Removing Knowledge

“About five times as many pages are being added to the classified universe than are being brought to the storehouses of human learning, including all the books and journals on any subject in any language collected in the largest repositories on the planet… Whether one figures by acquisition rate, by holding size, or by contributors, the classified universe is, as best I can estimate, on the order of five to ten times larger than the open literature that finds its way to our libraries. Our commonsense picture may well be far too sanguine, even inverted. The closed world is not a small strongbox in the corner of our collective house of codified and stored knowledge. It is we in the open world—we who study the world lodged in our libraries, from aardvarks to zymurgy,wewho are living in a modest information booth facing outwards, our unseeing backs to a vast and classified empire we barely know.”[1]

The author starts by estimating the extraordinary size of the classified knowledge, and uses the classified theory of knowledge to explain the concepts such as “subjective secrets”, which are compact, transparent, arbitrary, changeable, and perishable; and “objective secrets” which are diffuse, technical, determinable, eternal, and long lasting qua secrets. Objective secrets can create more difficult problems, while subjective ones can cause deadly harm. Therefore, the control over the transmission of knowledge, the extensive measures which are used, and its internal paradoxes and ironies are explored. In other words, the author gives an overview on the hidden side of knowledge, the secret world of anti-epistemology, and the monopolistic vision on knowledge transmission.

  1. Galison, P., 2004. Removing Knowledge. Critical Inquiry 31, 229–243.