Synthese 199 (5-6):14035-14062 (2021)
AbstractTaking perceptual experience to consist in a relation of acquaintance with the sensible qualities, I argue that the state of being acquainted with a sensible quality is intrinsically a form of knowledge, and not merely a means to more familiar kinds of knowledge, such as propositional or dispositional knowledge. We should accept the epistemic claim for its explanatory power and theoretical usefulness. That acquaintance is knowledge best explains the intuitive epistemic appeal of ‘Edenic’ counterfactuals involving unmediated perceptual contact with reality (cf. Chalmers, in: Gendler, Hawthorne (eds) Perceptual experience, Oxford University Press, 2006). It explains the elusiveness of knowledge gained through new acquaintances. It coheres with the knowledge-like functional role of acquaintance in the special context of evaluative beliefs and evaluative reasoning, where the objects of acquaintance serve as evidence and inferential basis. And, finally, taking acquaintance to be knowledge is theoretically fruitful: it helps vindicate claims about the relationship between knowledge and concern for others we already find intuitive or outright accept. After developing a novel case for the epistemic claim, I respond to two familiar objections against it: namely, (1) that there are no pre-propositional, pre-conceptual cases of perceptual experience that remain epistemically relevant (Sellars in Empiricism and the philosophy of mind, Routledge, 1968, McDowell, in: Lindgard (ed) John McDowell: Experience, norm, and nature, Blackwell, 2008); and (2) that the category of knowledge appears gerrymandered once we add ‘object’ knowledge to the epistemological mix (Farkas, in: Knowles, Raleigh (eds), Acquaintance: new essays, Oxford University Press, 2019).
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