Thursday, 6 January 2011

A quick thought on Luntley on expertise

On the train home from work last night there was just time to skim read Michael Luntley’s paper ‘Understanding expertise’ from a couple of years ago in the Journal of Applied Philosophy.

Two things strike me. First: his reaction to reading Wittgenstein, McDowell and Stanley and Williamson is to think that McDowell’s idea of demonstrative concepts and Stanley and Williamson's criticism of Ryle shows that there is no interesting distinction between knowledge-how and knowledge-that: practical knowledge can be articulated as knowledge that via demonstrative concepts.

(I mention Wittgenstein not because he plays any role in the paper but because Michael has written extensively on him and Wittgenstein is often taken to proffer a regress argument akin to the one that Ryle uses against intellectualism.)

An aspect of the argument is that phenomenological accounts of what it is like to make rapid decisions have no direct consequences for a constitutive account of what the rationality of practical judgements or actions consists in.

But second, he simply accepts the line of reasoning that Stanley and Williamson borrow from Ginet:

I exercise (or manifest) my knowledge that one can get the door open by turning the knob and pushing it (as well as my knowledge that there is a door there) by performing that operation quite automatically as I leave the room; and I may do this, of course, without formulating (in my mind or out loud) that proposition or any other relevant proposition. [Ginet 1975: 7]

But in this move – which is necessary to undermine Ryle’s regress argument – he seems inconsistently to accept the force of a phenomenological inner consultation to make a constitutive point (cf Noë’s objection to Stanley and Williamson).

My own thought is that without Ginet’s point, Ryle’s argument stands and thus intellectualism falls but that once language is in play (on a background of prior know-how), then practical judgement can be articulated using McDowellian demonstrative concepts, as instances of context-specific knowledge-that. Is that really different from Luntley’s position? On a mere first read, I’m not sure. But the danger of giving up Ryle as part of an account of the conceptually structured articulation of knowledge-how is how one responds to worries such as Adrian Moore’s suggestion that knowledge of the meaning of words is ineffable. Ironically, playing down knowledge-how looks to support Moore’s mysticism.

(PS: A further thought is here.)

Ginet, C. (1975) Knowledge, Perception and Memory, Dordrecht: Reidel
Luntley, M. (2009) ‘Understanding expertise’ Journal of Applied Philosophy 4: 356-370
McDowell, J (1994) Mind and World, Harvard: Harvard University Press
Moore, A.W. (1997) Points of View, Oxford: Oxford University Press
Noë, A. (2005) ‘Against intellectualism’ Analysis 65: 278-90
Ryle, G. (1949) The Concept of Mind, London: Hutchinson.
Ryle, G. (1945) ‘Knowing How and Knowing That’ Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 46: 1-16
Stanley, J. and Williamson, T. (2001) ‘Knowing how’ The Journal of Philosophy 97: 411-444.