Knowledge is commonly defined as the the intersection of truth and justified belief. But people also have lots of false ideas in their heads.

Is there a philosophical term for the sum total of knowledge and false ideas, fantasy, etc.?

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    The closest thing that comes to mind is "intentional contents", see SEP Intentionality. That would cover propositional beliefs, true or false, ideas pondered, representations of entities, real or imagined, whatever is "intended" and mental states are "about". Not sure it can be identified with "stored" information, not all intentional activity is stored, i.e. committed to memory.
    – Conifold
    Dec 14 '19 at 6:37

Presuppositions of the Question

First, it is important to realize that when using the phrase "information stored in one's mind", one is essentially invoking the computer metaphor of the mind. In this day where digital computers are ubiquitous and very familiar tools, it's easy to forget that models to the mind existed that aren't based on an analogy to a digital computer (Freud's metaphor of hydraulic pressures come to mind). In cognitive science, the metaphor has been extended into a theoretical model called the computation theory of mind addressed by both WP and the SEP. Philosophers of the mind involved in this are Hillary Putnam (who first put forth the model), Jerry Fodor, John Searle, and Daniel Dennett among others, and has gone through philosophical controversy. It should be noted that the emphasis is on digital computer models, such as the Turing Machine even though computers also come in analogical flavors.

Minds are generally ontological creatures that are seen as that which is somehow connected or responsible for the powers, dispositions, and complex behavior of organisms although the question of whether or not sophisticated computers have mind has become a focus of philosophical inquiry in cognitive science and the philosophy of artificial intelligence. The key philosophical term for recognizing that organisms (and perhaps computers) have a fundamentally unique property is 'intentionality'. Rocks fall when gravity pulls them down, but people can throw rocks up in the air, or juggle them. Laws of gravity have been developed, but laws of juggling have not; there's an added complexity that comes from intentionality, whatever that might be.

Differing Schools of Philosophy on the Mind

For those philosophers with a naturalized epistemology, terminology from the science and philosophy of psychology is often used to describe the function of the mind. For instance, psychologists have theories of memory that include ideas such as short-term and long-term memory, individual and collective, and distinct types such as semantic, episodic, and procedural. Sometimes these seem to be paired up neatly to philosophical terms, such as Gilbert Ryle's knowing-how and procedural memory. Sometimes not. There has been a debate naturalizing intentionality (addressed last).

In the analytical philosophical tradition, the distinction between philosophical and scientific terms isn't generally recognized as a hard distinction, with the extreme position being that philosophy has no special claim to any proposition. It should be noted that the analytical philosophical tradition is not the only one, with competitors today being Thomism, Marxism, existentialism, and phenomenology, in the Western World. Hence, the general question of intentionality is resolved in remarkably different ways. Phenomenologists expand consciousness across the past, present, and future, for instance. Marxism is concerned with collectivist forms of consciousness. Existentialism is focused on intentionality related to the individuation of the self. To some extent, when you ask for philosophical terms related to the mind, you have to specify which philosophical tradition.

Metaphysics and the Analytical Tradition

Besides 'intentionality' is the concept of 'mental state' which encapsulates such ideas as belief, knowledge, emotion, pleasure, thinking, understanding, hoping, fearing, etc. Notice that these are essentially terms of ordinary language that philosophers have been laboring on for thousands of years to explain and clarify. Each of these terms can be seen as furthering one's ontological commitment in theory of mind. Belief and knowledge and two important primitives in epistemology and are the subject of much discussion since Gettier proposed two examples to challenge justified true belief which goes back to ancient Greece.

So, asking questions in philosophy is never as easy as it seems. There's a debate over matters of what constitutes philosophic vocabulary in regards to reducing the intentional ontology to a physical ontology, which is a natural tendency to have a metaphysics that recognizes the dichotomy of mind-body. Quine, of course, led the charge to naturalize epistemology in his extreme versions, eliminating it entirely sharing a certain disdain for metaphysics in the vein of Ernst Mach. He and Chisholm appeal to (the distinct term) intensionality. So certainly the vocabulary of intentionality and intension are applicable to questions about content and states of the mind.


When one asks about information stored in the mind, one is already committing oneself to a metaphor or model of computation. As far as the relationship between philosophical and scientific terms regarding the information of the mind, there is no short and dirty list. Any philosophy which has a theory of mind or addresses consciousness has a vocabulary that will vary upon metaphysical presuppositions and will develop more or less. John Searle, for instance, has his own complex theory of consciousness and intentionality. Thus, one has to attack the OP's question by reading widely on these topics.

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