At first glance it seems that "knowledge" has many more categories than "memory". However once one starts sorting, it quickly becomes apparent that certain kinds of memory will accommodate several kinds of knowledge. Furthermore "memory" can be expanded beyond the psychological, e.g. books and other media, epigenetics, military culture and drills, etc. It is tempting to assume that memory is knowledge, the only difference being whether, or not, it is presently in consciousness or being used.

Question: Can any and all knowledge be related to some definition of memory?

And, if so, has anybody commented on this? Or if not, has anyone tried to explain the exceptions?

  • Is "memory expanded beyond the psychological" just information? Can we identify knowledge with information? Not really. Even if we take knowledge "beyond the psychological" there still has to be some connection to what it is a knowledge of, which information as such lacks. Does every kind of knowledge have an informational component? It is unclear if phenomenal or knowledge-how does, although you could make a case that some non-informational memory is involved. You need more concrete notions of "knowledge" and "memory", I think, see IEP.
    – Conifold
    Nov 9, 2019 at 1:22
  • @Conifold I take your point, "memory" and "knowledge" are not well enough defined here. As it happens I was thinking along the lines of: Truth ≈ Knowledge ≈ Memory, or maybe Truth >= Knowledge >= Memory, which likely has some problems, admittedly. - Incidentally, military culture comprises several practices designed to create an effective fighting force, like inculcating procedural memory through drills, that are non-declarative. These would be examples of "social knowledge-how".
    – christo183
    Nov 9, 2019 at 6:39
  • 1
    I think, in a very vague sense, yes, knowledge involves a "record" of some sort. But without focusing on what kind of knowledge we are talking about (and whose, human? AI? fossil "record" of the Earth?) it is hard to say anything cogent about the nature of this "record", or what makes it a record of something. Is a lunar crater, or even scribbles on paper, "memory"? Only when we, or something relevantly like us, uses it in a certain way. In the end, both knowledge and memory only make sense in a representational system of some sort.
    – Conifold
    Nov 9, 2019 at 7:07
  • I don’t know why there is three to close. For memory see History. If we say the Kant’s kind of Transcendental project ultimately failed, then truth, knowledge is our History. See for instance Gadamer. Also for instance Margolis.
    – Gordon
    Nov 11, 2019 at 19:04
  • See this book of essays: “Transcendental Philosophy and Everyday Experience” Tom Rockmore, Vladimir Zeman Eds. This would be the end of modern “truth” (which started with Descartes). Maybe a university library in Europe would have it online. But of course there will be works by Gadamer too.
    – Gordon
    Nov 11, 2019 at 19:11

1 Answer 1



According to the SEP article on epistemology, the relationship between knowledge and memory is that memory is one of five main sources of knowledge, the other four being perception, reason, introspection, and testimony. But, to fully understand the relationship between knowledge and memory, one has to have a definition of knowledge, and this is a matter of some debate. In fact, it is the focus of the entire field of epistemology.


In regards to truth, knowledge, and memory, roughly speaking, truth is an evaluation of knowledge which is an abstraction generally observed by a person's utterances or behavior which indicate intelligence. Whether truth evaluates knowledge of external reality, internal representation, procedural outcome or is used as illocution is a matter of the flavor of truth you prefer. All of these utterances and behaviors require memory.

The Encyclopedia of Philosophy has several entries relating to knowledge including, but not limited to, 'Knowledge, A Priori', 'Knowledge, the Priority of', and 'Knowledge and Belief'. (That's a lot of knowledge about knowledge.)

In the first article, knowledge and memory are viewed through the lens of Kantian a priori and a posteriori knowledge. A posteriori, or experiential knowledge, requires memory. In the second, the rationalist notion of knowledge, that of proposition, ties together truth, as truth is a property of knowledge which elevates belief to a level of certainty. In the third, belief is seen as a product of knowledge, and not vice versa.

The second article listed does mention Gilbert Ryle who wants to take an exclusively intellectual definition of knowledge to task by highlighting the connection of knowledge to activity or action. As an ordinary language philosopher, he notes that knowledge can refer to activity, and has a section in his book Concept of Mind devoted to 'knowing-how' and 'knowing-that'. On page 28 he says:

In ordinary life... as well as in the special business of teaching, we are much more concerned with people's competencies than with their cognitive repertoires, with the operations than with the truths that they learn.

To some extent this has been affirmed by psychologists who have shown there are different types of memory. Note that semantic memory and procedural memory seem to correspond to Ryle's proposition.


As far as institutional knowledge, it is a discipline in the management of information systems, so there's a wealth of literature on it. It addresses ideas like knowledge creation, capture, codification, system tools, and ethical, legal, and managerial issues. If you're interested in the philosophical basis, try Searle.

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