‘Learning (Not) To’ and Practical Knowledge

In: Grazer Philosophische Studien
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The author raises objections to the intellectualist analysis of knowing-how on the basis of certain features of ‘learning to’ ascriptions. He starts by observing that ‘learning to’ ascriptions can only have a first-personal reading. Since embedded questions make the generic reading available, this suggests that ‘learning to’ ascriptions are not embedded question configurations. Then the author locates an ambiguity in ‘learning to’ ascriptions. They can be used to ascribe either the acquisition of practical knowledge, or the acquisition of a behavioural disposition—a habit—of some value. Once this ambiguity is taken into account, it can be shown that the embedded infinitival in practical learning ascriptions cannot be negated, by contrast to embedded question configurations. This suggests that the semantic value of the infinitival is not propositional. Hence the intellectualist analysis fails to extend to learning ascriptions, and cannot accommodate the systematic relationships between knowledge and learning. The two points above regarding ‘learning to’ ascriptions extend to ascriptions of practical knowledge in certain languages.

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