Reasoning with knowledge of things

Philosophical Psychology 36 (2):270-291 (2023)
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When we experience the world – see, hear, feel, taste, or smell things – we gain all sorts of knowledge about the things around us. And this knowledge figures heavily in our reasoning about the world – about what to think and do in response to it. But what is the nature of this knowledge? On one commonly held view, all knowledge is constituted by beliefs in propositions. But in this paper I argue against this view. I argue that some knowledge is constituted, not by beliefs in propositions, but by awareness of properties and objects. To make my case, I focus on the role of visual perception in reasoning. I start by introducing a principle about the relationship between knowledge and reasoning, which says that to learn something new by reasoning, one must know the bases of one’s reasoning. Then I argue that in some cases of genuine, knowledge-conferring reasoning, the bases of our reasoning are not propositions that we believe; rather, they’re properties or objects that we see. Thus, I conclude that some such knowledge is non-propositional and is rather what some call “knowledge of things”.

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Matt Duncan
Rhode Island College


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