ECOM Graduate Conference

Kinds of Knowledge

ECOM’s Inaugural Graduate Conference, Nov 15-16, 2019
Keynote Speakers: Fri Nov 15: Prof. Alex Byrne (MIT); Sat Nov 16: Prof. Kristin Andrews (York University)

In several places, the epistemologist Ernie Sosa has distinguished two varieties of knowledge: animal knowledge and reflective knowledge, where “animal knowledge that p does not require that the knower have an epistemic perspective ... from which [one] endorses the source of that belief” whereas reflective knowledge “by contrast require such a perspective”. Sosa’s characterization makes it clear that he is concerned to distinguish two varieties of human propositional knowledge (what psychologists label ‘descriptive’ or ‘declarative’ knowledge), as opposed to nonpropositional (‘procedural’) knowledge, sometimes described as ‘knowledge how’. But Sosa’s discussion gives rise to questions that take us beyond human knowledge.

Philosophers and psychologists of different stripes have increasingly questioned whether all humanknowledge – even if not reflective in Sosa’s sense – is best understood in terms provided by traditional epistemology, viz. as requiring (at least) having a belief that something is the case (e.g., that there is a laptop in front of me right now, that 2x3=6, that vixen are female foxes, that the way to get to campus is thus & so, and so on), which belief is both true and justified by reference to the merits of the knower’s way(s) of forming the belief. It is not clear that this traditional analysis of knowledge is fit to account for competent adult human knowledge of logical truths, of the rules of one’s language, of one’s own present states of mind, or even perceptual knowledge. And it is unlikely to fit what psychologists describe as ‘core knowledge’ (the kind of fundamental understanding of the workings of the physical and social world that infants bring into the learning situation), or acquired knowledge of categories, for example. Moving beyond the human case, the analysis doesn’t seem to capture adequately talk of knowledge in connection with some of the cognitive abilities manifested by nonhuman animals.

The aim of “Kinds of Knowledge” is to generate interdisciplinary discussion on varieties or types knowledge that are of interest to philosophers, psychologists, linguists, and anthropologists (among others). We encourage contributions that discuss specific types of knowledge that appear to defy traditional epistemological analyses, as well as ones that revisit traditional distinctions pertaining to different ways of knowing in light of new research and insights. Below are examples of potential topics (in no particular order):

  • ‘animal’ vs. ‘reflective’ human knowledge
  • theoretical knowledge that vs. practical knowledge how
  • knowledge who, what, where ...
  • knowledge of other minds (incl. ‘theory’-theory vs. simulation theory vs. ...)
  • self-knowledge
  • ‘minimal’ knowledge (as merely true belief)
  • the acquisition and development of epistemic notions and competence
  • observational vs. inferential; perceptual knowledge
  • ethical, mathematical, religious, ... knowledge - knowledge by description vs. knowledge by acquaintance
  • knowing vs. ‘cognizing’* (*Chomsky’s term for speakers’ cognitive relation to the rules of their language)
  • empirical vs. conceptual knowledge, aposteriori vs. apriori knowledge
  • animal knowledge of ‘affordances’
  • ‘immediate’ vs. inferential vs. testimonial knowledge
  • metacognition

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