Philosophical Studies

, Volume 164, Issue 2, pp 341–355 | Cite as

Knowledge-how, true indexical belief, and action

  • Elia Zardini


Intellectualism is the doctrine that knowing how to do something consists in knowing that something is the case. Drawing on contemporary linguistic theories of indirect interrogatives, Jason Stanley and Timothy Williamson have recently revived intellectualism, proposing to interpret a sentence of the form ‘DP know how to VP’ as ascribing to DP knowledge of a certain way w of VPing that they could VP in w. In order to preserve knowledge-how’s connection to action and thus avoid an overgeneration problem, they add that this knowledge must be had under a “practical” mode of presentation of w. I argue that there can be non-knowledgeable true beliefs under a practical mode of presentation and that some such beliefs would nevertheless be sufficient to establish knowledge-how’s characteristic connection to action, and thus count as knowledge-how. If so, Stanley and Williamson’s account is faced with a serious undergeneration problem. Moreover, the structural features on which the argument relies make it likely to present a quite general challenge for intellectualist strategies.


Action Indexical belief Indirect interrogatives Intellectualism Knowledge-how Modes of presentation 


  1. Bengson, J., Moffett, M., & Wright, J. (2009). The folk on knowing how. Philosophical Studies, 142, 387–401.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Brogaard, B. (2008). Knowledge-the and propositional attitude ascriptions. Grazer Philosophische Studien, 77, 147–190.Google Scholar
  3. Ginet, C. (1975). Knowledge, perception, and memory. Dordrecht: Reidel.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Hawley, K. (2003). Success and knowledge-how. American Philosophical Quarterly, 40, 19–31.Google Scholar
  5. Karttunen, L. (1977). Syntax and semantics of questions. Linguistics and Philosophy, 1, 3–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Perry, J. (1979). The problem of the essential indexical. Nous, 13, 3–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Poston, T. (2009). Know how to be Gettiered. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 79, 743–747.Google Scholar
  8. Ryle, G. (1949). The concept of mind. Chicago: Chicago University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Ryle, G. (1971). Knowing how and knowing that. In G. Ryle, Collected papers II (pp. 212–225). London: Hutchinson.Google Scholar
  10. Schaffer, J. (2007). Knowing the answer. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 75, 383–403.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Setiya, K. (2008). Practical knowledge. Ethics, 118, 388–409.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Sgaravatti, D., & Zardini, E. (2008). Knowing how to establish intellectualism. Grazer Philosophische Studien, 77, 217–261.Google Scholar
  13. Sosa, E. (2007). A virtue epistemology: Apt belief and reflective knowledge. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Stanley, J. (2011a). Knowing (how). Nous, 45, 207–238.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Stanley, J. (2011b). Know how. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Stanley, J., & Williamson, T. (2001). Knowing-how. The Journal of Philosophy, 98, 411–444.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Williamson, T. (2000). Knowledge and its limits. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Zardini, E. (2011). The linguistic evidence for anti-intellectualism, MS.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Northern Institute of Philosophy, Department of Philosophy, School of Divinity, History and PhilosophyUniversity of AberdeenAberdeenUK

Personalised recommendations