Imagining Being Very Different

Like Carrie, I’ll be kicking around TAR from now on. If I have anything to say about the philosophy of logic and language, I’ll probably be cross-posting it to my old blog as well, but I’m hoping that TAR will be a venue for writing about other things.

Like the following question:

Is it easier to imagine being a serial killer than it is to imagine being like David Lewis?

I was at the AAP in Canberra this year, and one of the talks I went to was Steffi Lewis’ presentation of David Lewis’ correspondence. This was Steffi’s third talk on the letters and it’s striking just how prolific and reliable a correspondent David was. I’ve come away from each talk with the sense that he regularly wrote 5-6 page letters, largely filled with serious philosophical content, and replied to his correspondents within 3 days or so of hearing from them.

And I find it almost impossible to imagine being like that.

Continue reading “Imagining Being Very Different”

More Philosophy on the Radio

This week’s episode of Philosophy Talk features a panel discussion that was recorded at the Pacific APA. The panellists were Liz Harman, Sean Kelly and your humble narrator, discussing the future of philosophy. Though I can occasionally spot short term trends, I’m pretty useless at spotting larger patterns, so I wouldn’t put much stock in much of what I say.

The show will air on Tuesday at noon PST on KALW in San Francisco, and be repeated at 8pm PST Thursday on Oregon Public Radio. I’m going to be away at Bellingham the next few days, so I won’t be able to hear the show live to air, but hopefully I’ll hear it soon after. I’m not exactly sure what I said, so when I hear it I might have to scramble to come up with some justifications.

Because I’ll be away, approving comments will be slower than usual, though now that this is a group blog you won’t just have to wait for me to return for fresh posts!


Well, I’m not really new to philosophy blogging, so I hope I’m in the ‘underappreciated’ category…

By way of introduction, let me just invite people to visit my home page and my own blog, Long Words Bother Me. To warm up here, I’m cross-posting something from LWBM.

I’m currently working on a paper on a priori knowledge, and I thought it might be helpful to start out with an overview of available positions, characterized in terms of the answers their defenders would give to a set of questions. (I’d be really interested to hear whether people think anything important is missing from my list, whether the description is helpful, etc..)

Continue reading “Hello!”


For various reasons, I’ve decided to turn TAR into a group blog. My main hope in doing this is that my slavish imitation of Brian Leiter will be rewarded with a notch higher ranking for Cornell in the next round. But I also hope that it will lead to some rewarding interactions on the blog, as well as highlighting some bloggers whose work I feel hasn’t been sufficiently appreciated in the past, and bringing some new voices into philosophy blogging. I’ll let the various members of the group introduce themselves over the coming hours, days and weeks, so if you keep checking back in here you’ll find a few new faces appearing.

Ryle on Knowing How

One last Ryle post for the day. This was a very odd section in Jason Stanley and Timothy Williamson’s Knowledge How (PDF).

Let us turn from Ryle’s arguments against the thesis that knowledge-how is a species of knowledge-that to his positive account of knowledge-how. According to Ryle, an ascription of the form ‘x knows how to F’ merely ascribes to x the ability to F. However, it is simply false that ascriptions of knowledge-how ascribe abilities. As Ginet and others have pointed out, ascriptions of knowledge-how do not even entail ascriptions of the corresponding abilities. For example, a ski instructor may know how to perform a certain complex stunt, without being able to perform it herself. Similarly, a master pianist who loses both of her arms in a tragic car accident still knows how to play the piano. However, she has lost her ability to do so (cf. also Ziff (1984, p. 71). It follows that Ryle’s own positive account of knowledge-how is demonstrably false.

I’m not where Ryle offers that account. As I read him, Ryle says that knowledge how is, like most mental states, a complex disposition that has no (easily statable) necessary or sufficient conditions. To get a sample of the kind of thing Ryle does think is involved in knowledge how, consider what he says about knowing how to tie a knot.

You exercise your knowledge of how to tie a clove-hitch not only in acts of tying clove-hitches and in correcting your mistakes, but also in imagining tying them correctly, in instructing pupils, in criticising the incorrect or clumsy movements and applauding the correct movements that they make, in inferring from a faulty result to the error which produced it, in predicting the outcomes of observed lapses, and so on indefinitely. (55)

It seems to me that Ryle could quite easily say that the pianist and the ski instructor both have the knowledge how Tim and Jason assign to them, since both of them can imagine how to perform the act, can instruct, criticise and praise pupils accordingly, can infer what’s going wrong in misperformances etc etc. So while these may be counterexamples to the equation of know how and ability, I don’t see how they are counterexamples to anything that Ryle says.

Four More Links

Greg Restall was recently interviewed by ABC’s Radio National about logical pluralism. I’m really not kidding – there was a radio show on logical pluralism on national radio. I’m so proud of my country, or at least its national broadcaster, sometimes. The link is here.

It’s not actually a philosophy link, but assorted ex-pats might like to know that you can listen to a lot of ABC shows as podcasts. They recently added the flagship current affairs shows, AM, PM and the World Today, which are great for keeping up with what’s happening. And they also have the Philosopher’s Zone, which Greg appeared on, as a podcast.

Did you know you can get a Firefox plugin that adds an option to search the Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy to the search bar? It is available here.

Finally, on the recent trend of noticing what’s happening in philosophy blogs, Eric Schwitzgebel has a blog, The Splintered Mind which I’ve been enjoying a lot.

Ryle on Knowing How and Knowing That

Ryle offers a regress argument for the impossibility of reducing knowing how to knowing that. Jason Stanley and Timothy Williamson in Knowing How (PDF) suggest a way to block the regress. I think Ryle anticipated their reply, and has something interesting to say about it. I’m not sure whether Ryle’s response works, but it is I think a response. (What I’m going to say is similar to what Alva Noe says in his Against Intellectualism (PDF), but I hope different enough to be worth saying.) Continue reading “Ryle on Knowing How and Knowing That”


When I changed over to WordPress, I tried to keep the layout pretty much as it was. And on a few browsers it seems I did. But on some versions of Safari, only the main column, not the header or either side column, is showing. This isn’t the case on all versions of Safari, but it is happening on some. Does anyone who knows more about what is distinctive about Safari know what could be going wrong?