – JimmyJames
    Apr 26 at 15:49

3 Answers 3


There are people who have knowledge of how to structure information. They tend to be people who have experience of managing information in the real world, such as computer programmers. That laws of physics are also relevant to the ways in which it is possible to organise information in the real world, e.g. - information stored farther away can take longer to retrieve as a result of the finiteness of the speed of light.

There are some philosophers who have paid attention to what can be learned from programming, such as Douglas Hofstadter in his book "Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid" and Elliot Temple:



There is physics material you can read that will tell you something about physical limitations on how information can be organised:



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    Sure, programmers like me could discuss SQL database structure, which has some general rules and guidelines. Using SQL to store the 'keys' for locating info is a start. I was seeing the question as more general than that somehow. An information hierarchy with more than a few levels becomes difficult for humans. It takes experience like being a Librarian to manage wider category systems.
    – Scott Rowe
    Apr 25 at 10:58
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    @ScottRowe en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Materialized_view No more tables; only event streams to constitute views. :D Good stuff.
    – J D
    Apr 25 at 13:35
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    Programmers are not an authority on organizing information apart from the internal mechanics of the systems they build. They consult domain experts about how to handle information in any given application domain as a part of requirements collecting, which is the only way to give users what they need (more or less reliably; most of us have dealt with software that didn't model our needs well but rather exposed techie-think). And each domain has its own mix of presumably time-tested methodology and attempts at improvement.
    – ariola
    Apr 25 at 21:07
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    @ariola "Programmers are not an authority..." Yes. Claiming authority rather than explaining your position is just a way to shield your position from criticism. Programming involves producing a specification of how to do something that can be interpreted by both computers and human beings. To do this they have come up with ways to think about how to organise information that philosophers mostly ignore. Subject matter experts (SMEs) are often good at doing X without actually knowing how they do X: trying to write a program to do X is a test of one's understanding of X.
    – alanf
    Apr 26 at 8:17

Organizing knowledge is part of library and information science. It's not atypical for a librarian to do graduate work in the topic, so I presume there's quite a lot of things to know about the practical art of organizing and encouraging others to access knowledge. You may or may not be familiar with the Dewey Decimal system. There's also a fascinating system of personal organization called Zettelkasten which you might be interested in. From WP:

A Zettelkasten (German: 'slipbox', plural Zettelkästen) or card file consists of small items of information stored on Zettels (German: 'slips'), paper slips or cards, that may be linked to each other through subject headings or other metadata such as numbers and tags. It has often been used as a system of note-taking and personal knowledge management for research, study, and writing.

As far as the philosophy of information, Floridi comes to mind. He has written some books on the philosophy of information. The SEP has an article Information(SEP). It can be seen as a distinct topic from information theory in psychology, data processing, and the information processing cycle (PCMag).

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    Slips are like the old Hypercard Windows application, or the system Robert M. Pirsig wrote about in his book "Lila". When I store passwords, I use the "Little Pieces of Paper" system. Like a One Time Pad, it is unhackable, because it is not in a computer!
    – Scott Rowe
    Apr 26 at 0:25
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    @ScottRowe Depends on your definition of "unhackable". Let the CIA carry you off to a black site and see how resistant you are to password extraction. ; )
    – J D
    Apr 26 at 1:04

This is an interesting question.

Although data storage, indexing and retrieval is a modern phenomenon, probably not covered by classical philosophy, the question of access to the data (information) is deeply philosophical and religious.

On rare occasions, our subconscious gets access to external data (extrasensory perception) not stored in our brain neurons. Is it from God? Is it from another consciousness? This part should be well discussed in philosophy.

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