Knowledge How

Edited by John Bengson (University of Wisconsin, Madison)
About this topic
Summary People know many facts, for instance, that Antarctica is a continent, that the cello is a string instrument, or that swimming is a sport. This is often called ‘knowledge that’, since it is knowledge that such and such is true. There is also 'knowledge how': for example, Ann Bancroft knows how to traverse Antarctica, Yo-Yo Ma knows how to play the cello, and I know how to swim. What is knowledge how? How is it related to knowledge that, or to other epistemic achievements (e.g., understanding, intelligence, rationality)? What is the role of knowledge how in action and practical achievement? These and other questions about knowledge how have received diverse answers. The answers are relevant to a wide range of debates in philosophy and other fields (e.g., cognitive science).
Key works

Gilbert Ryle's original paper on knowledge how is Ryle 1945; Ryle elaborates in chapter two of Ryle 1949. Both works argue against the 'intellectualist' view that understands knowledge how in terms of knowledge that. Fodor 1968 contains a now-classic response to Ryle's argument. Willlamson 2001 present what is widely regarded as an important linguistic argument for intellectualism. A recent collection of essays is Bengson & Moffett 2011.

Introductions Fantl 2012 and Bengson 2013 provide overviews of some of the main philosophical issues. Fantl 2008 surveys recent developments. Bengson & Moffett 2011 trace philosophical work on knowledge how from Ryle's original treatment to contemporary discussion, outlining central themes and noting a wide range of debates in philosophy and cognitive science in which knowledge how has been claimed to play a central role.
Related categories

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  1. Knowledge-How and Epistemic Value.J. Adam Carter & Duncan Pritchard - 2015 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 93 (4):799-816.
    A conspicuous oversight in recent debates about the vexed problem of the value of knowledge has been the value of knowledge-how. This would not be surprising if knowledge-how were, as Gilbert Ryle [1945, 1949] famously thought, fundamentally different from knowledge-that. However, reductive intellectualists [e.g. Stanley and Williamson 2001; Brogaard 2008, 2009, 2011; Stanley 2011a, 2011b] maintain that knowledge-how just is a kind of knowledge-that. Accordingly, reductive intellectualists must predict that the value problems facing propositional knowledge will equally apply to knowledge-how. (...)
  2. Empirical Evidence and the Knowledge-That/Knowledge-How Distinction.Marcus P. Adams - 2009 - Synthese 170 (1):97-114.
    In this article I have two primary goals. First, I present two recent views on the distinction between knowledge-that and knowledge-how (Stanley and Williamson, The Journal of Philosophy 98(8):411–444, 2001; Hetherington, Epistemology futures, 2006). I contend that neither of these provides conclusive arguments against the distinction. Second, I discuss studies from neuroscience and experimental psychology that relate to this distinction. Having examined these studies, I then defend a third view that explains certain relevant data from these studies by positing the (...)
  3. Practical Knowledge.R. T. Allen - 1991 - Tradition and Discovery 17 (1-2):46-47.
  4. Know-How, Ability, and the Ability Hypothesis.Torin Alter - 2001 - Theoria 67 (3):229-39.
    David Lewis and Laurence Nemirow claim that knowing what an experience is like is knowing-how, not knowing-that. They identify this know-how with the abilities to remember, imagine, and recognize experiences, and Lewis labels their view ‘the Ability Hypothesis’. The Ability Hypothesis has intrinsic interest. But Lewis and Nemirow devised it specifically to block certain anti-physicalist arguments due to Thomas Nagel and Frank Jackson . Does it?
  5. Part Two: Philosophical Considerations-4 Practical Expertise.Julia Annas - 2012 - Philosophical Inquiry 36 (1-2):101.
  6. Practical Expertise.Julia Annas - 2011 - In John Bengson & Marc A. Moffett (eds.), Knowing How: Essays on Knowledge, Mind, and Action. Oxford University Press, Usa. pp. 101.
  7. Moral Knowledge as Practical Knowledge.Julia Annas - 2001 - Social Philosophy and Policy 18 (2):236.
    In the area of moral epistemology, there is an interesting problem facing the person in my area, ancient philosophy, who hopes to write a historical paper which will engage with our current philosophical concerns. Not only are ancient ethical theories very different in structure and concerns from modern ones, but the concerns and emphases of ancient epistemology are very different from those of modern theories of knowledge. Some may think that they are so different that they are useful to our (...)
  8. Time as Non-Observational Knowledge: How to Straighten Out Δeδt≥H.Constantin Antonopoulos - 1997 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 11 (2):165 – 183.
    The Energy-Time Uncertainty (ETU) has always been a problem-ridden relation, its problems stemming uniquely from the perplexing question of how to understand this mysterious Δ t . On the face of it (and, indeed, far deeper than that), we always know what time it is. Few theorists were ignorant of the fact that time in quantum mechanics is exogenously defined, in no ways intrinsically related to the system. Time in quantum theory is an independent parameter, which simply means independently known (...)
  9. Review, Jason Stanley, Know How. [REVIEW]Kent Bach - 2012 - Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews.
    Stanley’s insightful new book refines his earlier formulation of intellectualism. Indeed, it does a whole lot more, but leaves open some tough questions. He makes a powerful case for the view that knowing how to do something is to know, of a certain way, that one could do that thing in that way. But he says surprisingly little about what ways are, and how they might differ, depending on the kind of case. And he doesn't exclude the possibility that in (...)
  10. Morality as Practical Knowledge.Carla Bagnoli - 2012 - Analytic Philosophy 53 (1):61-70.
    In his original essay, The Form of Practical Knowledge, Stephen Engstrom argues for placing Kant’s ethics in the tradition of practical cognitivism. My remarks are intended to highlight the merits of his interpretation in contrast to intuitionism and constructivism, understood as ways of appropriating Kant’s legacy. In particular, I will focus on two issues: first, the special character of practical knowledge—as opposed to theoretical knowledge and craft expertise; and second, the apparent tension between the demands of morality and the requirements (...)
  11. On Stephen Engstrom, The Form of Practical Knowledge.Carla Bagnoli - 2011 - Iris. European Journal of Philosophy and Public Debate 3 (6):191-203.
  12. The Claims of Reason: Engstrom’s Account of Practical Knowledge.Carla Bagnoli - 2011 - Iris. European Journal of Philosophy and Public Debate 3:197-203.
  13. Beyond the Exclusively Propositional Era.William P. Bechtel & A. Abrahamson - 1990 - Synthese 82 (2):223-53.
    Contemporary epistemology has assumed that knowledge is represented in sentences or propositions. However, a variety of extensions and alternatives to this view have been proposed in other areas of investigation. We review some of these proposals, focusing on (1) Ryle's notion of knowing how and Hanson's and Kuhn's accounts of theory-laden perception in science; (2) extensions of simple propositional representations in cognitive models and artificial intelligence; (3) the debate concerning imagistic versus propositional representations in cognitive psychology; (4) recent treatments of (...)
  14. Knowledge How Vs. Knowledge That.John Bengson - 2013 - In B. Kaldis (ed.), Encyclopedia of Philosophy and the Social Sciences. Sage Publications.
    An overview of philosophical work on the distinction between knowledge how and knowledge that, focusing on what it means to say that they are 'distinct', and on what is at stake in the debate between intellectualists and anti-intellectualists about knowledge how.
  15. Nonpropositional Intellectualism.John Bengson & Marc A. Moffett - 2011 - In John Bengson & Marc A. Moffett (eds.), Knowing How. Oxford University Press. pp. 161-195.
  16. Two Conceptions of Mind and Action: Knowledge How and the Philosophical Theory of Intelligence.John Bengson & Marc A. Moffett - 2011 - In John Bengson & Marc Moffett (eds.), Knowing How: Essays on Knowledge, Mind, and Action. Oxford University Press. pp. 3-55.
    Perhaps it is a pity that the Theory of Knowledge and the Theory of Conduct have fallen into separate compartments. (It certainly was not so in Socrates’ time, as his interest in the relation between eidos and technê bears witness.) If we studied them together, perhaps we might have a better understanding of both. H.H. Price, Thinking and Representation..
  17. Knowing How: Essays on Knowledge, Mind, and Action.John Bengson & Marc A. Moffett (eds.) - 2011 - Oxford University Press USA.
    Knowledge how to do things is a pervasive and central element of everyday life. Yet it raises many difficult questions that must be answered by philosophers and cognitive scientists aspiring to understand human cognition and agency. What is the connection between knowing how and knowing that? Is knowledge how simply a type of ability or disposition to act? Is there an irreducibly practical form of knowledge? What is the role of the intellect in intelligent action? This volume contains fifteen state (...)
  18. The Folk on Knowing How.John Bengson, Marc A. Moffett & Jennifer C. Wright - 2009 - Philosophical Studies 142 (3):387–401.
    It has been claimed that the attempt to analyze know-how in terms of propositional knowledge over-intellectualizes the mind. Exploiting the methods of so-called “experimental philosophy”, we show that the charge of over-intellectualization is baseless. Contra neo-Ryleans, who analyze know-how in terms of ability, the concrete-case judgments of ordinary folk are most consistent with the view that there exists a set of correct necessary and sufficient conditions for know-how that does not invoke ability, but rather a certain sort of propositional knowledge. (...)
  19. Self-Regulation and Knowledge How.Elzinga Benjamin - 2018 - Episteme 15 (1):119-140.
    In the 1940s, Gilbert Ryle argued for anti-intellectualism about know how. More recently, new intellectualists have challenged the canonical status of Ryle's arguments, and in the ensuing debate Ryleans appear to be on their back foot. However, contributors on both sides of the debate tend to ignore or misconstrue Ryle's own positive account of know how. In this paper, I develop two aspects of Ryle's positive account that have been overlooked. For Ryle, S knows how to Φ iff (1) S (...)
  20. A Phenomenal Case for Sport.Jens E. Birch - 2009 - Sport, Ethics and Philosophy 3 (1):30-48.
    The article attempts to show some limitations to reductive accounts in science and philosophy of body-mind relations, experience and skill. Extensive literature has developed in analytic philosophy of mind recently due to new technology and theories in the neurosciences. In the sporting sciences, there are also attempts to reduce experiences and skills to biology, mechanics, chemistry and physiology. The article argues there are three fundamental problems for reductive accounts that lead to an explanatory gap between the reduction and the conscious (...)
  21. Knowing Who.Steven Boër & William Lycan - 1986 - MIT Press.
  22. Tacit Knowledge and the Diplicate Order.David Bohm - 1984 - Tradition and Discovery 12 (1):25-27.
  23. Reasoning and Representing.Robert B. Brandom - 1994 - In M. Michael & John O'Leary-Hawthorne (eds.), Philosophy in Mind: The Place of Philosophy in the Study of Mind. Kluwer Academic Publishers. pp. 129-160.
  24. Knowing How, What and That.Nathan Brett - 1974 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 4 (2):293 - 300.
  25. Nonconceptual Content and the Distinction Between Implicit and Explicit Knowledge.Ingar Brinck - 1999 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 22 (5):760-761.
    The notion of nonconceptual content in Dienes & Perner's theory is examined. A subject may be in a state with nonconceptual content without having the concepts that would be used to describe the state. Nonconceptual content does not seem to be a clear-cut case of either implicit or explicit knowledge. It underlies a kind of practical knowledge, which is not reducible to procedural knowledge, but is accessible to the subject and under voluntary control.
  26. Knowledge-How: A Unified Account.Berit Brogaard - 2011 - In J. Bengson & M. Moffett (eds.), Knowing How: Essays on Knowledge, Mind, and Action. Oxford University Press. pp. 136-160.
    There are two competing views of knowledge-how: Intellectualism and anti-intellectualism. According to the reductionist varieties of intellectualism defended by Jason Stanley and Timothy Williamson (2001) and Berit Brogaard (2007, 2008, 2009), knowledge-how simply reduces to knowledge-that. To a first approximation, s knows how to A iff there is a w such that s knows that w is a way to A. For example, John knows how to ride a bicycle if and only if there is a way w such that (...)
  27. Reply to Brett.D. G. Brown - 1974 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 4 (2):301 - 303.
  28. Knowing How and Knowing That, What.D. G. Brown - 1970 - In Oscar P. Wood & George Pitcher (eds.), Ryle. Doubleday Anchor.
  29. Knowing-How: Linguistics and Cognitive Science.Jessica Brown - 2013 - Analysis 73 (2):220-227.
    Stanley and Williamson have defended the intellectualist thesis that knowing-how is a subspecies of knowing-that by appeal to the syntax and semantics of ascriptions of knowing-how. Critics have objected that this way of defending intellectualism places undue weight on linguistic considerations and fails to give sufficient attention to empirical considerations from the scientific study of the mind. In this paper, I examine and reject Stanley's recent attempt to answer the critics.
  30. Doing Without Believing: Intellectualism, Knowledge-How, and Belief-Attribution.Michael Brownstein & Eliot Michaelson - 2016 - Synthese 193 (9):2815–2836.
    We consider a range of cases—both hypothetical and actual—in which agents apparently know how to \ but fail to believe that the way in which they in fact \ is a way for them to \. These “no-belief” cases present a prima facie problem for Intellectualism about knowledge-how. The problem is this: if knowledge-that entails belief, and if knowing how to \ just is knowing that some w is a way for one to \, then an agent cannot both know (...)
  31. Telling, Showing and Knowing: A Unified Theory of Pedagogical Norms.Wesley Buckwalter & John Turri - 2014 - Analysis 74 (1):16-20.
    Pedagogy is a pillar of human culture and society. Telling each other information and showing each other how to do things comes naturally to us. A strong case has been made that declarative knowledge is the norm of assertion, which is our primary way of telling others information. This article presents an analogous case for the hypothesis that procedural knowledge is the norm of instructional demonstration, which is a primary way of showing others how to do things. Knowledge is the (...)
  32. On Amnesia and Knowing-How.David Bzdak - 2008 - Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology 12 (1):36-47.
    In this paper, I argue that Stanley and Williamson’s 2001 account of knowledge-how as a species of knowledge-that is wrong. They argue that a claim such as “Hannah knows how to ride a bicycle” is true if and only if Hannah has some relevant knowledge-that. I challenge their claim by considering the case of a famous amnesic patient named Henry M. who is capable of acquiring and retaining new knowledge-how but who is incapable of acquiring and retaining new knowledge-that. In (...)
  33. Art, Practical Knowledge and Aesthetic Objectivity.David Carr - 1999 - Ratio 12 (3):240–256.
  34. Knowledge in Practice.David Carr - 1981 - American Philosophical Quarterly 18 (1):53 - 61.
  35. The Logic of Knowing How and Ability.David Carr - 1979 - Mind 88 (351):394-409.
  36. (Anti)-Anti-Intellectualism and the Sufficiency Thesis.J. Adam Carter & Bolesław Czarnecki - 2017 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 98 (S1):374-397.
    Anti-intellectualists about knowledge-how insist that, when an agent S knows how to φ, it is in virtue of some ability, rather than in virtue of any propositional attitudes, S has. Recently, a popular strategy for attacking the anti-intellectualist position proceeds by appealing to cases where an agent is claimed to possess a reliable ability to φ while nonetheless intuitively lacking knowledge-how to φ. John Bengson & Marc Moffett (2009; 2011a; 2011b) and Carlotta Pavese (2015a; 2015b) have embraced precisely this strategy (...)
  37. Extended Knowledge-How.J. Adam Carter & Bolesław Czarnecki - 2016 - Erkenntnis 81 (2):259-273.
    According to reductive intellectualists about knowledge-how :147–190, 2008; Philos Phenomenol Res 78:439–467, 2009) knowledge-how is a kind of knowledge-that. To the extent that this is right, then insofar as we might conceive of ways knowledge could be extended with reference to active externalist :7–19, 1998; Clark in Supersizing the mind: embodiment, action, and cognitive extension: embodiment, action, and cognitive extension. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2008) approaches in the philosophy of mind, we should expect no interesting difference between the two. However, (...)
  38. The Defeasibility of Knowledge-How.J. Adam Carter & Jesús Navarro - 2017 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research (3):662-685.
    Reductive intellectualists (e.g., Stanley & Williamson 2001; Stanley 2011a; 2011b; Brogaard 2008; 2009; 2011) hold that knowledge-how is a kind of knowledge-that. If this thesis is correct, then we should expect the defeasibility conditions for knowledge-how and knowledge-that to be uniform—viz., that the mechanisms of epistemic defeat which undermine propositional knowledge will be equally capable of imperilling knowledge-how. The goal of this paper is twofold: first, against intellectualism, we will show that knowledge-how is in fact resilient to being undermined by (...)
  39. A Critical Introduction to Knowledge-How.J. Adam Carter & Ted Poston - 2018 - Bloomsbury Academic.
    We know facts, but we also know how to do things. To know a fact is to know that a proposition is true. But does knowing how to ride a bike amount to knowledge of propositions? This is a challenging question and one that deeply divides the contemporary landscape. A Critical Introduction to Knowledge-How introduces, outlines, and critically evaluates various contemporary debates surrounding the nature of knowledge-how. Carter and Poston show that situating the debate over the nature of knowledge-how in (...)
  40. Knowledge‐How and Epistemic Luck.J. Adam Carter & Duncan Pritchard - 2015 - Noûs 49 (3):440-453.
    Reductive intellectualists hold that knowledge-how is a kind of knowledge-that. For this thesis to hold water, it is obviously important that knowledge-how and knowledge-that have the same epistemic properties. In particular, knowledge-how ought to be compatible with epistemic luck to the same extent as knowledge-that. It is argued, contra reductive intellectualism, that knowledge-how is compatible with a species of epistemic luck which is not compatible with knowledge-that, and thus it is claimed that knowledge-how and knowledge-that come apart.
  41. Knowledge‐How and Cognitive Achievement.J. Adam Carter & Duncan Pritchard - 2015 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 91 (1):181-199.
    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 (...)
  42. Intellectualism and Testimony.Yuri Cath - 2017 - Analysis 77 (2):1-9.
    Knowledge-how often appears to be more difficult to transmit by testimony than knowledge-that and knowledge-wh. Some philosophers have argued that this difference provides us with an important objection to intellectualism—the view that knowledge-how is a species of knowledge-that. This article defends intellectualism against these testimony-based objections.
  43. Knowing How and 'Knowing How'.Yuri Cath - 2015 - In Christopher Daly (ed.), The Palgrave Handbook of Philosophical Methods. Palgrave-Macmillan. pp. 527-552.
    What is the relationship between the linguistic properties of knowledge-how ascriptions and the nature of knowledge-how itself? In this chapter I address this question by examining the linguistic methodology of Stanley and Williamson (2011) and Stanley (2011a, 2011b) who defend the intellectualist view that knowledge-how is a kind of knowledge-that. My evaluation of this methodology is mixed. On the one hand, I defend Stanley and Williamson (2011) against critics who argue that the linguistic premises they appeal to—about the syntax and (...)
  44. Revisionary Intellectualism and Gettier.Yuri Cath - 2015 - Philosophical Studies 172 (1):7-27.
    How should intellectualists respond to apparent Gettier-style counterexamples? Stanley offers an orthodox response which rejects the claim that the subjects in such scenarios possess knowledge-how. I argue that intellectualists should embrace a revisionary response according to which knowledge-how is a distinctively practical species of knowledge-that that is compatible with Gettier-style luck.
  45. Regarding a Regress.Yuri Cath - 2013 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 94 (3):358-388.
    Is there a successful regress argument against intellectualism? In this article I defend the negative answer. I begin by defending Stanley and Williamson's (2001) critique of the contemplation regress against Noë (2005). I then identify a new argument – the employment regress – that is designed to succeed where the contemplation regress fails, and which I take to be the most basic and plausible form of a regress argument against intellectualism. However, I argue that the employment regress still fails. Drawing (...)
  46. Knowing How Without Knowing That.Yuri Cath - 2011 - In John Bengson & Mark Moffett (eds.), Knowing How: Essays on Knowledge, Mind, and Action. Oxford University Press. pp. 113.
    In this paper I develop three different arguments against the thesis that knowledge-how is a kind of knowledge-that. Knowledge-that is widely thought to be subject to an anti-luck condition, a justified or warranted belief condition, and a belief condition, respectively. The arguments I give suggest that if either of these standard assumptions is correct then knowledge-how is not a kind of knowledge-that. In closing I identify a possible alternative to the standard Rylean and intellectualist accounts of knowledge-how. This alternative view (...)
  47. The Ability Hypothesis and the New Knowledge-How.Yuri Cath - 2009 - Noûs 43 (1):137-156.
    What follows for the ability hypothesis reply to the knowledge argument if knowledge-how is just a form of knowledge-that? The obvious answer is that the ability hypothesis is false. For the ability hypothesis says that, when Mary sees red for the first time, Frank Jackson’s super-scientist gains only knowledge-how and not knowledge-that. In this paper I argue that this obvious answer is wrong: a version of the ability hypothesis might be true even if knowledge-how is a form of knowledge-that. To (...)
  48. A Practical Guide to Intellectualism.Yuri Cath - 2008 - Dissertation, Australian National University
    In this thesis I examine the view—known as intellectualism—that knowledge-how is a kind of knowledge-that, or propositional knowledge. I examine issues concerning both the status of this view of knowledge-how and the philosophical implications if it is true. The ability hypothesis is an important position in the philosophy of mind that appeals to Gilbert Ryle’s famous idea that there is a fundamental distinction between knowledge-how and knowledge-that. This position appears to be inconsistent with the truth of intellectualism. However, I demonstrate (...)
  49. Rules, Know-How, and the Future of Moral Cognition.Paul Churchland - 2000 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 30 (Supplement):291-306.
  50. Word and Action: Reconciling Rules and Know-How in Moral Cognition.Andy Clark - 2000 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 30 (sup1):267-289.
    Recent work in cognitive science highlights the importance of exem- plar-based know-how in supporting human expertise. Influenced by this model, certain accounts of moral knowledge now stress exemplar- based, non-sentential know-how at the expense of rule-and-principle based accounts. I shall argue, however, that moral thought and reason cannot be understood by reference to either of these roles alone. Moral cognition – like other forms of ‘advanced’ cognition – depends crucially on the subtle interplay and interaction of multiple factors and forces (...)
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