Knowing How is Knowing How You Are (or Could Have Been) Able

Philosophers' Imprint (forthcoming)
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Know how and ability have a seemingly fraught relationship. I deepen the tension here, by arguing for two new pieces of data concerning know how and ability. First, know how ascriptions have two distinct readings that differ in their entailments to ability: one entails ability, the other does not. Second, in certain cases, the indeterminacy of certain ability claims infects both readings of know how claims. No existing accounts of the relationship between know how and ability captures both data points, I argue; but a certain kind of intellectualism has special resources to account for them. Ascriptions of knowledge of infinitival questions give rise to a distinctive kind of context-sensitivity specific to infinitivals. I show how on an intellectualist view where, very roughly, knowing how to do something is knowing an answer to an infinitival question about your abilities, this context-sensitivity accounts for the relationship between know how and ability.

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David Boylan
Texas Tech University


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