Practical Knowledge and Participant Observation

Inquiry 55 (1):50 - 65 (2012)
Abstract An important strand of theories of practice stress that individuals' practical knowledge, i.e., their ability to act in appropriate and/or effective ways, is mainly tacit. This means that the social scientist cannot find out about this knowledge by simply asking the individuals she studies to articulate how it is appropriate and/or effective to act in various circumstances. In this paper, I pursue the proposal that the method of participant observation may be used to find out about individuals' practical knowledge. Surprisingly, the literature does not contain any systematic and comprehensive discussion of this suggestion. I distinguish and exemplify four types of observation that are indicative of individuals' practical knowledge. The observations may serve as a basis for the social scientist's formulations of this knowledge. Further, I point to two main ways in which things may go wrong when the social scientist uses participant observation to find out about individuals' practical knowledge. I argue that the social scientist can make reasonably sure to avoid these two potential difficulties. Accordingly, I conclude that these difficulties do not undermine the effectiveness of the method. In this sense, social scientists are right to use the method of participant observation to find out about individuals' practical knowledge
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1080/0020174X.2012.643626
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
Download options
PhilPapers Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 15,914
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles
David Kirsh (2012). Running It Through the Body. Proceedings of the 34th Annual Cognitive Science Society.
David Kirsh (2012). Running It Through the Body. Proceedings of the 34th Annual Cognitive Science Society 34:593-598.
John Schwenkler (2011). Perception and Practical Knowledge. Philosophical Explorations 14 (2):137-152.
Richard Moran (2004). Anscombe on 'Practical Knowledge'. In J. Hyman & H. Steward (eds.), Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement. Cambridge University Press 43-68.
John Hyman (1999). How Knowledge Works. Philosophical Quarterly 50 (197):433-451.

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

25 ( #119,089 of 1,725,580 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

1 ( #349,436 of 1,725,580 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

Start a new thread
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.