Knowledge As Articulated Insight

The standard definition of knowledge, canonized in epistemology textbooks, is that knowledge is “justified true belief.”

I think that this is badly wrong, and to put it right, we should return to where this idea comes from: Plato’s argument (“argument”) in Meno. I suggest, based in part on Plato, that we should reject the JTB definition of knowledge in favor of knowledge as articulated insight.

In Meno, Socrates and Meno begin by asking “how is virtue taught?”. The dialogue progresses as Socrates asks Meno for a definition of virtue, rather than specific examples of virtues.

The underlying idea here is that one cannot have been taught what virtue is unless one is able to show that one knows what virtue is, but one cannot be said to know what virtue is unless one can show that one knows how to define what virtue is. Hence if one cannot define virtue, then one cannot be said to know what it is, and hence one cannot have been taught what virtue is.

(An important context here is that Meno has studied under some of the best Sophists in Athens — those who claim to be wise.)

One of the important turning points in the dialogue comes when Socrates proposes that knowledge is (quoting from memory) “true understanding with an account.”

This may look like JTB, but I think it is not, and that Plato is much more insightful here.

First, belief is itself an ambiguous word. It’s a problem that English allows us to use “belief” to mean such wildly different things as perceptual reports, memories, and hypotheses of dubious evidence. (It’s also used to express intentions, muddying the waters further.) This gives us the sense of belief as “a commitment to a proposition”, or a willingness to act as if a certain proposition were true. “I believe that p” means that I am prepared to act in ways that are reasonable if p is true in the world.

But “true understanding”, in Plato’s sense, is even more embodied and pragmatic. The examples he gives of people who have “true understanding” are craftspeople (cobblers, tailors, etc.) and poets. They exhibit a genuine understanding of their craft, and Socrates is willing to say that the poets are divinely inspired.

In other words, those with true understanding have insight.

What these people lack is “an account”: they aren’t able to discursively represent to others what it is that they implicitly understand. They have insight but they cannot articulate it.

And without discursive explication of implicit knowledge, the implicit knowledge cannot be made fully public to all, which means that it cannot function in rationally persuasive language that is at least partly insulated from the distortions of propaganda. The implicit knowledge also cannot be taught if it cannot be made fully explicit.

In other words, articulating insight becomes crucial for (1) thinking about how to protect the people from the effects of propaganda and (2) thinking about what education is and how one should be educated.

And these were the two major issues that affected Athenian society during and after the Peloponnesian War, and especially Plato himself.

In short, we’re going to get a much better handle on epistemology if we start off thinking about knowledge as articulated insight. We can then ask, “what distinguishes insightful perception of a situation from non-insightful perception of a situation?” as well as “can insight be taught?” — we can ask, “how are people best taught to articulate their insight?”  and “why is articulation important?” and “is there a single best method of articulation?” and so forth.

My own thinking about these issues wants to proceed from Plato — to whom I am constantly returning over and over — to Dewey (Democracy and Education, Logic: The Theory of Inquiry, The Quest for Certainty) and recently to Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed. (Freire has been massively influential around the world, but his work has had almost no impact on Anglophone epistemology. We tend to shy away from anything that smacks too much of real-world relevance.)

 

 

45 Replies to “Knowledge As Articulated Insight”

  1. Mung Mung
    Ignored
    says:

    Wouldn’t Plato say that you already know that God exists, you just need to remember what you have forgotten?

    😉

  2. Fair Witness Fair Witness
    Ignored
    says:

    Doesn’t this just change “justified” to “justifiable” ?

  3. Kantian Naturalist Kantian Naturalist
    Ignored
    says:

    Mung:
    Wouldn’t Plato say that you already know that God exists, you just need to remember what you have forgotten?

    Not “God” in the Christian sense, since Plato wasn’t a Christian. (Though it is fair to say, as Nietzsche put it, that “Christianity is Platonism for the masses.”)

    What Plato recognizes in Meno is the need to give an account of what giving an account is.

    That’s the function of the doctrine of ‘recollection’: according to this picture, to give an account is to explicate in language what it is that one’s soul has seen of the form. The more deeply the soul has perceived the form, the more adequate an account one can give of the thing.

    Plato is exactly right that we need to give an account of what giving an account is.

    But Plato had one major drawback: he lacked the concept of science. Plato was too much of a Heraclitean about sense-perceptions and too much of a Parmenidean about concepts, and those unfortunate commitments have held philosophy prisoner for millennia.

    Aristotle invented the concept of science (arguably). At least he got partly there: he had the idea of acquiring knowledge from the senses. Plato didn’t think that made any sense. But Aristotle lacked the idea of using the senses to test competing explanations by doing experiments. That was the real breakthrough of Bacon, Boyle, Hooke, and the others.

    Without the idea of science, there’s no way of seeing the need to distinguish between rational justification and causal explanation. But armed with this distinction, we can see that we can give a causal explanation of our ability to articulate insight and also articulate the insights that lead to causal explanations.

    The former is the story of hominid cognitive evolution and the latter is the history and philosophy of science.

  4. petrushka
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    says:

    How about imagination modified by feedback?

  5. Neil Rickert
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    says:

    I probably criticize “justified true belief” as much as anyone. It has three obvious problems:

    We do not have a satisfactory account of “justified”;
    we do not have a satisfactory account of “true”; and
    we do not have a satisfactory account of “belief”.

    I take it that philosophy aims to give articulated accounts of whatever it can. And that’s good. But I see the mistake as wanting to make those accounts free-standing and independent. But everything important about us is grounded in animal behavior. This seems particularly true of knowledge. So I see knowledge as unavoidably individual and personal. We can roughly assess how knowledgeable a person is, but we really cannot give explicit details of what constitutes that knowledge.

    I value a plumber’s knowledge, because he can fix the pipes. If he is able to articulate how he does that, then that is an additional ability and indicates additional knowledge such as might make him a good teacher of plumbing. But I don’t think we can tie all knowledge to what can be articulated.

  6. fifthmonarchyman
    Ignored
    says:

    Mung: Wouldn’t Plato say that you already know that God exists, you just need to remember what you have forgotten?

    Plato is my homeboy 😉

    peace

  7. Mung Mung
    Ignored
    says:

    What is the difference between insight and intuition?

  8. Mung Mung
    Ignored
    says:

    I suggest, based in part on Plato, that we should reject the JTB definition of knowledge in favor of knowledge as articulated insight.

    I don’t see how articulated insight is any different from revelation.

  9. fifthmonarchyman
    Ignored
    says:

    Mung: I don’t see how articulated insight is any different from revelation.

    Articulation is generally how you reveal stuff to others.

    quote:

    If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself

    end quote:
    Albert Einstein

    peace

  10. Kantian Naturalist Kantian Naturalist
    Ignored
    says:

    Mung:
    What is the difference between insight and intuition?

    One could use the words so that they were synonymous. I wouldn’t, but one could.

  11. vjtorley
    Ignored
    says:

    Hi Kantian Naturalist,

    Happy New Year, and thanks very much for putting up this post, which I really enjoyed reading. I’d like to begin by asking you a couple of questions.

    Following in the footsteps of Plato, you propose to define knowledge as articulated insight, because you regard knowledge as something that has to be not only understood but also taught, in order that it be made public to everyone – and teaching requires the ability to use rationally persuasive language.

    You also contend that knowledge, in Plato’s sense of the word, is something “embodied and pragmatic,” and you add: “The examples he gives of people who have ‘true understanding’ are craftspeople (cobblers, tailors, etc.) and poets.”

    The problems I have with this account are that:

    (i) at least some simple crafts can be taught by the master showing the student what needs to be done, without using any language at all (think of Martin Ryle’s famous example of showing someone knowing how to tie a reef knot, in The Concept of Mind);

    (ii) more generally, there is an important philosophical distinction between “knowing how” and “knowing that.” Craftspeople and poets possess knowledge of the former variety, but it seems that the scope of “that-knowledge” will always be larger than the scope of “how-knowledge,” since the latter encompasses the former; and

    (iii) it strikes me that crafts and poetry are two fields of endeavor in which there is absolutely no need to protect people from “the effects of propaganda” – which undercuts the need for rationally persuasive discourse.

    So I’d like to ask you:

    (i) do you regard knowledge, in paradigm cases, as something inherently propositional, or do you tend to view it as a skill?

    (ii) what, in your opinion, are the things that we can be most certain of, and why?

    I’ll stop there for now.

  12. Neil Rickert
    Ignored
    says:

    vjtorley: (think of Martin Ryle’s famous example of showing someone knowing how to tie a reef knot, in The Concept of Mind)

    I think you mean Gilbert Ryle.

  13. vjtorley
    Ignored
    says:

    Neil Rickert:

    Yes. Terrible lapse of memory there. Thank you.

  14. Fair Witness Fair Witness
    Ignored
    says:

    Mung:
    What is the difference between insight and intuition?

    Insight is just a deep understanding of something. In popular usage, intuition has an almost supernatural connotation – as if the knowledge came from thin air.

    I think it was Daniel Kahneman, in his book “Thinking: Fast and Slow” who discussed the fact that intuition is more of a process of the subconscious making connections among stored memories, and having it “bubble up” to the conscious mind. There is nothing supernatural about it, but it might seem that way to some people.

  15. Kantian Naturalist Kantian Naturalist
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    says:

    Neil Rickert: I take it that philosophy aims to give articulated accounts of whatever it can. And that’s good. But I see the mistake as wanting to make those accounts free-standing and independent. But everything important about us is grounded in animal behavior. This seems particularly true of knowledge. So I see knowledge as unavoidably individual and personal. We can roughly assess how knowledgeable a person is, but we really cannot give explicit details of what constitutes that knowledge.

    I think that knowledge is a quite difficult concept, and we will probably need some fine-grained distinctions between different kinds or grades of knowledge. I know that Ernest Sosa has defended that position but I don’t think it’s gotten much uptake. These days there’s still not much interaction between epistemologists who take a heavily language-centered view of knowledge and cognitive ethologists who study animal behavior and its neurophysiological correlates.

    In those regards I agree with you that knowledge is not the kind of concept that can be neatly analyzed. (In fact I am a deeply hostile to the idea that any concept can be analyzed.) However, I would also resist the idea that knowledge is individual or personal, because that seems to make private entities out of norms. And that seems deeply mistaken to me.

    vjtorley: So I’d like to ask you:

    (i) do you regard knowledge, in paradigm cases, as something inherently propositional, or do you tend to view it as a skill?

    I like the challenges here, and I quite agree that my use of Plato to develop “knowledge as articulated insight” is not going to cover all cases — and probably not cases of skill transmission. I suspect that language facilitates skill transmission (“good. Now loop that part around like this”), but not necessary. There’s a huge literature on skill acquisition and transmission in humans and nonhumans, and I won’t pretend to have any competence about it.

    In addition to the Rylean distinction between knowing-how and knowing-that, there are two other views that I take seriously. One is the enactivist view, defended by Alva Noë, that all knowledge is knowing how: knowledge is knowing how “all the way up”, so to speak. The other is the propositionalist view, defended by Jason Stanley, that all knowing is knowing-that: knowledge is knowing that “all the way down.”

    My own position is that we should reject the idea that that knowing-how and knowing-that marks a distinction in kinds of knowledge, but accept that it marks a distinction in ways of thinking about knowledge. Knowing how ‘all the way up’ is a good model if we want to think about how knowledge is acquired, and knowing that ‘all the way down’ is a good model if we want to think about persuasiveness in a public space of reasons.

    Put better: it depends on whether we’re thinking about knowledge in terms of education or in terms of politics.

    One of the things we should re-learn from Plato — a deep lesson that was not lost on Dewey and on Freire — is that the problems of epistemology are living, crucial, and important problems when situated in terms of philosophy of education and political theory (which also must be understood in relation to another). This is one of the deepest lessons not only of Meno but also of Republic.

    I think that if we can see our way to understanding that, then the distinction between knowing how and knowing that can be understood as the ways in which knowledge matters to us, rather than a distinction between kinds or grades of knowledge. (I do think there are distinct kinds or grades of knowledge, but that’s not one of them.)

    (ii) what, in your opinion, are the things that we can be most certain of, and why?

    On this issue I take the Wittgensteinian view (in On Certainty): we are certain about a good deal, but certainty and knowledge are different categories. We have knowledge only in contexts where doubt is intelligible to us, because only when doubt is intelligible does it even make sense to ask for justification. By contrast, we have certainty in contexts where doubt is unintelligible, or where it makes no sense to ask for justification.

  16. fifthmonarchyman
    Ignored
    says:

    Kantian Naturalist: We have knowledge only in contexts where doubt is intelligible to us, because only when doubt is intelligible does it even make sense to ask for justification. By contrast, we have certainty in contexts where doubt is unintelligible, or where it makes no sense to ask for justification.

    I think that is profound and I had never thought of it exactly that way before. This needs some fleshing out.

    So for example when it comes to Cogito ergo sum is certainty impossible because doubt is indeed intelligible and has been expressed from time to time?

    Or are you speaking of intelligible doubt from ones own personal perspective so that one can be certain of ones own existence unless and until he has thought deeply about the matter?

    And does knowledge begin when certainty ends in this instance?

    peace

  17. Neil Rickert
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    says:

    Kantian Naturalist: However, I would also resist the idea that knowledge is individual or personal, because that seems to make private entities out of norms.

    To me, that seems backwards.

    That is to say, we make norms out of private entities. We do this as part of participation in a society. We each adjust our private entities so as to bring them into approximate alignment. And that’s what gives rise to norms.

  18. Neil Rickert
    Ignored
    says:

    Kantian Naturalist: My own position is that we should reject the idea that that knowing-how and knowing-that marks a distinction in kinds of knowledge, but accept that it marks a distinction in ways of thinking about knowledge. Knowing how ‘all the way up’ is a good model if we want to think about how knowledge is acquired, and knowing that ‘all the way down’ is a good model if we want to think about persuasiveness in a public space of reasons.

    That seems about right.

  19. Kantian Naturalist Kantian Naturalist
    Ignored
    says:

    fifthmonarchyman: So for example when it comes to Cogito ergo sum is certainty impossible because doubt is indeed intelligible and has been expressed from time to time?

    Bear in mind that Descartes wants to discover what is immune to doubt. He finds that the one thing he cannot doubt is his own existence. That’s what the cogito ergo sum does, or as he puts it, “the proposition ‘I am, I exist’ is necessarily true at every time that I actually think it”.

    On the Wittgenstein-based line of thought I’m pursuing, certainty and knowledge belong to different categories. Reading Descartes through a Wittgensteinian lens, I would say that the discovery that one’s own existence cannot be doubted means that one cannot know that one exists.

    Or are you speaking of intelligible doubt from ones own personal perspective so that one can be certain of ones own existence unless and until he has thought deeply about the matter?

    Again, one cannot doubt one’s own existence.

    And does knowledge begin when certainty ends in this instance?

    I think of knowledge and certainty as belonging to different categories. Certainty consists in the background assumptions that function as conditions of intelligibility. To call them into question is to lose touch with one’s cognitive bearings in a radical way; it is become disoriented.

    By contrast, knowledge consists in having an optimal grip on objective reality, which can be called into question, improved, adjusted, etc.

    The idea I’m pursuing in thinking of knowing as articulated insight is that the ability to articulate insight (a la Plato) is the ability to express in a meta-vocabulary (articulation) the optimal grip on reality that is achieved in implicit insight, which thereby allows one to assess, evaluate, and improve one’s grip. And that’s important because the chief epistemological problem is meta-ignorance: ignorance about one’s ignorance. The possibility of meta-ignorance means that one can be trapped in a local optimum and not realize it (and indeed be unable to realize it, if one lacks critical thinking skills).

  20. fifthmonarchyman
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    says:

    Kantian Naturalist: would say that the discovery that one’s own existence cannot be doubted means that one cannot know that one exists.

    That is what I thought you were saying. Thanks.

    I’m not sure I buy it but it’s interesting.

    According to this understanding it seems that omniscience is impossible for a uniatarian god aka keiths

    peace

  21. walto walto
    Ignored
    says:

    Kantian Naturalist: I know that Ernest Sosa has defended that position

    I had a class with him. He was a bit too much of a Chisholm sycophant for my taste. Nice man, though.

  22. fifthmonarchyman
    Ignored
    says:

    Kantian Naturalist: The possibility of meta-ignorance means that one can be trapped in a local optimum and not realize it

    I agree with you that the only solution to this is social interaction.
    If you can’t reveal you can’t know.
    As strange as it may seem this has implications for ID and AI.

    peace

  23. newton
    Ignored
    says:

    fifthmonarchyman:
    That is what I thought you were saying. Thanks.

    I’m not sure I buy it but it’s interesting.

    According to this understanding it seems that omniscience is impossible for a uniatarian god aka keiths

    I read this as an omniscient being does not know it is omniscient but is certain of it. It seems to me to refute keiths’ argument. Don’t see how a trinatarian being makes a difference.

  24. fifthmonarchyman
    Ignored
    says:

    newton: I read this as an omniscient being does not know it is omniscient but is certain of it.

    So there is at least one thing that an unitarian god does not know(that he is omniscient). A being who does not know everything is not omniscient.

    newton: Don’t see how a trinatarian being makes a difference.

    Each of the persons of the Trinity could know that each of the others was omniscient. Doubt would be intelligible in each instance.

    Thus making the Godhead omniscient

    peace

  25. llanitedave llanitedave
    Ignored
    says:

    fifthmonarchyman: Articulation is generally how you reveal stuff to others.

    quote:

    If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself

    end quote:
    Albert Einstein

    peace

    Try that with tensor calculus.

  26. colewd
    Ignored
    says:

    llanitedave,

    Try that with tensor calculus.

    Priceless 🙂

  27. Flint
    Ignored
    says:

    Kantian Naturalist: I think of knowledge and certainty as belonging to different categories. Certainty consists in the background assumptions that function as conditions of intelligibility. To call them into question is to lose touch with one’s cognitive bearings in a radical way; it is become disoriented.

    By contrast, knowledge consists in having an optimal grip on objective reality, which can be called into question, improved, adjusted, etc.

    I’ve heard it said that you can be probably correct, or you can be certain, but you cannot be both.

  28. Flint
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    says:

    llanitedave: Try that with tensor calculus.

    I think the six year old can understand the ideas of tensor calculus better than he can understand the role of public support in political power. I’ve found few adults have more than a misleadingly simplistic idea of the relationship between law and power, between literal readings of texts, and applying texts to dynamic systems of trade-offs.

  29. vjtorley
    Ignored
    says:

    Kantian Naturalist writes:

    We have knowledge only in contexts where doubt is intelligible to us, because only when doubt is intelligible does it even make sense to ask for justification. By contrast, we have certainty in contexts where doubt is unintelligible, or where it makes no sense to ask for justification.

    Hang on a minute. Aren’t you rejecting the very notion of knowledge as justified true belief, Kantian Naturalist?

    In any case, I’m not sure that Wittgenstein is right in distinguishing knowledge from certainty. First, we can be mistaken about some fact (call it X) that we feel certain of. When we realize our error, we typically say: “Well, I thought I knew that X is true, but it turns out I was wrong.” This would be odd if certainty and knowledge belonged in different categories. Second, in acquiring knowledge, we typically proceed by trying to eliminate sources of uncertainty. (Think of the debate about global warming, and how scientists first had to eliminate the rival hypotheses that the warming observed could have been due to faulty measuring instruments being used in the past, or poor siting of weather stations, or the urban heat island effect.) What this suggests to me is that the concepts of knowledge and certainty are at least related – via the notion of probability. Typically, when our confidence that a statement is true exceeds a threshold probability (say, 99.999%) we claim to know that it’s true.

    Kantian Naturalist also writes:

    My own position is that we should reject the idea that that knowing-how and knowing-that marks a distinction in kinds of knowledge, but accept that it marks a distinction in ways of thinking about knowledge. Knowing how ‘all the way up’ is a good model if we want to think about how knowledge is acquired, and knowing that ‘all the way down’ is a good model if we want to think about persuasiveness in a public space of reasons.

    I’m not at all sure that the enactivist and propositionalist views of knowledge can be combined in the manner you propose. Consider my knowledge of the fact that the Earth is roughly 150 million kilometers from the Sun, or of the fact that I have three brothers. Neither of these facts seems to fall within the “knowing how” paradigm. And now consider my knowledge of how to curl my tongue (something which, like 70% of people, I am able to do). There seems to be nothing that I need to know, propositionally, in order to accomplish this feat. (Or is there?)

    I’m not raising these objections in order to put forward any particular theory of knowledge. It seems to me that there is something wrong with all the theories that I have seen. Finally, I would wholeheartedly agree with you about one thing: knowledge is not the kind of concept that can be neatly analyzed. Indeed, I don’t think there is a single concept of knowledge at all.

  30. CharlieM CharlieM
    Ignored
    says:

    Happy New Year to all.

    Kantian Naturalist, you write:

    But “true understanding”, in Plato’s sense, is even more embodied and pragmatic. The examples he gives of people who have “true understanding” are craftspeople (cobblers, tailors, etc.) and poets. They exhibit a genuine understanding of their craft, and Socrates is willing to say that the poets are divinely inspired.
    In other words, those with true understanding have insight.
    What these people lack is “an account”: they aren’t able to discursively represent to others what it is that they implicitly understand. They have insight but they cannot articulate it.

    IMO your interpretation of Plato above is incorrect. Craftspeople do not in general have a problem in articulating the knowledge of their craft. And as for poets, Plato has Socrates saying that people who are inspired do not necessarily understand their own words. They cannot give an account of that which they do not know.

    From Meno

    Socrates. Then we shall also be right in calling divine those whom we were
    just now speaking of as diviners and prophets, including the whole
    tribe of poets. Yes, and statesmen above all may be said to be divine
    and illumined, being inspired and possessed of God, in which condition
    they say many grand things, not knowing what they say.

    So craftspeople have knowledge which they can teach, but they do not necessarily have insight, and poets have insight but not necessarily knowledge.

  31. CharlieM CharlieM
    Ignored
    says:

    Anyone who has read some of my various posts will not be surprised to learn that I am an adherent of Steiner and so I am sympathetic to the theory of knowledge he lays out in The Theory of Knowledge Implicit in Goethe’s World Conception, an audio version of which can be found here

    As Steiner writes in the first link above:

    A science of knowledge established in the sense of the Goethean world view lays its chief emphasis on the fact that it remains absolutely true to the principle of experience. No one recognized better than Goethe the total validity of this principle. He adhered to the principle altogether as strictly as we demanded earlier. All higher views on nature had to appear to him in no form other than as experience. They had to be “higher nature within nature.”

    We experience the “outer world”, but we also experience “thinking”, and it is because this thinking is the most immediate experience we have in the acquisition of knowledge then this is where any theory of knowledge should begin.

  32. newton
    Ignored
    says:

    CharlieM: IMO your interpretation of Plato above is incorrect. Craftspeople do not in general have a problem in articulating the knowledge of their craft.

    Interesting, is the basis of that your experience around craftspeople?

  33. CharlieM CharlieM
    Ignored
    says:

    newton: Interesting, is the basis of thatyour experience around craftspeople?

    Yes.

  34. Kantian Naturalist Kantian Naturalist
    Ignored
    says:

    vjtorley:
    Kantian Naturalist writes:

    Hang on a minute. Aren’t you rejecting the very notion of knowledge as justified true belief, Kantian Naturalist?

    I’m not so much rejecting justification per se as I’m wondering if something like “articulation” (or “articulability”) is both closer to what Plato meant and more apt to describing what we do in our epistemic practices.

    In any case, I’m not sure that Wittgenstein is right in distinguishing knowledge from certainty. First, we can be mistaken about some fact (call it X) that we feel certain of. When we realize our error, we typically say: “Well, I thought I knew that X is true, but it turns out I was wrong.” This would be odd if certainty and knowledge belonged in different categories.

    I like this. It suggests that there are (at least) two different concepts of certainty.

    What you’re addressing here is certainty as conviction. Conviction is a psychological attitude towards one’s beliefs, and yes, that can be shown to be mistaken. (It’s a separate but really interesting question as how certain beliefs are invested with affective energy, and the lengths we will often to go in refusing to entertain evidence that conflicts with our convictions.)

    However, what Wittgenstein is addressing is better thought of as certainty as obviousness. Consider propositions like “modus ponens is valid”, “at least some thoughts are true”, or (one of Putnam’s examples) “not every sentence is both truth and false”. These are obvious in the deep sense that they comprise the background that we use to navigate our world, cognitively and practically. To call them into question is to induce a pervasive and inescapable vertigo. (The ancient Skeptics, who did call the background into question, did so as part of their spiritual exercise for achieving liberation from anxiety.)

    The Wittgensteinian claim is that these background commitments don’t count as knowledge because they make possible our ordinary epistemic practices: doubting, asserting, asking for reasons, assessing in light of evidence, considering the implications of their truth or falsity, etc. As such they aren’t target of those epistemic practices.

    Arguably Wittgenstein draws the line too sharply between what we do in our epistemic practices and what must be taken for granted in order for us to have any epistemic practices at all. But I think that softening that boundary will take us further towards Quine’s naturalism and/or Foucault’s historicism. Those aren’t options I’m concerned with avoiding, but I do want to see how far Wittgenstein’s revision of the synthetic a priori can be taken.

    Second, in acquiring knowledge, we typically proceed by trying to eliminate sources of uncertainty. (Think of the debate about global warming, and how scientists first had to eliminate the rival hypotheses that the warming observed could have been due to faulty measuring instruments being used in the past, or poor siting of weather stations, or the urban heat island effect.) What this suggests to me is that the concepts of knowledge and certainty are at least related – via the notion of probability. Typically, when our confidence that a statement is true exceeds a threshold probability (say, 99.999%) we claim to know that it’s true.

    I agree that empirical knowledge involves minimizing uncertainty. There’s been some interesting research lately suggesting that cognition can be modeled using Bayes’ theorem. So there’s a conceptual connection there.

    However, I’m not sure that’s sufficient to undermine Wittgenstein’s remarks on knowledge and certainty as belonging to different logical categories, if we think of him as working out what we take to be so completely obvious that we cannot make sense of what it would mean to call into question.

    I’m not at all sure that the enactivist and propositionalist views of knowledge can be combined in the manner you propose. Consider my knowledge of the fact that the Earth is roughly 150 million kilometers from the Sun, or of the fact that I have three brothers. Neither of these facts seems to fall within the “knowing how” paradigm. And now consider my knowledge of how to curl my tongue (something which, like 70% of people, I am able to do). There seems to be nothing that I need to know, propositionally, in order to accomplish this feat. (Or is there?)

    On the first example, presumably the idea would be that your knowledge consists of knowing how to recognize when the utterance is called for, or in what contexts it is appropriate, or knowing how to explicate its implications. On the second example, Stanley would say that this is a motor skill that doesn’t really count as knowledge at all. That’s going too far against the grain of ordinary language for my taste (in this instance).

    I’m not raising these objections in order to put forward any particular theory of knowledge. It seems to me that there is something wrong with all the theories that I have seen.

    Yes. The most I’d be willing to say here is that foundationalism, coherentism, and reliablism are models of different way of expressing our understanding of what knowledge is, but none of them capture all of it. (Steve Horst develops that view extensively in his Cognitive Pluralism.)

    Finally, I would wholeheartedly agree with you about one thing: knowledge is not the kind of concept that can be neatly analyzed. Indeed, I don’t think there is a single concept of knowledge at all.

    Definite agreement!

  35. Kantian Naturalist Kantian Naturalist
    Ignored
    says:

    CharlieM,

    I appreciate your correction of my interpretation of Plato. If I recall correctly, in Gorgias he says that some people can have a “knack” but not genuine knowledge. I take that to mean that they have understanding but they can’t articulate it adequately.

    As for Steiner, I applaud his admiration for Goethe — I’m quite happy to see Goethe as a precursor of Hegel and also of Husserl. Cassirer is also a minor but important influence on my own thinking, and a helpful corrective to the analytic tendency to see assertoric discourse as the most central part of language and culture.

    That said, I strongly disagree that our awareness of our thinking is more immediate than our awareness of objects as we experience them. Rather, I think — with Kant on this specific point — that self-consciousness and object-consciousness (consciousness of objects) are interdependent and equiprimordial. Neither is more fundamental or immediate than the other.

    To this I would add both Hegel’s point that there is a history of a plurality of conceptual frameworks within which self-consciousness and object-consciousness unfold, Nietzsche’s point (developed independently by Dewey) that this history is contingent and non-teleological, and a post-Darwinian idea that this contingent process of historical development of conceptual frameworks has deep biological roots in our continuity with other animals.

  36. CharlieM CharlieM
    Ignored
    says:

    Kantian Naturalist: If I recall correctly, in Gorgias he (Plato) says that some people can have a “knack” but not genuine knowledge. I take that to mean that they have understanding but they can’t articulate it adequately.

    I’m not sure of the passage you are referring to. But I would take that to mean something like a bird’s ability to build a nest. It has the knack but it doesn’t really know how it does it. In other words it does it without real understanding.

  37. CharlieM CharlieM
    Ignored
    says:

    Kantian Naturalist: That said, I strongly disagree that our awareness of our thinking is more immediate than our awareness of objects as we experience them. Rather, I think — with Kant on this specific point — that self-consciousness and object-consciousness (consciousness of objects) are interdependent and equiprimordial. Neither is more fundamental or immediate than the other.

    Maybe I was not making my point with sufficient clarity.

    In order to become aware of the external world in any meaningful way we need to add the correct concepts to that which we perceive. Thinking is something of which we can become aware just like any other feature of the world. But thinking is different from any other object in that that which we perceive and the corresponding concept do not come to us from separate directions, but it is already unified in our apprehension.

    I’ve tried but probably not succeeded in making myself more clear. But thank you for giving me the opportunity to take a closer look at my own argument. I’ll ponder on it a bit more.

  38. Neil Rickert
    Ignored
    says:

    CharlieM: In order to become aware of the external world in any meaningful way we need to add the correct concepts to that which we perceive.

    What is the meaning of “correct concepts”? What, in particular, determines their correctness?

  39. Kantian Naturalist Kantian Naturalist
    Ignored
    says:

    CharlieM: Maybe I was not making my point with sufficient clarity.

    In order to become aware of the external world in any meaningful way we need to add the correct concepts to that which we perceive. Thinking is something of which we can become aware just like any other feature of the world. But thinking is different from any other object in that that which we perceive and the corresponding concept do not come to us from separate directions, but it is already unified in our apprehension.

    I’ve tried but probably not succeeded in making myself more clear. But thank you for giving me the opportunity to take a closer look at my own argument. I’ll ponder on it a bit more.

    I understand your point perfectly well. I just disagree.

    I think that the concept/object distinction cannot be identified with the distinction between what is internal to the subject and what is external to the subject.

    In fact I think that’s a terrible mistake.

    We agree that experience of external objects requires bringing concepts together what is perceived (though I suspect we have different pictures as to how that happens).

    However, I think that the exact same point holds for inner experience: our awareness of our own psychological states is conceptually mediated. I’d go so far as to say that our awareness of our psychological states is just as conceptually mediated as is our awareness of physical objects.

    So the distinction between concepts and objects isn’t one of objects ‘out there’ and concepts ‘in here’ but rather that concepts and objects cooperate in making possible both external and internal experience.

  40. Robert Byers
    Ignored
    says:

    i don’t think knowledge is articulated insight. the bible says there is wisdom, understanding, knowledge.
    Knowledge is to know something and presumes its accurate.
    any wrong idea is not knowledge. knowledge is truth.
    In other words gods truth rules the universe and mans thinking about things.
    there is knowledge and its only that if its accurate.

  41. CharlieM CharlieM
    Ignored
    says:

    Neil Rickert: What is the meaning of “correct concepts”?What, in particular, determines their correctness?

    Here is an example. To begin with, when a child looks at the moon out of the window of a moving vehicle, (s)he sees it following them. It too rushes past the nearby trees and buildings. An understanding of the reality of the situation is grasped with the concept of relative distance, our sense of sight alone does not tell us this. In other words we take the effect of parallax into account. In reality the moon does not follow the vehicle.

    We slowly gain an understanding of reality through our concepts and we determine their correctness by their lack of conflict with the body of concepts which we already hold. If I was to say to you that either water has the effect of bending straight sticks or that the refraction of light has the effect of making a straight stick look bent at the point where it enters water, I’m sure you will be able to tell us which of the two is the correct concept.

  42. CharlieM CharlieM
    Ignored
    says:

    Kantian Naturalist: I understand your point perfectly well. I just disagree.

    I think that the concept/object distinction cannot be identified with the distinction between what is internal to the subject and what is external to the subject.

    In fact I think that’s a terrible mistake.

    But that is not what I am doing. I agree that these distinctions should not be identified in this way. The object of my perception can just as equally be my own inner feeling or emotions. And concepts belong with the objects and are not just something dreamed up in the minds of humans. In the act of cognition we reunite the object with the concept.

    Kantian Naturalist

    We agree that experience of external objects requires bringing concepts together what is perceived (though I suspect we have different pictures as to how that happens).

    However, I think that the exact same point holds for inner experience: our awareness of our own psychological states is conceptually mediated. I’d go so far as to say that our awareness of our psychological states is just as conceptually mediated as is our awareness of physical objects.

    So the distinction between concepts and objects isn’t one of objects ‘out there’ and concepts ‘in here’ but rather that concepts and objects cooperate in making possible both external and internal experience.

    I would not say that concepts and objects cooperate. It is not that thy cooperate, they belong together, and it is only due to our human organisation that they appear to us to be apart. It is thinking which links a perceived “object” with its corresponding concept or concepts. And by “object” I mean any external or internal perceived entity. It could be a fish, a rock, the moon, toothache, joy, an itch, my body or whatever.

    Thinking in its true sense is what enables us to reunite that which we have torn apart in the first place.

  43. Neil Rickert
    Ignored
    says:

    CharlieM: Here is an example. To begin with, when a child looks at the moon out of the window of a moving vehicle, (s)he sees it following them. It too rushes past the nearby trees and buildings. An understanding of the reality of the situation is grasped with the concept of relative distance, our sense of sight alone does not tell us this. In other words we take the effect of parallax into account. In reality the moon does not follow the vehicle.

    That’s not really an example of “correct concepts”. It is more a matter of an understanding of how the world actually works.

    Note, however, that creationists often disagree with scientists about how the world actually works.

  44. CharlieM CharlieM
    Ignored
    says:

    Neil Rickert: That’s not really an example of “correct concepts”.It is more a matter of an understanding of how the world actually works.

    Can you explain how you would come to an understanding of the world without the use of concepts?

    Neil Rickert

    Note, however, that creationists often disagree with scientists about how the world actually works.

    I don’t see it so black and white. I would say there is quite a smooth transition between fundamentalist creationists and scientists who hold equally fundamentalist beliefs. There are creationists who believe in evolution, religious scientists, agnostic scientists, so called new atheist scientists and everything in between.

  45. Neil Rickert
    Ignored
    says:

    CharlieM: Can you explain how you would come to an understanding of the world without the use of concepts?

    This seems to be moving the goalposts.

    I never disagreed with the need for concepts. I questioned the adjective “correct” as applied to concepts.

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