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10 pillars of knowledge: map of human knowledge
Overview & Rationale
foundations of Knowledge - Diderot and D'Alembert's Encyclopédie, Marie-Lan Nguyen, 2010, CC –BY- SA 2.0.©
Supernatural - God creates man (Michelangelo, Ceiling of Sistine Chapel)© Matter and Energy - Sun (NASA).© Space and Earth - Solar System Montage (NASA, 2000).© Gorilla Non-Human Organisms - Gorilla (Credit: E. De Merode, NASA ).© Human Body and Mind. Courtesy of US Army image gallery.© Human Society - The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, December 10, 1948 (United Nations, 1949).© Human Thought and Art – The Vitruvian Man (Leonardo da Vinci, 1492).© Technology - Space Shuttle Columbia as it lifts off from Launch Pad 39A on mission STS-107 (NASA, 2003).© Human History - The French Revolution (July revolution. July 28, 1830), "Liberty Leading the People", (Eugene Delacroix, 1830).©
Foundations Supernatural Matter & Energy Space & Earth N/h Organisms Body & Mind Society Thought & Art Technology History
Living World
Knowledge Supernatural Universe Humans

Human knowledge is growing while we conquer new horizons. New fields emerge as we conceive innovative ideas, improve our scientific methods, and invent new technologies. Yet, we fail to capture the whole picture and the logical relations among the various parts of knowledge.

10 Pillars of Knowledge is a systematic map of human knowledge. It presents, at a glance, the structure of knowledge and the meaningful relations among the main fields. Human knowledge is composed of 10 pillars:

  • Foundations studies human knowledge.
  • Supernatural concerns mysticism and religion.
  • Matter and Energy explores the basics of the physical world.
  • Space and Earth explores our planet and outer space.
  • Non-Human Organisms explores the non-human living world.
  • Body and Mind human body and the human mind.
  • Society deals with the various aspects of human social life.
  • Thought and Art studies the products of the human intellect and the arts.
  • Technology explores the products of human creativity, which are designed to achieve practical purposes.
  • History encompasses human history.

Knowledge – Supernatural – Universe – Humans. The 10 pillars are organized into four groups, which explore four super-phenomena: knowledge (pillar 1), supernatural (pillar 2), universe (pillars 3-4-5), and humans (pillars 6-7-8-9-10).

Living world. On top of the intersection between the universe and humans a fifth super-phenomenon emerges, the living world (pillars 5-6). The order of the 10 pillars makes it possible to represent the religious approach, which separates apes and humans, and the scientific approach, which treats both of them as part of the living world.

Categories vs. fields. Every pillar is composed of relevant categories. Every category presents the relevant fields. For example, Matter and Energy is composed of three main categories, Theory, Principles, and Substances. The Theory category presents two fields, Philosophy of Physics, and Philosophy of Space and Time. Principles presents Physics, and Substances presents Chemistry. The distinction between categories of the map and fields of knowledge is essential.

Library of human knowledge. Imagine that the Map mirrors a library. The pillars are bookcases, the categories are shelves, and the fields are books. The Library of Human Knowledge has an impressive collection of hundreds of books (i.e., fields). They are stored in ten bookcases (i.e., pillars), which are divided into relevant shelves (i.e., categories).

Human knowledge is constantly growing. New books are written. Old books are revised. This is the nature of our cultural heritage.

Theory – Embodiment. Human knowledge follows a Theory - Embodiment structure. It is implemented within the map level, the pillar level, and the field level.

At the map level, pillar 1 is the “theory” part of human knowledge and pillars 2 through 10 are the “embodiment” part. Pillar 1 includes meta-knowledge (i.e., knowledge about knowledge), or rather the “'theory” of human knowledge. Pillars 2-10 embody our knowledge of the supernatural, the universe, and human phenomena, which are the center of human exploration.

At the pillar level, the first category, Theory, is the “theoretical” part of the pillar. It presents fields that are focused on the theoretical aspects of the explored phenomena (e.g., Philosophy of Knowledge, Philosophy of Science). The other categories embody our knowledge of the explored phenomena. All the pillars share the Theory – Embodiment structure, with one exception. Pillar 8, Thought and Art, is divided into three sections, Thought, Literature, and Non-Literary Arts; each one of them has its own Theory-Embodiment structure. 

At the field level, the “theory” section is implemented in the theory of the field (for example, Philosophy of Medicine is part of the "theory" section of Medicine). The other sections embody our knowledge of the relevant phenomena. In the example of Medicine, these are Internal Medicine, Pediatrics, Surgery, and the like. 

Knowledge maps. Knowledge maps shape the way we perceive the world and act in it. They are expected to be systematic and comprehensive. 10 Pillars of Knowledge is systematic and comprehensive. It seems so obvious and reflects the way most of us conceive our knowledge. This simplicity is a product of an ongoing study aimed at mapping contemporary human knowledge – a study that started nearly ten years ago. More...

Chaim Zins
Jerusalem, January 2012

10PK Book & Poster
a must for your library
January 2012
© Copyright Dr. Chaim Zins, 
Jerusalem, 2002-2012. All rights reserved.
Chaim Zins, Knowledge Mapping Research, 26 Hahaganah St. Jerusalem, 97852 Israel.  
Tel: 972-2-5816705. chaim.zins@gmail.com