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Monday, July 18, 2011

Knowledge-How: A Unified Account

I just received the proofs for my article "Knowledge-How: A Unified Account." Here is the link, if you're interested. And the abstract:

There are two competing views of knowledge-how: intellectualism and anti-intellectualism. According to the reductionist varieties of intellectualism defended by Jason Stanley and Timothy Williamson (2001) and Berit Brogaard (2007), knowledge-how simply reduces to knowledge-that. To a first approximation, s knows how to A iff there is a w such that s knows that w is a way to A. For example, John knows how to ride a bicycle if and only if there is a way w such that John knows that w is a way to ride a bicycle. John Bengson and Marc Moffett (2007) defend an antireductionist version of intellectualism that takes knowledge-how to require, in addition to a propositional attitude, that s understands the concepts involved in her attitude. According to the anti-intellectualist accounts originally defended by Gilbert Ryle and many others after him, knowledge-how requires the possession of a practical ability and so knowing that w (for some w) is a way to A does not suffice for knowing-how. For example, John knows how to ride a bicycle only if John has the ability to ride it; if John merely knows that w (for some w) is a way to ride a bicycle, John does not know how to ride a bicycle. Here I argue for a conciliatory position that is compatible with the reductionist variety of intellectualism: knowledge-how is reducible to knowledge-that. But, I argue, there are knowledge states that are not justification entailing and knowledge states that are not belief entailing. Both kinds of knowledge state require the possession of practical abilities. I conclude by arguing that the view defended naturally leads to a disjunctive conception of abilities as either essentially involving mental states or as not essentially involving mental states. Only the former kind of ability is a kind of knowledge-state, that is, a knowledge-how state.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting, Brit. It looks great!

Michael N.

Anonymous said...

Let's see if I understand you aright:
Are you saying that we can only say we have knowledge how when we know that there is a method x for performing y, and also we actually can use the method x for performing y?
You are saying that without knowledge that there is this method x to perform y, the mere ability to perform y does not rise to the level of knowledge how. And,
the knowledge that there is this method x to perform y, yet without the ability to perform y --- also does not rise to the level of knowledge how?
This means that the ability to perform y needs a mental state about or containing the method x of performing y---or it does not rise to the level of knowledge how.
Is there then such a clear distinction between ability and knowledge? If I can perform y but I never say to myself:
"I am doing y by method of x"-or I cannot put into words the method I use---do I have a knowledge that?
Can I just say, "I have a method"
to signify knowledge that?
Or if I say, "I feel when I am doing it wrong"--is that a mental state and so knowledge that?
Is it enough to say "I know that there is some method or other to perform Y" ?
What signifies I have a knowledge that?
A mental state signifies,if I understand you, knowledge that--but how is a mental state to be distinguished from a non-mental ability? And is there such a clear distinction between the two?
Isn't any ability also a mental ability? Even the heart gets input from part of the brain.
Where does the physical end and the mental start?
What distinguishes the performing of y with knowledge that from performance without it?
I think, and I think Ryle might agree, that there is always a mental component to any ability no matter how physical.
If I am a paraplegic former champion downhill skier, I can't perform the skiing yet I think it fair to argue that I have the practical ability and and knowledge that---so have the knowledge how.
How much ability must one have to qualify as one having ability?
As usual, all the fine distinctions of philosophy break down in the examples.

Brit Brogaard said...

Thanks for all the comments. I am saying that 'knowledge-how' can be given the standard propositional analysis but that mental state-entailing ability states are kinds of knowledge states.