Monday, September 19, 2011

Knowing Who x Is

Today we considered the following account of knowing-who:

S knows who x is
S knows an answer to the question, who is x?
S knows a proposition of the form, x is F

This account has the following attractive feature: It analyzes knowing who in terms of propositional knowledge.

It may have the following unattractive feature: It's false.

It may be false because we need to restrict F to some special set of features. It may be false because we have to restrict F to some special features with respect to a context, or with respect to y's practical interests. It may be false because there is no analysis of knowing who in terms of propositional knowledge.

This is a good place to elaborate on complaints. In class I mentioned David Braun's 'Now You Know Who Hong Oak Yun Is'. It defends the above view.


Blogger nikkifortier said...

I think I do know who Hong Oak Yung is, afterall.

The paper was pretty convincing. I'm changing from contextualism to Braun-ism. Or, anti-contextualism? On any account, I now think that in "smart-aleck" cases, "the inquirer under-specifies the information she desires". I was at first hesitant to accept this because I thought that putting the onus on the inquirer to be overly specific in all cases where she wanted to avoid a smart-aleck response seemed odious and counter-intuitve. But since our biggest problem seems to be when the responder is being difficult, is it really an issue? In most contexts we know what's going on, that is, we know approximately what the inquirer is asking. If the person responding is providing inadqeuate replies, whether deliberately or not, the only reasonable next step is for the inquirer to specify or elaborate on what it was that she meant, precisely. "Trying to satisfy the inquirer is not necessary for answering the semantic question".
And (this is more of a stretch) maybe it's a further non-issue because of the infrequency of the problem ocurring. I just mean that the instances of one only knowing things like "Hong is over 3 feet tall" or "Tillman is human" are very rare. And furthermore it seems that often, the context from which you got the information can be just as useful to you as the information itself. The more I think about it, in Hong's case, I do know who he is. Not only because I know he's over 3 feet tall, but because he's used as an example in David Braun's philosophy paper arguing against contextualism. Not only do I know who he is, I know everything there is to know about him. Maybe that's a case of me knowing Hong (as opposed to knowing who he is), I don't know. But either way, I think that S knowing who x is needs only to entail that S knows an answer to the question, "who is x?".

8:18 PM  

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