Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences

, Volume 9, Issue 1, pp 113–131 | Cite as

Knowledge and abilities: The need for a new understanding of knowing-how

  • Eva-Maria Jung
  • Albert Newen


Stanley and Williamson (The Journal of Philosophy 98(8), 411–444 2001) reject the fundamental distinction between what Ryle once called ‘knowing-how’ and ‘knowing-that’. They claim that knowledge-how is just a species of knowledge-that, i.e. propositional knowledge, and try to establish their claim relying on the standard semantic analysis of ‘knowing-how’ sentences. We will undermine their strategy by arguing that ‘knowing-how’ phrases are under-determined such that there is not only one semantic analysis and by critically discussing and refuting the positive account of knowing-how they offer. Furthermore, we argue for an extension of the classical ‘knowing-how’/‘knowing-that’-dichotomy by presenting a new threefold framework: Using some core-examples of the recent debate, we will show that we can analyze knowledge situations that are not captured by the Rylean dichotomy and argue that, therefore, the latter has to be displaced by a more fine-grained theory of knowledge-formats. We will distinguish three different formats of knowledge we can have of our actions, namely (1) propositional, (2) practical, and (3) image-like formats of knowledge. Furthermore, we will briefly analyze the underlying representations of each of these knowledge-formats.


Knowing how Ability Propositional knowledge Ryle Mental representations 



We would like to thank the VW-Foundation, the German National Academic Foundation and the Ruhr-University Research School for financial support. We are also grateful to all members of the research project “knowing how and knowing that” for discussions and valuable comments.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institut für PhilosophieRuhr-Universität BochumBochumGermany
  2. 2.Institut für PhilosophieRuhr-Universität BochumBochumGermany

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