Monday, June 09, 2008

Propositional knowledge

In his The concept of mind, Gilbert Ryle developed the distinction between knowing how and knowing that. The first concept refers to our intellectual knowledge, our rationally knowing; the second concept refers to our practical knowledge, our knowledge of the way how to do something. In a former blog I spoke of mind knowledge and body knowledge in order to distinguish both. Recently, some philosophers, like Stanley and Williamson (in “Knowing how”), have argued that knowing how is a kind of propositional knowledge, which actually is nothing else than reducing knowing how to knowing that. The mistake here is that such philosophers think that, anyhow, all knowledge is mind knowledge, or, saying it differently, that all knowledge is rational thinking in some way and that all knowledge can be related to some form of knowledge that we have in our minds. What these philosophers take no notice of is that the knowing body is more than simply the brain and its intellectual counterpart the mind. Many other parts of our body have and can develop some sort of knowledge in the sense that they know when and how to behave in the appropriate circumstances and that they can learn so that later they can behave better. My legs have learned and know what to do when I stumble in order to prevent that I fall; my arm knows how to take a cup, when it receives a sign from my brains to do that; and when my finger is bleeding, usually the wound is repaired without that I have to think about what to do, often even without applying a bandage. These are all kinds of knowing how on a different level of complexity and learning ability. In other words, knowledge has many forms, and only some of these forms are intellectual in the sense that they are in the mind and can be formulated with the help of propositions.

2 comments:

ashok said...

Yes, our intellectual cognition of ourselves is entirely seperate and foreign to our sesation of having a body. Thconcept of mind, as is given in a standard dictionary, encompasses the knowlwdge of the mind and the mnowlwedge of the body. It is absurd to think that philosophy demands the unification of these two apparantly distinct aspects. on the contrary, the demand of science to unify this two distinct quarters of human experiance, in to a unified whole, as an acton mechanism, an instantaneous mode of behavior, would, i believe, be fruitfull for the advancement in sociaological theories. "the known is the act of knowing at any instant": propositional knowledge tend to mimic this aspiration of the flesh, as there cognitive standards, both for the lay man and the scientist.

HbdW said...

Thank you for your reaction. I do not want to say that there is no relation between knowing how and knowing that but, anyhow, they are two kinds of knowledge and one cannot be reduced to the other. When a body wants to walk, it needs at least two legs. We cannot say that the second leg is actually the first leg. And so it is with knowledge. But both kinds of knowledge are unified by the body.
HbdW