Principles of Acquaintance

In Thomas Raleigh & Jonathan Knowles (eds.), Acquaintance: New Essays. Oxford University Press (2019)
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The thesis that in order to genuinely think about a particular object one must be (in some sense) acquainted with that object has been thoroughly explored since it was put forward by Bertrand Russell. Recently, the thesis has come in for mounting criticism. The aim of this paper is to point out that neither the exploration nor the criticism have been sensitive to the fact that the thesis can be interpreted in two different ways, yielding two different principles of acquaintance. One principle uses the notion of content in distinguishing genuine thinking-about things from a merely derivative kind of thinking-about things. The other principle is quiet about content, focusing instead on a distinction between satisfactional and non-satisfactional means of bringing things into thought. Most work has focused on the first, content-based principle of acquaintance. But criticisms of this principle do not apply straightforwardly to the non-content-based principle. I shall argue that the latter principle merits independent assessment as part of the broader effort to account for genuine thinking about particular objects. In the final section of the paper, I will sketch a roadmap for this assessment.

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Jessica Pepp
Uppsala University


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