About this topic
Summary "Knowing-Wh" is intended to cover knowing who(m), knowing what, knowing which, knowing when, knowing why, etc. (Standardly, knowing how is included, but this has its own category on PhilPapers.) Sometimes, "knowing whether" is counted as well; [knowing + DP] and [knowing + INF] are also closely related. Recently, there has been a renewed interest in knowing-wh, given the recent "intellectualism" debate on knowing how. An analogous yet broader "intellectualism" debate is occurring with knowing-wh, and a related discussion on whether a unified account of knowing-wh is even possible. In addition, other interesting issues arise concerning knowing-wh, especially on the context-sensitivity of knowing-wh ascriptions.
Key works The work in formal semantics on "knowing-wh" starts with Hamblin 1958. But the early works regularly cited are Karttunen 1977 and Groenendijk & Stokhof 1982. These are good examples of what Schaffer 2007 calls "orthodox reductionism" about knowing-wh, though Schaffer provides an important attack on such views.  The first serious attempt to accomodate the context-sensitivity of knowing-wh was Boër & Lycan 1975 and the book-length version Boër & Lycan 1986. Braun 2006 has recently argued, however, that the context-sensitivity should be accommodated by Gricean pragmatics, rather than by Boer and Lycan's semantic parameter. But see DeRose 2009, ch. 2 appendix, for a rejoinder.  Finally, knowing-wh is standardly given an "intellectualist" account, akin to the view of knowing how in Stanley & Williamson 2001. Ginzburg 1995 and Ginzburg 1995 attacks this view of knowing-wh, but  Stanley 2011 in his chapter 2 has offered an important reply to Ginzburg. For an alternative "intellectualist" account that accomodates even more linguistic phenomena, see Brogaard forthcoming.
Introductions Parent 2014 gives an overview of three current debates on knowing-wh. Higginbotham 1996 provides good coverage of some of the background issues and related matters.
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  1. Maria Aloni & Paul Égré (2010). Alternative Questions and Knowledge Attributions. Philosophical Quarterly 60 (238):1-27.
    We discuss the 'problem of convergent knowledge', an argument presented by J. Schaffer in favour of contextualism about knowledge attributions, and against the idea that knowledge- wh can be simply reduced to knowledge of the proposition answering the question. Schaffer's argument centrally involves alternative questions of the form 'whether A or B'. We propose an analysis of these on which the problem of convergent knowledge does not arise. While alternative questions can contextually restrict the possibilities relevant for knowledge attributions, what (...)
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  2. Maria Aloni, Paul Égré & Tikitu de Jager (2013). Knowing Whether A or B. Synthese 190 (14):2595-2621.
    The paper examines the logic and semantics of knowledge attributions of the form “s knows whether A or B”. We analyze these constructions in an epistemic logic with alternative questions, and propose an account of the context-sensitivity of the corresponding sentences and of their presuppositions.
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  3. Maria Aloni & Floris Roelofsen (2011). Interpreting Concealed Questions. Linguistics and Philosophy 34 (5):443-478.
    Concealed questions are determiner phrases that are naturally paraphrased as embedded questions (e.g., John knows the capital of Italy ≈ John knows what the capital of Italy is). This paper offers a novel account of the interpretation of concealed questions, which assumes that an entity-denoting expression α may be type-shifted into an expression ?z.P(α), where P is a contextually determined property, and z ranges over a contextually determined domain of individual concepts. Different resolutions of P and the domain of z (...)
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  4. Kent Bach, Questions and Answers.
    Jonathan is known for his answers as well as his questions. In fact, he is known for giving the same answer to different questions. This illustrates his point about convergent questions: different questions can have the same answer. Jonathan relies on this point to show that if p is the answer to a certain question, knowing the answer to that question doesn’t consist merely in knowing that p. Since p is the answer to many questions, and you can know the (...)
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  5. Kent Bach (2008). Applying Pragmatics to Epistemology. Philosophical Issues 18 (1):68-88.
    This paper offers a smattering of applications of pragmatics to epistemology. In most cases they concern recent epistemological claims that depend for their plausibility on mistaking something pragmatic for something semantic. After giving my formulation of the semantic/pragmatic distinction and explaining how seemingly semantic intuitions can be responsive to pragmatic factors, I take up the following topics: 1. Classic Examples of Confusing Meaning and Use 2. Pragmatic Implications of Hedging or Intensifying an Assertion 3. Belief Attributions 4. Knowledge-wh 5. The (...)
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  6. John A. Barker (1975). A Paradox of Knowing Whether. Mind 84 (334):281-283.
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  7. Hagit Benbaji (2008). Two-Dimensionalism and the “Knowing Which” Requirement. Acta Analytica 23 (1):55-67.
    Two-dimensional semantics aims to eliminate the puzzle of necessary a posteriori and contingent a priori truths. Recently many argue that even assuming two-dimensional semantics we are left with the puzzle of necessary and a posteriori propositions. Stephen Yablo (Pacific Philosophical Quarterly, 81, 98–122, 2000) and Penelope Mackie (Analysis, 62(3), 225–236, 2002) argue that a plausible sense of “knowing which” lets us know the object of such a proposition, and yet its necessity is “hidden” and thus a posteriori. This paper answers (...)
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  8. Maria Bittner (1998). Cross-Linguistic Semantics for Questions. Linguistics and Philosophy 21 (1):1-82.
    : The Hamblin-Karttunen approach has led to many insights about questions in English. In this article the results of this rule-by-rule tradition are reconsidered from a crosslinguistic perspective. Starting from the type-driven XLS theory developed in Bittner (1994a, b), it is argued that evidence from simple questions (in English, Polish, Lakhota and Warlpiri) leads to certain revisions. The revised XLS theory then immediately generalizes to complex questions — including scope marking (Hindi), questions with quantifiers (English) and multiple wh-questions (English, Hindi, (...)
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  9. Steven E. Boër & William G. Lycan (1975). Knowing Who. Philosophical Studies 28 (5):299 - 344.
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  10. Steven Boër & William Lycan (1986). Knowing Who. MIT Press.
  11. David Braun (2006). Now You Know Who Hong Oak Yun Is. Philosophical Issues 16 (1):24-42.
    Hong Oak Yun is a person who is over three inches tall. And now you know who Hong Oak Yun is. For if someone were to ask you ‘Who is Hong Oak Yun?’, you could answer that Hong Oak Yun is a person who is over three inches tall, and you would know what you were saying. So you know an answer to the question ‘Who is Hong Oak Yun?’, and that is sufficient for knowing who Hong Oak Yun is. (...)
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  12. Berit Brogaard (2009). What Mary Did Yesterday: Reflections on Knowledge-Wh. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 78 (2):439 - 467.
    Reductionists about knowledge-wh hold that "s knows-wh" (e.g. "John knows who stole his car") is reducible to "there is a proposition p such that s knows that p, and p answers the indirect question of the wh-clause." Anti-reductionists hold that "s knows-wh" is reducible to "s knows that p, as the true answer to the indirect question of the wh-clause." I argue that both of these positions are defective. I then offer a new analysis of knowledge-wh as a special kind (...)
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  13. Berit Brogaard (2009). What Mary Did Yesterday: Reflections on Knowledge-Wh. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 78 (2):439 - 467.
    Reductionists about knowledge-wh hold that "s knows-wh" (e.g. "John knows who stole his car") is reducible to "there is a proposition p such that s knows that p, and p answers the indirect question of the wh-clause." Anti-reductionists hold that "s knows-wh" is reducible to "s knows that p, as the true answer to the indirect question of the wh-clause." I argue that both of these positions are defective. I then offer a new analysis of knowledge-wh as a special kind (...)
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  14. J. Adam Carter & Duncan Pritchard (2014). Knowledge‐How and Cognitive Achievement. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 88 (1).
    According to reductive intellectualism, knowledge-how just is a kind of propositional knowledge (e.g., Stanley & Williamson 2001; Stanley 2011a, 2011b; Brogaard, 2008a, 2008b, 2009, 2011, 2009, 2011). This proposal has proved controversial because knowledge-how and propositional knowledge do not seem to share the same epistemic properties, particularly with regard to epistemic luck. Here we aim to move the argument forward by offering a positive account of knowledge-how. In particular, we propose a new kind of anti-intellectualism. Unlike neo-Rylean anti-intellectualist views, according (...)
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  15. Neil Cooper (1995). The Epistemology of Understanding. Inquiry 38 (3):205 – 215.
    My principal aims are to question the conventional wisdom on two points. First, it argues that cognitive understanding is neither identical with nor reducible to knowledge?why, and that it is a multiform capacity which adds value to knowledge, true belief, and human creative activity. Essential to understanding is epistemic ascent, the rising above bare knowledge, to assess, appraise, compare, contrast, emphasize, connect and so on. Different modes of understanding are distinguished and an accompanying vocabulary of mode?indicators (expressing Fregean ?colour'). Second, (...)
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  16. Fred Dretske (2004). Knowing What You Think Vs. Knowing That You Think It. In Richard Schantz (ed.), The Externalist Challenge. De Gruyter.
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  17. Jane Friedman (2013). Question‐Directed Attitudes. Philosophical Perspectives 27 (1):145-174.
    In this paper I argue that there is a class of attitudes that have questions (rather than propositions or something else) as contents.
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  18. Helen Gaylard & Allan Ramsay (2004). Relevant Answers to WH-Questions. Journal of Logic, Language and Information 13 (2):173-186.
    We consider two issues relating to WH-questions:(i) when you ask aWH-question you already have a description of the entity you are interested in,namely the description embodied in the question itself. You may evenhave very direct access to the entity – see (1) below.In general, what you want is an alternative description of some item thatyou already know a certain amount about.
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  19. Elena Guerzoni & Yael Sharvit (2007). A Question of Strength: On NPIs in Interrogative Clauses. [REVIEW] Linguistics and Philosophy 30 (3):361 - 391.
    We observe that the facts pertaining to the acceptability of negative polarity items (henceforth, NPIs) in interrogative environments complex than previously noted. Since Klima [Klima, E. (1964). In J. Fodor & J. Katz (Eds.), The structure of language. Prentice-Hall], it has been typically assumed that NPIs are grammatical in both matrix and embedded questions, however, on closer scrutiny it turns out that there are differences between root and embedded environments, and between question nucleus and wh-restrictor. While NPIs are always licensed (...)
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  20. Chien-Hsing Ho (2014). Meaning, Understanding, and Knowing-What: An Indian Grammarian Notion of Intuition (Pratibha). Philosophy East and West 64 (2):404-424.
    For Bhartrhari, a fifth-century Indian grammarian-philosopher, all conscious beings—beasts, birds and humans—are capable of what he called pratibha, a flash of indescribable intuitive understanding such that one knows what the present object “means” and what to do with it. Such an understanding, if correct, amounts to a mode of knowing that may best be termed knowing-what, to distinguish it from both knowing-that and knowing-how. This paper attempts to expound Bhartrhari’s conception of pratibha in relation to the notions of meaning, understanding, (...)
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  21. Ilhan Inan (2012). The Philosophy of Curiosity. Routledge.
    Meno's paradox and inostensible conceptualization -- Asking and answering -- Knowledge by acquaintance and knowledge by description -- Referential and attributive uses of definite descriptions -- De re/de dicto -- Rigidity and direct reference -- Reference to the object of curiosity -- Conditions for curiosity -- Conditions for the satisfaction of curiosity -- Relativity of curiosity and its satisfaction -- Presuppositions of curiosity -- Limits of curiosity and its satisfaction.
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  22. Mark Eli Kalderon (2008). Metamerism, Constancy, and Knowing Which. Mind 117 (468):549-585.
    When Norm perceives a red tomato in his garden, Norm perceives the tomato and its sensible qualities.
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  23. Jesper Kallestrup (2009). Knowledge-Wh and the Problem of Convergent Knowledge. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 78 (2):468-476.
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  24. Manfred Krifka, For a Structured Meaning Account of Questions and Answers.
    In the logical, philosophical and linguistic literature, a number of theoretical frameworks have been proposed for the meaning of questions (see Ginzburg (1995), Groenendijk & Stokhof (1997) for recent overviews). I will concentrate on two general approaches that figured prominently in linguistic semantics, which I will call the proposition set approach and the structured meaning approach (sometimes called the “propositional” and the “categorial” or “functional” approach). I will show that the proposition set approach runs into three problems: It does not (...)
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  25. David Lewis (1982). ``Whether Report&Quot. In Tom Pauli (ed.), Philosophical Essays Dedicated to Lennart Aqvist on His Fiftieth Birthday. Uppsala: University of Uppsala Press. 194--206.
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  26. David Lewis (1982). ”Whether' Report. In Tom Pauli (ed.), 320311: Philosophical Essays Dedicated to Lennart Åqvist on His Fiftieth Birthday. University of Uppsala Press. 194-206.
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  27. Franck Lihoreau (ed.) (2008). Knowledge and Questions: Grazer Philosophische Studien 77. Rodopi.
    Contributors: Maria Aloni, Berit Brogaard, Paul Egré, Pascal Engel, Stephen Hetherington, Christopher Hookway, Franck Lihoreau, Martin Montminy, Duncan Pritchard, Ian Rumfitt, Daniele Sgaravatti, Claudine Tiercelin, Elia Zardini.
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  28. Meghan Masto (2010). Questions, Answers, and Knowledge- Wh. Philosophical Studies 147 (3):395 - 413.
    Various authors have attempted to understand knowledge-wh—or knowledge ascriptions that include an interrogative complement. I present and explain some of the analyses offered so far and argue that each view faces some problems. I then present and explain a newanalysis of knowledge-wh that avoids these problems and that offers several other advantages. Finally I raise some problems for invariantism about knowledge-wh and I argue thatcontextualism about knowledge-wh fits nicely with a very natural understanding of the nature of questions.
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  29. Michaelis Michael (2010). Belief de Re, Knowing Who, and Singular Thought. Journal of Philosophy 107 (6):293-310.
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  30. Ruth G. Millikan (1993). Knowing What I'm Thinking Of--I. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 67 (67):91-108.
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  31. Adam Morton (1990). Who Am I? Cogito 4 (3):186-191.
    This is a popularisation of ideas current when it was written, on personal identity and the concept of a person, making a link with problems about 'knowing who' on the border of epistemology and the philosophy of language.
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  32. T. Parent, Externalism and "Knowing What" You Think.
    Some worry that semantic externalism is incompatible with knowing by introspection what content your thoughts have. In this paper, I examine one primary argument for this incompatibilist worry, the slow-switch argument. Following Goldberg (2006), I construe the argument as attacking the conjunction of externalism and skeptic-proof knowledge of content, where such knowledge would be immune to skeptical doubt. Goldberg, following Burge (1988), attempts to reclaim such knowledge for the externalist; however, I contend that all Burge-style accounts (at best) vindicate that (...)
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  33. T. Parent (2014). Knowing‐Wh and Embedded Questions. Philosophy Compass 9 (2):81-95.
    Do you know who you are? If the question seems unclear, it might owe to the notion of ‘knowing-wh’ (knowing-who, knowing-what, knowing-when, etc.). Such knowledge contrasts with ‘knowing-that’, the more familiar topic of epistemologists. But these days, knowing-wh is receiving more attention than ever, and here we will survey three current debates on the nature of knowing-wh. These debates concern, respectively, (1) whether all knowing-wh is reducible to knowing-that (‘generalized intellectualism’), (2) whether all knowing-wh is relativized to a contrast proposition (...)
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  34. Richard Raatzsch (2006). On Knowing What One Does. Grazer Philosophische Studien 71 (1):251-283.
    You can see me doing this or that. And your seeing me doing this or that is the source, or even the form, of your knowing what I am doing. As well as the source, or the form, of my knowing what you are doing might be my seeing you doing this or that. However, it would be strange to say that one is looking for what one is doing in order to know it. Nevertheless, it would also be strange (...)
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  35. Jonathan Schaffer (2009). Knowing the Answer Redux: Replies to Brogaard and Kallestrup. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 78 (2):477-500.
    In "Knowing the Answer" I argued that knowledge-wh is question-relative. For example, to know when the movie starts is to know the answer p to the question Q of when the movie starts. Berit Brogaard and Jesper Kallestrup have each responded with insightful critiques of my argument, and novel accounts of knowledge-wh. I am grateful to them both for continuing the discussion in so thoughtful a way.
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  36. Jonathan Schaffer (2007). Knowing the Answer. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 75 (2):383-403.
    How should one understand knowledge-wh ascriptions? That is, how should one understand claims such as ‘‘I know where the car is parked,’’ which feature an interrogative complement? The received view is that knowledge-wh reduces to knowledge that p, where p happens to be the answer to the question Q denoted by the wh-clause. I will argue that knowledge-wh includes the question—to know-wh is to know that p, as the answer to Q. I will then argue that knowledge-that includes a contextually (...)
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  37. Yael Sharvit (2007). A Question of Strength: On NPIs in Interrogative Clauses. [REVIEW] Linguistics and Philosophy 30 (3):361 - 391.
    We observe that the facts pertaining to the acceptability of negative polarity items (henceforth, NPIs) in interrogative environments are more complex than previously noted. Since Klima [Klima, E. (1964). In J. Fodor & J. Katz (Eds.), The structure of language. Prentice-Hall], it has been typically assumed that NPIs are grammatical in both matrix and embedded questions, however, on closer scrutiny it turns out that there are differences between root and embedded environments, and between question nucleus and wh-restrictor. While NPIs are (...)
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  38. Joel Smith (2004). On Knowing Which Thing I Am. Philosophy 79 (310):591-608.
    Russell's Principle states that in order to think about an object I must know which thing it is, in the sense of being able to distinguish it from all other things. I show that, contra Strawson, Evans and Cassam, Russell's Principle cannot be applied to first-person thought so as to yield necessary conditions of self-consciousness. Footnotes1 Thanks to Naomi Eilan, Keith Hossack, Lucy O'Brien and Ann Whittle for helpful comments.
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  39. Nicholas D. Smith (1979). Knowledge by Acquaintance and 'Knowing What' in Plato's Republic. Dialogue 18 (03):281-288.
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  40. Jason Stanley (2011). Know How. Oxford University Press.
    Chapter 1: Ryle on Knowing How Chapter 2: Knowledge-wh Chapter 3: PRO and the Representation of First-Person Thought Chapter 4: Ways of Thinking Chapter 5: Knowledge How Chapter 6: Ascribing Knowledge How Chapter 7: The Cognitive Science of Practical Knowledge Chapter 8: Knowledge Justified Preface A fact, as I shall use the term, is a true proposition. A proposition is the sort of thing that is capable of being believed or asserted. A proposition is also something that is characteristically the (...)
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  41. Asbjørn Steglich‐Petersen (2014). Knowing the Answer to a Loaded Question. Theoria 80 (1).
    Many epistemologists have been attracted to the view that knowledge-wh can be reduced to knowledge-that. An important challenge to this, presented by Jonathan Schaffer, is the problem of “convergent knowledge”: reductive accounts imply that any two knowledge-wh ascriptions with identical true answers to the questions embedded in their wh-clauses are materially equivalent, but according to Schaffer, there are counterexamples to this equivalence. Parallel to this, Schaffer has presented a very similar argument against binary accounts of knowledge, and thereby in favour (...)
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  42. Kim Sterelny (1988). Book Review:Knowing Who Stephen E. Boer, William G. Lycan. [REVIEW] Philosophy of Science 55 (4):654-.
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  43. Rowland Stout (2010). What You Know When You Know an Answer to a Question. Noûs 44 (2):392 - 402.
    A significant argument for the claim that knowing-wh is knowing-that, implicit in much of the literature, including Stanley and Williamson (2001), is spelt out and challenged. The argument includes the assumption that a subject's state of knowing-wh is constituted by their involvement in a relation with an answer to a question. And it involves the assumption that answers to questions are propositions or facts. One of Lawrence Powers' counterexamples to the conjunction of these two assumptions is developed, responses to it (...)
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  44. Michael Tye (2000). Knowing What It is Like: The Ability Hypothesis and the Knowledge Argument. In Gerhard Preyer (ed.), Consciousness, Color, and Content. MIT Press. 223.
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  45. Rachel Vaughan (1992). Understanding and Knowing What You Mean. Philosophical Studies 33:171-176.
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