Knowing How and Knowing To

In Brian Bruya (ed.), The Philosophical Challenge from China. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. pp. 279 - 302 (2015)
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Since the 1940s, Western epistemology has discussed Gilbert Ryle’s distinction between knowledge-that and knowledge-how. Ryle argued that intelligent actions – manifestations of knowledge-how – are not constituted as intelligent by the guiding intervention of knowledge-that: knowledge-how is not a kind of knowledge-that; we must understand knowledge-how in independent terms. Yet which independent terms are needed? In this chapter, we consider whether an understanding of intelligent action must include talk of knowledge-to. This is the knowledge to do this or that now, not then or in general. Our argument is refined and buttressed by consideration of a text in Chinese philosophy, the Lüshi Chunqiu. This 3rd century BCE text, a compendium on good government, focuses on different types of knowledge that an effective ruler or a capable official should possess. A significant number of those discussions concern examples of knowing-how being manifested in particular situations. The text is explicitly aware of the importance of timeliness and awareness of context in manifesting know-how. Some might say that these are merely manifestations of knowing-how. But we see these examples as revealing characteristics of know-how that Ryle did not anticipate. Might knowing-to be an essential and irreducible aspect of intelligent action?



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Author Profiles

Karyn L. Lai
University of New South Wales
Stephen Hetherington
University of New South Wales

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