Once one know something, one can't unknow it. We can't just forget what we've known like the way we delete computer's file. Yet it take us a split of second to obtain information and embed it in our brains.

I'm so fascinated by the nature of knowing and how much it's effect one's perspective or interpretation of something. Logically,linguistically,etc. Just a piece of information could shape our personality,our actions and how we interact with others.

I love to hear what you guys think, but I'm also looking for all kind of references regarding this subject. Are there any field of study for this? Or any philosopher who might have mentions his/her thought about it?

Thank you to every answers.

  • Hi, welcome to Philosophy SE. Please visit our Help Center to see what questions we answer and how to ask. We are taking specific and pointed questions that are more or less objectively answerable, "what do you think?" questions are off-topic. Science of memory is well-developed, and one forgets what one has known all the time, clinical amnesia is even more severe.
    – Conifold
    Apr 17, 2018 at 20:35

4 Answers 4


The study of knowledge, or what it means to know something, is a branch of philosophy called epistemology. If you are concerned with knowledge of right and wrong, you might be interested in meta-ethics. But there are lots of different ways to approach it.

One idea is that knowledge is a belief that you are very sure about that is also true. For example, someone could be very sure that the Earth is flat, but you might not say that they know the Earth is flat, because it is not. Or, someone might believe the Earth to be round but not really feel very confident about it, in that case they wouldn't be said to know it because they harbor doubt about their belief. I think this is problematic in that it seems to presuppose a level of certainty it is trying to justify, or refer to it recursively. (e.g., we know the earth is round because it is (it is because we really know it is (like, we're really sure it's round!))). Or we might accept this and the consequence that we can never truly know something, only just have very strong beliefs that we believe are true.

I like your idea about thinking of knowledge more as something that is built by our experiences and shapes our perspective of the world. Everyone knows different things and knows them in different ways due to the uniqueness of our lived experiences. But if knowledge is just something we acquire in our own ways, I wonder what that says about whether knowledge can be considered objective, or whether we might legitimately pursue "knowledge" in an objective sense and expect what we find to extend to other people's experiences, or hold true for all experiences.

My personal feeling is that knowledge isn't something that is just inside of us, just up to the individual agent, it seems like it is more of an internal relationship to an external thing; like the glue that holds our distinct yet intersecting hallucinations of the world around us in a sort of synchronization, allowing us to interact with each other predictably and achieve our individual goals.

  • "knowledge isn't something that is just inside of us, just up to the individual agent, it seems like it is more of an internal relationship to an external thing" I mean, plenty of externalists about knowledge hold this sort of view (maybe people like Goldman who hold a causal theory). But it's not the only view out there. Internalists are going to deny that knowledge always requires relationships to external things (rather, it's about being in the right sort of internal state). So there's room for disagreement with this answer. Apr 17, 2018 at 22:02

Great question! From "The Analysis of Knowledge" by Jonathan Jenkins Ichikawa and Matthias Steup, published over at the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

For any person, there are some things they know, and some things they don’t. What exactly is the difference? What does it take to know something? It’s not enough just to believe it—we don’t know the things we’re wrong about. Knowledge seems to be more like a way of getting at the truth. The analysis of knowledge concerns the attempt to articulate in what exactly this kind of “getting at the truth” consists.


The attempt to analyze knowledge has received a considerable amount of attention from epistemologists, particularly in the late 20th Century, but no analysis has been widely accepted.

(article continues for 26 pages)

Any philosopher who might have mentioned his/her thoughts about it?

The linked article above was written in 2017 by Jonathan Jenkins Ichikawa and Matthias Steup.

Jonathan Jenkins Ichikawa is a young philosopher who studies and teaches philosophy of language (as well as epistemology and philosophy of mind), at University of British Columbia in Vancouver. He once told me that his job was to think about knowledge.

Matthias Steup works in epistemology and other philosophical fields over at University of Colorado in Boulder. According to his personnel webpage at UC Boulder:

He works primarily in epistemology, particular on skepticism, perceptual justification, and the question of whether we have control over our beliefs.

Good luck in pursuing philosophy! I hope you find it satisfying!

I'll add this edit to your post in hopes others may more fully understand what you're saying.

One of the best ways in philosophy to explain something, is through language, so lets do some etymology:

We have 2 closed form compound words, ontology and epistemology, made of 3 words of greek origin. They are ontos, epistimi and logos. We also have epistimi, which is again a closed form compound word. So, lets brake them down shall we:

Ontos: ὄντως meaning indeed, for sure, really, truly, being/existing, important.

Epistimi: ἐπιστήμη, deriving from the word epistamai ἐπίσταμαι, made of 2 words, epi (above, over) and sta/sto/sti (to stand, to be locative, to position oneself). Joining these 2 words gives the meaning 'to stand over, to be on top, to position oneself above' and that's how you get to the more complex understanding of the word as 'science'. The word epistimi and gnosis, in ancient greek both can mean knowledge but with a big difference, epistimi being intellectual in nature.

Logos: λόγος meaning (ground, meating place, place to stand, word, speech, opinion, discourse)

Now to put them together again:

Epistimi - logos, to have standing opinion, in a discourse with words, by prolonged exposure/ acquaintance with an idea/phenomena, proven by intellectual methods.

Ontos - logos, to have standing opinion, in a discourse with words on the being, the indeed, the true, the real, the existent and therefore on the opposite of these.

In my opinion it is pretty clear that the words are self explanatory. Hope this helps others to understand to your post.

  • Yeah, I'm not sure these characterizations of ontology, epistemology, and philosophy of language are at all accurate. To a first approximation, ontology is about what exists - but what exists and 'the things we do know' can come apart, for presumably there can be things which exist but which we don't know about, right? And the characterization of epistemology is too narrow: epistemology investigates things other than knowledge and the ways in which we know things. Ditto for philosophy of language: it's about more than just how we pass knowledge around (if it's even about that!). Apr 17, 2018 at 21:53
  • 1
    Thanks... I suspected my definition for ontology wasn't on track. I'll adjust that and see what else I can do. Apr 17, 2018 at 21:55
  • The edit strikes me as an improvement, but it's still not at all clear that ontology is the 'opposite' of epistemology. What does that even mean? One studies what there is, while the other studies (v. roughly) how we know what there is. But those look like complementary projects, not opposites. Apr 17, 2018 at 21:58
  • I was avoiding the word "complementary" to make it more pedagogical. Apr 17, 2018 at 22:04
  • Now I simply removed those sentences. Much better now. Apr 20, 2018 at 13:54

Knowing is speculation distilled into certainty, via a process of inferred causal relationships and confirmation bias. 'knowing' one thing will encourage us to 'know' other things of a similar ilk due to their close proximity and seeming relationship, but it is worth remembering that at the root of all knowledge is faith in something, rendering all facts merely educated guesses that are pragmatically useful at any given time.

This inability to forget knowledge - as you define it - is potentially unhealthy, as it can lead to a shock to the system if previously assumed facts are shown to be false, and so I believe it is always worth remembering that certainty does not imply objectivity, only a desire for such to be the case.

Of course, I could be wrong, but pragmatically speaking I am making educated guesses based on my observations to date.

  • Downvoted, because very little in this post reflects the ways in which philosophers actually theorize about knowledge. Apr 17, 2018 at 21:55
  • I see, do you have any criticisms of my statements other than 'famous people don't say that'? Apr 17, 2018 at 22:03
  • Well, first, that's not my criticism (regrettably, most contemporary philosophers aren't famous!). Second, sure: you say "knowing is speculation distilled into certainty," but it's not at all clear what this means. Do you mean that all knowledge begins with speculation? That can't be right, because there are cases of knowledge which don't start with speculation. So maybe instead you mean that knowledge just requires move from a state of non-certainty to a state of certainty. Fine, but then you've got the problem that many epistemologists don't think knowledge requires certainty. Apr 17, 2018 at 23:46
  • Thanks for the feedback, I did suspect I may have misconstrued what you were saying, and so am glad you elaborated. Can you give an example of some knowledge that doesn't start with speculation? I would say knowledge implies certainty, otherwise it's merely suspicion as opposed to knowledge - to know something is to believe it to be true, is it not? How can you have that without certainty? Apr 18, 2018 at 7:24
  • I guess it depends what you mean by 'speculation', but here's one: I see a chair in a non-skeptical scenario (I'm not deceived by an evil demon, or whatever). It's not really accurate to say that I speculate that I see a chair. Rather, I see a chair! And since in non-skeptical scenarios that's good enough for knowledge, it seems that I know in this case. As for the knowledge requires certainty bit: you might read David Lewis's "Elusive Knowledge." That paper does a lot to get clear about what exactly knowledge requires. Apr 18, 2018 at 13:09

Interesting. I like possibleworld's concept of knowledge - beginning with the senses - experience - which, of course is all we animals have to go by when seaking what we have symbolized as 'knowledge'. If you see a chair you can rest assured that that is what it is, because we, as a collective have come to agree about this symbol chair as referring to this or clearly similar - functionality wise experience-able object.

  • But there is still the potential for it not to be a chair, so can we say we know it is a chair? Perhaps we can say we know it looks like a chair... hmm Apr 20, 2018 at 14:40
  • Potential? What potential? In its existence as experienced or in its reality as collectively symbolized?
    – Gary Reist
    Apr 21, 2018 at 14:22
  • Both, I think . Apr 22, 2018 at 11:00
  • But they are two different things. Existence is anything and everything that the eSelf (embodied self) can experience directly (using the 7 senses) or indirectly (using the precision of science to go beyond the limitations of our senses). And anything and everything that can be experienced (directly or indirectly) exists. Reality, on the other hand is our conceptual understanding of the existence experienced. Again. Potential? What potential?
    – Gary Reist
    Apr 23, 2018 at 21:03
  • Just to be clear, when I say 7 senses I mean the 5 traditional ones plus 6 proprioception (close your eyes and touch your nose) and 7 the brain (as a cognitizing sense organ - it both 'produces' ephemeral thoughts, imagenings, dreams, etc. and experiences them).
    – Gary Reist
    Apr 28, 2018 at 16:12

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