Here the commentator writes:

I think there are two interpretations and @dewster probably wants to refer to only one of them:

  • Knowledge that is implicitly contained in larger objects or concepts, but there is no need for users of those larger objects/concepts to know them. That is the vast majority of all knowledge and encompasses the things we don't even know we don't know yet. You can use a hammer on a nail without knowing anything about what is holding that hammer together or about Newton's laws.
  • Explicit knowledge that you use directly. The comment is about this. Meaning, a response that lambda calculus is with us here and now implicitly falls into the first category above and is not what is meant, but why would you be better off knowing the concept directly apart from intellectual curiosity - which we can fulfill on only an insignificantly tiny fraction of the things we do. Each time people want to add to the curriculum "you absolutely must know this!" they seem to be missing this distinction.

Given the incredibly amount of knowledge and how each and every piece of it is somehow important - but almost always only implicitly - I prefer a mindset that strives to reduce the amount I want other people to learn. Saying "no, you don't have to know/learn this" seems to be a better goal than trying to list ever more stuff. Also, the "need to know" should be much more targeted - "every programmer needs to know" is probably wrong for a lot of (most?) stuff that is labeled thus.

My question is: What is the name/terminology for these two types of knowledge?

1 Answer 1


I would say the first case is an example of indirect or tacit knolwedge.

As Ilkka Virtane points out referencing (Nonaka and Takeuchi 1995; Baumard 1999)1

Tacit knowledge is usually defined as “knowledge difficult to articulate and is therefore often used to refer to practical knowledge.”

The second case would be an example of 'explicit knowledge', knowledge types are usually paired and explicit is the counterpart to tacit as far as the study of knowledge is concerned (epistemology).

By way of a basic definition Cambridge has this to say of explicit knowledge:

Knowledge that can be expressed in words, numbers, and symbols and stored in books, computers, etc.

In fact your author has used the same term, explicit, referring to this very same idea: -

"Explicit knowledge that you use directly. The comment is about this. Meaning, a response that lambda calculus..."

The word explicit does have a specialised meaning in the context of knowledge.

Graham Harman (here) discussing Heidegger and the Metaphysics of Objects uses this category of knowledge in a similar way:

To understand an object such as a car is not to have explicit knowledge about it, but to understand how to use it

So the types of knowledge at work in your excerpt are explicit knowledge and tacit knowledge.

1 Nonaka I., Takeuchi H. (1995), The Knowledge-Creating Company–How Japanese Companies Create the Dynamics of Innovation, Oxford University Press, New York.

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