The Elusive Definition of Knowledge

Part of the Knowledge Management and Organizational Learning book series (IAKM, volume 4)


Knowledge is an abstract concept without any reference to the tangible world. It is a very powerful concept, yet it has no clear definition so far. From the Greek philosophers up to present experts in knowledge management, people tried to define knowledge but the results are still very fuzzy. This chapter has the intention of showing the most significant aspects of the dispute over the definition of knowledge, and the main conceptual barriers in that endeavor. In the first part of the chapter we discuss about the knowledge nature and the attempts made in epistemology to define knowledge. The well-known definition that knowledge is justified true belief is shown to have the limitations given by the justification condition and the truth nature. In the second part, we consider the metaphorical approach to knowledge explanation and we present the main metaphors used for knowledge in the managerial literature: knowledge as objects, knowledge nuggets, knowledge as an iceberg, and knowledge as stocks and flows. In the last part, we introduce a new paradigm of metaphorical thinking based on the knowledge energy. This metaphor opens new opportunities for understanding knowledge as a multi-field paradigm composed of the rational, emotional, and spiritual knowledge fields.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Management and EngineeringUniversity of PaduaVicenzaItaly
  2. 2.Faculty of Business AdministrationBucharest University of Economic StudiesBucharestRomania

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