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Reviewed in the United States on February 18, 2022
One does not have to agree with Stanley's spirited defense of intellectualism to appreciate how they resurrected it as a viable topic of scholarly debate. This work, an elaboration of Stanley and Williamson's justly famed earlier paper, dives into the "knowing that/knowing how" distinction in an effort to reduce the distance between the two. While supporters of Ryle's received view (of which I'm one) are unlikely to be fully convinced, this is a work that rewards engagement, not only in terms of philosophy but also more tangible fields such as cognitive psych, sociology, and learning theory.
This is a profound and technical work on a very contentious subject - knowledge. There are, traditionally, two irksome questions that have engaged the best philosophers and scientists (a) what is knowledge and (b) how do we know. Jason Stanley focuses on an aspect of knowledge, namely, our knowledge of how to do things, and contsructs a thesis that he says shows that that our knowledge of "how" can be drawn parallel to be the knowledge of "that". In explaining what he hopes to accomplish in this book, Stanley maintains that our knowledge about swimming (meaning in this context, our learned ability to swim) constitutes our knowledge of the truth of swimming. It is a long and technical thesis in which he first discusses two main threads of the mental state - Cartesian and Rylesian. This is important to Stanley because the two states, it has been argued, represent the only metaphysical representation of the metaphysics of the mental. Stanley's thesis is part metaphysical and part semantic. He takes us to "ways of thinking" in which he later ascribes how descriptions of our knowledge can become known to us. In the process, he seeks to defend against criticisms from a semantic assault, for example, that a foreign language may not ascribe a meaning to a proposition the way English does. The thesis is intended to be an objective means of knowing knowledge, at least, some of it but it is debatable whether he has succeeded because his thesis is strongly bias to "de se" which is strictly, subjective. Nonetheless, it is an important work in epistemology seeking. Stanley generally steers clear of "fact" and "truth" and the co-relation if any between the two. In his concluding paragraph he asserts that "Knowing how to do something amounts to knowing a truth". That leaves us a lingering taste of deja vu - what is truth? That is the discomfort that his thesis leaves us with, namely, even if we can know how we know what we know, how do we tell that what we know is true? What is the implicit difference he seems to suggest between "truth" and "a truth"?