Understanding 'Practical Knowledge'

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Abstract
The concept of practical knowledge is central to G.E.M. Anscombe's argument in Intention, yet its meaning is little understood. There are several reasons for this, including a lack of attention to Anscombe's ancient and medieval sources for the concept, and an emphasis on the more straightforward concept of knowledge "without observation" in the interpretation of Anscombe's position. This paper remedies the situation, first by appealing to the writings of Thomas Aquinas to develop an account of practical knowledge as a distinctive form of thought that "aims at production" of things that lie within an agent's power; and then by showing how this Thomistic understanding of practical cognition seems to have been Anscombe's, too. Having done this, I question whether the thesis that agential knowledge is practical knowledge entails that an agent always has non-observational knowledge of what she is intentionally doing. I answer "Not": Anscombe's claims to the contrary rest on a misleading assimilation of human beings' finite agency to that of an infinite agent like God
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First archival date: 2015-11-21
Latest version: 2 (2015-11-21)
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2014-11-19

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