Monday, September 26, 2011

K > B

Here are two more cases that can be used to mount an argument against the thesis that knowledge requires belief. They are similar, but their differences may or may not be important:

The Pub Quiz
Tim has no recollection of facts of English history. On a pub quiz, the question is ‘When did James I die?” Tim answers 1625. The answer was correct. Tim had no confidence in his answer. The quiz master asks, How did you know that?

The Unconfident Examinee
Jill, a student, completely lacks confidence in her answers on the quiz. She takes herself to be guessing the answer, but reliably answers every question correctly. Did Jill know them without believing them?


Sunday, September 25, 2011

Cross-Linguistic Data on 'Knows'

In class we discussed a test for semantic ambiguity: if there is a natural language that translates some English word w using two different words, that is evidence for w's being semantically ambiguous. For example, 'bank' in English, when used to mean what 'financial institution' means, is translated into German as 'Bank'. And when that English string is used to mean the side of a river, it is translated as 'Ufer'.

I claimed that 'know' when used to mean knowledge of an individual is translated in German as 'kennen', and propositional uses of 'know' are translated as 'wissen', and this is perhaps some reason to think that it's an accident of English that both relations are expressed using 'knows'. This, in turn, may help explain our difficulties in characterizing knowing an individual in terms of propositional knowledge.

It turns out that the linguistic facts are a bit more complicated. In fact, one can accurately translate 'I know you' using 'wissen'. And one also translates 'I know who you are' using 'wissen'. But, surprisingly perhaps, 'I don't know you' only translates using 'kennen', and 'I don't know who you are' only translates using 'wissen'. (Recall Justin asked if knowing an individual is expressed in German in the same way that knowing-who is. The answer is 'no', but what I said was not entirely accurate. Thanks, Justin, for the question!)

As indicated below, a number of philosophers hold that know-how is a species of propositional knowledge, though, of course, it's controversial. In 'Know (How)' by Jason Stanley, linked below, Jason Stanley considers these sorts of cross-linguistic objections to the view that know-how is propositional. He points out that German may not be a good test case for know-how, since the grammar of German prevents know-how claims from taking infinitives as complements. What that means is this: In English, know-how claims typically have this sort of form: S knows how to BLAH. A phrase of the form /to BLAH/ is an infinitive. So since the German grammar is quite different from English in this case, it's probably not a good guide to figuring out whether know-how and propositional knowledge are really different knowledge-relations in English.

Interestingly, some languages (Cantonese and Russian) use different expressions for know-how than they do for propositional knowledge. And as many of you may know, French constructions allow infinitive complements, but they differ significantly in surface structure from English know-how claims. Stanley considers whether these count against his view that know-how is a species of propositional knowledge in sections 6-8. Section 8 in particular focuses on the Cantonese-and-Russian objection. (The funny symbol he uses but does not explain is called 'lambda'. It works a bit like variable-binding expressions from quantified logic (quantifiers). You can get a hang of how it works by looking at the first few slides from Jeff Pelletier here. It's not super important to the discussion though.)

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Knowing How

There is quite a lot of recent work on procedural knowledge, and in class Friday we only touched the tip of the iceberg. (As is often the case, the rabbit holes run very deep with philosophical issues, and we don't have time to pursue them fully in class.) Recent literature on know-how largely stems from reactions to Jason Stanley and Timothy Williamson's 2001 paper, "Knowing How", though the debate is, of course, an ancient one. Stanley and Williamson, unlike Feldman, and contrary to the views expressed in class, defend the view that procedural knowledge is simply a species of propositional knowledge!

A decade of debate later, a paper published this year by Jason Stanley, "Knowing (How)" revisits the case made in the 2001 paper and the criticisms raised against it.

For a brief overview of the issues, see Jeremy Fantl's "Knowing-How and Knowing-That". (Accessible through U of M libraries.)

Further thoughts on know-how?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Bachelors and Analysis

(This is a post by Ali that I'm moving here so it can get more attention. -CT)

Regarding our discussion in the last class about "All bachelors are unmarried male" I think we should note that:

The proposition " All bachelors are unmarried male ", is a kind of a priori conceptual truth which is true by its definition, i.e. its truth does not depend on the external world. So, for finding a counterexample for the analysis containing these kinds of analytic propositions we should not look at the world ( such as unmarried Hats, Robots, Monkeys, dead people and etc.), just as the proposition " 3+5=8" for which we do not need the experience to prove its truth or falsehood.

Refuting the Standard View

(This is a post from Joel F that I'm moving out of the comments in order for it to get more attention. -CT)

This is something I was thinking about: For the skeptic to refute the standard view, he must do so by means of the standard view. In other words, he must use his rationality to come up with arguments against it. However, if rationality (the means of the standard view) is not a reliable source of justification, then the arguments against the standard view are themselves not justified. So, one must use a different means to refute the standard view. It does not seem possible to refute something without using rationality, thus it is impossible to refute the standard view.

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.