Seminar Series in Analytic Philosophy, 19-20, Session 1

André J. Abath

Fedeeral University of Minas Gerais

On Knowing What Something Is:
Towards an Account of Concept Attributions

20 September 2019, 16:00

Faculdade de Letras de Lisboa

Sala Mattos Romão (Departamento de Filosofia)

Abstract: In recent years, attributions of knowledge-wh—knowledge who, what, when, where, which, why etc.—have attracted much attention from philosophers and linguists alike, with many arguing that a unified linguistic account of these attributions can be given (Karttunen, 1977; Groenendijk & Stokhof, 1982; Schaffer, 2007). These attributions have also attracted attention from those interested in the debate surrounding states of knowing how, such as Stanley and Williamson (2001), who have tried to show that the nature of these states can be clarified by unifying attributions of know-how with those of knowledge-wh. In this talk, I will try to show that existing accounts of knowledge-wh can also throw light in a different philosophical debate, that concerning concepts. More specifically, I will try to show that there is much to be gained by analyzing direct concept attributions in terms of attributions of a kind of knowledge-wh, the knowledge of what something is. Thus, a direct concept attribution, such as (1) “Jane has the concept of a jaguar”, is to be analyzed in terms of (2) “Jane knows what a jaguar is”. Once we do so, the accounts of knowledge-wh available in the literature can help us to provide a framework for a systematic treatment of concept attributions. Given that any such treatment is lacking in the literature, this is of interest in itself. But I will also try to show that issues related to concept possession and concept learning can also be clarified by the account of concept attributions to be sketched here.