Dispositional Knowledge-how versus Propositional Knowledge-that

In Gregor Damschen, Robert Schnepf & Karsten Stüber (eds.), Debating Dispositions: Issues in Metaphysics, Epistemology and Philosophy of Mind. Berlin/New York: de Gruyter. pp. 278-295 (2009)
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The paper deals with the question of the structure of knowledge and the precise relationship between propositional "knowledge that" and dispositional "knowledge how." In the first part of my essay, I provide an analysis of the term 'knowing how' and argue that the usual alternatives in the recent epistemological debate – knowing how is either a form of propositional or dispositional knowledge – are misleading. In fact it depends on the semantic and pragmatic context of the usage of this term whether 'knowing how' refers to a type of dispositional knowledge, to propositional knowledge, or to a hybrid form of both. Only in the first case, can one say that dispositional know how cannot be reduced to any form of propositional knowledge. Yet, this case is the most interesting one to consider in the investigation of the nature of knowledge, if one assumes that knowing that p presupposes "having found out that p." Having found something out, however, presupposes certain acts of epistemic inquiry and corresponding epistemic abilities. Examined more carefully, it is shown that the dispositional knowledge-how is a necessary condition for propositional knowledge-that, hence propositional knowledge-that is a species of the dispositional knowledge-how. Accordingly, dispositional knowledge has to be understood as being at the very core of our notion of knowledge, including propositional knowledge.

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Gregor Damschen
University of Oldenburg


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