CSMN Colloquium: Natalia Waights Hickman
Natalia Waights Hickman (CSMN)
Novelty, know-how and rule-following
This paper is centred around the so-called ‘novelty objection’ to intellectualism about knowledge-how (and/or skill), the view that knowledge-how is a species of propositional knowledge; and the ideas that I will focus on discrediting and defending belong to this corner of epistemology. But the work is animated by a less parochial agenda: to contextualise the novelty objection in such a way as to foreground its roots and relevance in philosophy more widely.
The novelty objection focuses on the relationship between standing knowledge, on the one hand, and appropriate (successful, correct, right…) action in novel conditions, on the other. The objector claims that standing knowledge-how (and skill) has a special relationship with right action in novel conditions: subject to certain caveats, it guarantees it in advance. On the other hand, propositional knowledge, it is argued, could not possibly achieve this because no facts one knows now could embody specifications to cover the particular details of as yet unrealised and uncontemplated states of affairs; hence no standing propositional knowledge regarding (e.g. ways of) f-ing can be an adequate guide to f-ing in novel circumstances.
The paper is organised around the assessment of two responses to the novelty objection. The first is put forward briefly by Stanley (2011) in his Know How; the second has been pursued more recently by Stanley and Williamson (2016) in the service of motivating a view of skill. The latter approach, I argue, undermines Stanley’s earlier response, and with it any credible intellectualism about knowledge-how. I defend the earlier response of Stanley’s, by comparing knowledge of general propositions concerning ways to f with knowledge of general rules, and drawing parallels between the novelty objection to intellectualism, and the Kripkensteinian rule-following problem. I argue, further, that Stanley and Williamson’s more recent approach to the novelty objection cannot be recruited to an alternative defence of intellectualism about knowledge-how, by highlighting the implausible revision in the semantics of know-how ascriptions that this strategy requires.