– A new Templeton Funded research project led by Matthew Parrott (KCL) and Anil Gomes (Oxford) which will involve seminars exploring different ways in which central topics in the epistemology of mind can be brought to bear on questions concerning the nature of mind. These will prepare the groundwork for a two-day international conference on the metaphysical implications of the epistemology of mind. Philosophical study of the mind has too long ignored epistemological considerations. The primary aim in this project is to explore an epistemology-first approach to understanding the nature of the mind.
The first seminar will be on 8 May.
The website of the entire project can be found here.
King’s College London is one of the top 5 research centres for philosophy in the country. One of its particular strengths is in Mind.
Maria Alvarez, Bill Brewer, John Callanan, Julien Dutant, Nadine Elzein, Ellen Fridland, David Galloway, Sacha Golob, Jurgis Karpus, Jessica Leech, Clayton Littlejohn, Matteo Mameli, Eliot Michaelson, David Papineau, Matthew Parrott, Thomas Pink, Sherri Roush, Matthew Soteriou, Mark Textor and Robyn Repko Waller have all published in the subject or in closely related areas recently. Continue reading
We are pleased to announce that the Department of Philosophy has made five new permanent appointments this year.
Ellen Fridland works in empirically informed philosophy of mind with particular interest in issues related to skill (e.g., skill in cognitive development, the role of skill-based considerations in moral cognition, and the role skill plays in the intellectualism/anti-intellectualism debate.) You can learn more about her research here.
Jessica Leech works on contemporary and historical issues in the metaphysics of modality. She has written on the notion of essence and relationships between different kinds of necessity. She is also currently working on a monograph on Kant’s views on modality and their implications for contemporary debates. You can learn more about her research here and here.
Matthew Parrott works in the philosophy of mind/psychology and epistemology, particularly on issues having to do with knowledge of minds (our own and the minds of others) and belief formation (including work on the nature of delusion.) You can learn more about his research here.
Jo Wolff works on metaphysical questions that arise in connection with the foundations of physics. She has written on structural realism, laws of nature, and is currently working on a project regarding the metaphysical nature of quantities. You can learn more about her research here.
Matthew Soteriou works on the philosophy of mind with particular interests in the philosophy of perception, temporal phenomenology, the philosophy of action and mental action, consciousness and the ontology of mind. He has also done work in the epistemology of mental action and its relevance to our understanding of the epistemology of mind in general. You can learn more about his research here.
We’re excited that these new hires will increase the department’s strengths in epistemology, the history of philosophy (esp. Kant), metaphysics, philosophy of science, philosophy of mind and psychology, and the philosophy of action.
A new reading group on the topic of acquaintance will begin this month. The organizers of the reading group intend to give particular focus to the work of John Campbell.
The first meeting will take place at noon on Monday the 11th of April. The location is the Philosophy Graduate Common Room.
For more details, contact Jørgen Dyrstad: firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m very pleased to announce that Sophie Stammers (one of our current PGR students) won the 2015 teorema Essay Prize for Young Scholars on Free Will and Cognitive Science for her paper, “Situation, Reason and the Extended Agent”. Congratulations to Sophie on this wonderful achievement. Keep an eye out for her paper, which will be published in an issue of teorema very soon.
On the 18th of February 2016, the Department of Philosophy at King’s College London will host a graduate conference on the topics of rationality and irrationality.
The conference will feature talks from graduate students working in epistemology, the philosophy action and the philosophy of psychology; respondents from KCL faculty members; and Prof Neil Levy as keynote speaker. Details of the schedule can be found here.
My work on the a priori has recently led me to start looking at the literature on knowledge-how. The connections might start to become apparent as we go. The central questions here regard the nature of knowledge-how and its relation to knowledge-that—to propositional knowledge. There are two dominant views. Intellectualists have it that knowledge-how is a species of knowledge-that. Dispositionalists have it that knowledge-how is a kind of its own to be captured in terms of dispositions or abilities. I’ve become convinced that intellectualism, as stated, is false. Knowledge-how is not a species of propositional knowledge. I’m just going to assume that here. Instead I’m going to say why I think dispositionalism is problematic and gesture at another view.
Dispositionalists get into trouble given their claim that knowing how to do something just is to have some complex of dispositions. If complexes of dispositions are to be constitutive of knowledge-how, Ryle realises, they will need to be “indefinitely heterogeneous” (1949, p. 42). This is how—contra Stanley and Williamson (2001, p. 416)—dispositionalists can allow that a ski instructor can know how to do a trick that she is unable to perform. She may not be disposed to perform the trick. Still, she may be disposed to informatively explain how to do the trick in such-and-such a way, to accurately imagine performing it thus-and-so, … . Such a complex of dispositions can constitute the ski instructor’s know-how. However, the problem now is that if knowledge-how is understood in this way it becomes no good for explaining our capacities to achieve things. An object’s being roundexplains its being disposed to roll, to leave round impression, to fit snugly through round holes, … . If instead we say that its being round just is its having this indefinite complex of dispositions then its being so disposed cannot be explained by its being round. Similarly our skier’s knowing how to do a trick explains her being disposed to informatively explain how to and to accurately imagine performing it. If we instead say, with the dispositionalist, that her knowing how just is her having such dispositions then her being so disposed cannot be explained by her know-how as it should be.
It instead looks like knowledge-how needs to be constituted by states which are apt to guide action and to be active in bringing about behaviour. By playing such a role knowledge-how would be apt to explain our dispositions. What could play such a role except knowledge-that as the intellectualist has it? Bengson and Moffett (2011) attempt to deliver here by suggesting that “conceptions” are constitutive of knowledge-how. Conceptions are contentful mental states which we are not conscious of (they are subdoxastic states) and are apt to guide action. But if having conceptions is constitutive of someone’s knowing how to do a trick what one Earth is their content? Bengson and Moffett, understandably, don’t have anything to say on this matter.
It seems like knowledge of how to do a trick would be a bad place to start anyway. A vast amount of knowledge-how will be involved such as the knowledge-how it takes children a long time to acquire: how to control one’s limbs and navigate one’s environment. There is a much simpler case of interest to me: inference. Knowing how to do tricks facilitates skiers’ doing so. Similarly knowing how to infer facilitates our transmitting warrant with inferences and coming to know the consequences of our suppositions. Being warranted to employ an inference such that one can transmit warrant with it is to have a kind of knowledge-how. What the content of the relevant conceptions in such cases might be is still hard to say. Peacocke (2003) has it that the conceptions which guide our inferences are those that are constitutive of our possessing the concepts involved. He gives these a definition-like structure. Possession of chair, he suggests, is constituted by possession of a conception with content that x is a chair iff x has a back; has a seat; … . But if conceptions need to be such definition-like states to play the guiding role in question then they will rarely be plausible posits. Fortunately it seems like we needn’t go so far. What follows is a toy example of how things might go instead.
Suppose that some subdoxastic state of mine associates ‘scarlet’ with some remembered or imagined paradigm scarlet things and some similarity considerations. This state is what (usually) determines whether ‘scarlet’ seems to apply in a case and thereby looks apt to explain my largely correct use of ‘scarlet’. The state makes attribution of the concept scarlet look appropriate and is thus plausibly constitutive of my possessing the concept. The same goes for red. (This isn’t completely speculative—it’s rather borrowing from one approach to concept possession in cognitive science: prototype theory). These states also look apt to secure warranted inference and thus to be a constitutive of knowledge-how to infer. Suppose I believe that a is scarlet and consider whether a is red. a will subdoxastically have been taken to be like my scarlet paradigms, all of which will be red, and thus the conception constitutive of red possession could make it seem like a must be also red. This could bring about the inference from a’s being scarlet to a’s being red. If it does this it could do so in a way that is pretty reliable. You might think more is required for the inference to be one I transmit warrant with. I might need some conscious appreciation of the inference’s legitimacy. But there is scope to accommodate this on the view in question too. The subdoxastic states which bring about the inference could make it seem appropriate. Such seemings, when appropriately caused by states constitutive of concept possession, look apt to amount to conscious appreciation of the force or legitimacy of my inference.
I’ve presented a speculative and simplified sketch of how a conception could bring about warrant transmitting inference—a phenomenon I take to be an instance of exhibition of knowledge-how. On this sketch knowledge-how isn’t a species of knowledge-that. But we can see nonetheless see how knowledge-how is apt to bring about intelligent action and thus to explain our being disposed to exhibit it. Knowledge-how is constituted by contentful subdoxastic states apt to explain its manifestations.
Bengson, J., & Moffett, M. A. (2011). Nonpropositional Intellectualism. In J. Bengson & M. A. Moffett (Eds.), Knowing How (pp. 161–195). Oxford University Press.
Peacocke, C. (2003). Implicit Conceptions, Understanding, and Rationality. In M. Hahn & B. Ramberg (Eds.), Reflections and Replies: Essays on the Philosophy of Tyler Burge (pp. 117–152). Cambridge MA: MIT Press.
Ryle, G. (1949). The Concept of Mind. University of Chicago Press.
Stanley, J., & Williamson, T. (2001). Knowing How. Journal of Philosophy, 98(8), 411–444.
Copyright © David Russell Jenkins