Experience is Knowledge

In Uriah Kriegel (ed.), Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Mind, Vol. 1. Oxford, UK: pp. 106-129 (2021)
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Abstract

It seems like experience plays a positive—even essential—role in generating some knowledge. The problem is, it’s not clear what that role is. To see this, suppose that when your visual system takes in information about the world around you it skips the experience step and just automatically and immediately generates beliefs in you about your surroundings. A lot of philosophers think that, in such a case, you would (or at least could) still know, via perception, about the world around you. But then that raises the question: What epistemic role was the experience playing? How did it contribute to your knowledge of your surroundings? Philosophers have given many different answers to these questions. But, for various reasons, none of them has really stuck. In this paper I offer and defend a different answer to these questions—a solution to the problem—which avoids the pitfalls of other answers. I argue that experience is, all by itself, a kind of knowledge—it’s what Bertrand Russell (1912) calls “knowledge of things”. So I argue that experience helps generate knowledge simply by being knowledge.

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