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Knowing-how: Problems and Considerations



In recent years, a debate concerning the nature of knowing-how has emerged between intellectualists who claim that knowledge-how is reducible to knowledge-that and anti-intellectualists who claim that knowledge-how comprises a unique and irreducible knowledge category. The arguments between these two camps have clustered largely around two issues: (1) intellectualists object to Gilbert Ryle's assertion that knowing-how is a kind of ability, and (2) anti-intellectualists take issue with Jason Stanley and Timothy Williamson's positive, intellectualist account of knowing-how. Like most anti-intellectualists, in this paper I will raise objections to Stanley and Williamson's account of knowing-how and also defend the claim that ability is necessary for knowing-how attributions. Unlike most discussions of knowing-how, however, I will return to more Rylean considerations in order to illustrate that any intellectualist account of knowing-how, not simply Stanley and Williamson's preferred variety, will fail because it will be unable to account for fundamental differences in the knowledge required to instantiate an ability and the knowledge involved in propositional thought.