“To know something to be thus—and-so-is ability-like, hence more akin to a power or potentiality than to a state or actuality. To learn that something is so is to come to be able to do a wide range of things (to inform others, to answer certain questions, to correct others, to find, locate, identify, explain things, and so forth).”
“The information that things are thus-and-so may provide us with reasons, in the context of our projects, not only for acting, but also for thinking or feeling something or other (e.g. feeling pleased or angry).”
“One can learn how to do something by experience, trial and error, by being trained or taught, by being shown how to do it and, with human beings, by being told how to do it. What one knows how to do is something of which it makes sense to say that one has forgotten how to do, that one realized that one was doing it wrongly and that one tried to correct it oneself. For to know how to do something is to know the way to do it, and knowing the way to do it implies an ability to distinguish between doing it correctly and doing it incorrectly.”
“[O]ne may be able to do something although it would be wrong to say that one knows how to do it, and conversely, one may know how to do something but be unable to do it.” The aged tennis coach may no longer be able to play tennis, be he surely knows how to, and one may know perfectly well how to lose weight but be unable to [owing, say, to weakness of will].
“To know how to do something…is to know the way to do it, and to know the way to do something is often to know, and to be able to say or show, that it is done thus-and-so.”—M.R. Bennett and P.M.S. Hacker. Philosophical Foundations of Neuroscience (2003)
* * *
“But the general question of whether non-human agents using the Wolfram Language, or any other computer language, ‘know about the world’ in some suitable sense, that one still stands.” Please see “The Chinese Room all over again?” by Catarina Dutilh Novaes at the New APPS blog.
I understand knowledge, with Raymond Tallis, as fundamentally a mode of explicitness, of explicit-making consciousness. To elaborate a bit: after Grice, and in the words of Raymond Tallis, “linguistic meaning in the real world does not reside in the behavior of the symbols or expressions of which languages are composed—they are not located in ‘the system of symbols’ or its component terms—but in people who use languages to mean things, and the worlds they live in. This is because the specification of linguistic meanings requires that they are meant (by someone). What is more, in order that I should be able to determine what you mean, I have to intuit what you mean to mean.” This involves, as Searle shows, getting a listener to recognize my intention to communicate just those things I intended to say in the act of communication. One cannot ignore the speaking subject: “Our utterances are invested with, and exploit, an ‘implicature’ in virtue of which we can always imply more than we say. Verbal meaning, in short, resides in acts performed by human being who draw upon their knowledge of the world and make presuppositions about the knowledge possessed by their interlocutors.”
If one believes, as I do and again with Tallis (among others), and yet again after Grice (or Searle for that matter) that “[m]eaning cannot be separated from the psyche of the one who emits meaning, or from the psyche of the one who receives it,” and that our concept of knowledge is intimately tied to the various forms of memory (e.g., factual, experiential, and objectual), to emotions, thoughts, beliefs, and imagination, “the general question of whether non-human agents using the Wolfram Language, or any other computer language, ‘know about the world’ in some suitable sense” lacks any standing whatsoever. The question makes sense only if one thinks of meaning (which is, as Tallis says, ‘a quintessential feature of human consciousness’) “in purely linguistic terms and language being primarily a system of symbols.” One, it seems, has to have a (or something like a) “computational theory of mind” to imagine a computer language might exemplify having knowledge about the world (the relevant ‘knowledge’ here can only be metaphorical or secondary and derivative, parasitic in meaning on the knowledge possessed by those who program the computers, etc.). In short, knowledge requires “an enworlded self.” More explicitly:
“Knowledge begins with the sense of there being something beyond how things appear to us: it begins with the concept of an object that is other than the self who entertains the notion of an object. Implicit in the idea of the object is the intuition of the subject contrasted with the object; more precisely, the Existential Intuition ‘That I am this….’ [the nature and origin of which are discussed in Tallis’s 2004 volume, I Am: A Philosophical Inquiry into First-Person Being] Object knowledge [even Kleinian ‘internal objects’!] is also permeated [as ‘Wittgensteinians’ remind us] by a sense of publicness—of a shared world—that is not available to asocial sentience or asocial neural activities [or an electronic device that performs high-speed arithmetical and logical operations].”
Intentionality is a feature of perceptions, of propositional attitudes such as beliefs and desires, and of utterances such as assertions. This necessarily implicates consciousness, consciousness of something…. Computers are without minds, the most conspicuous feature of which is consciousness. And consciousness cannot be reduced to material or biological or neurological properties: in other words, materialism cannot account for the “indexicality of human consciousness” in the sense of being “here”and “now” as Tallis says, similar to the Da-sein Heidegger identifies as the essence of the human being (Tallis provides compelling arguments against attempts to neurologize ‘here’ and indexicality in general). Computers by definition can’t have first-person experience: a “narrative center of gravity” requires the higher-order activities of a self….
- Bennett, M.R. and P.M.S. Hacker. Philosophical Foundations of Neuroscience. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2003.
- Bennett, Maxwell, Daniel Dennett, Peter Hacker, John Searle, and Daniel Robinson. Neuroscience and Philosophy: Brain, Mind and Language. New York: Columbia University Press, 2007.
- Descombes, Vincent (trans. Stephen Adam Schwartz). The Mind’s Provisions: A Critique of Cognitivism. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001.
- Gillett, Grant. Subjectivity and Being Somebody: Human Identity and Neuroethics. Exeter, UK: Imprint Academic, 2008.
- Gillett, Grant. The Mind and Its Discontents. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.
- Grice, Paul. Studies in the Way of Words. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1989.
- Hacker, P.M.S. Human Nature: The Categorial Framework. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2007.
- Horst, Steven. Beyond Reduction: Philosophy of Mind and Post-Reductionist Philosophy of Science. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2007.
- Hutto, Daniel D. The Presence of Mind. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 1999.
- Hutto, Daniel D. Beyond Physicalism. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2000.
- Hutto, Daniel D. Folk Psychological Narratives: The Sociocultural Basis of Understanding. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2008.
- Hutto, Daniel D., ed. Narrative and Folk Psychology. Exeter, UK: Imprint Academic, 2009.
- Pardo, Michael S. and Dennis Patterson. Minds, Brains, and Law: The Conceptual Foundations of Law and Neuroscience. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013.
- Robinson, Daniel N. Consciousness and Mental Life. New York: Columbia University Press, 2008.
- Searle, John R. Intentionality: An Essay in the Philosophy of Mind. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press,1983.
- Searle, John R. The Rediscovery of the Mind. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1992.
- Tallis, Raymond. The Explicit Animal: A Defence of Human Consciousness. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1999 ed.
- Tallis, Raymond. I Am: A Philosophical Inquiry into First-Person Being. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2004.
- Tallis, Raymond. The Knowing Animal: A Philosophical Inquiry into Knowledge and Truth. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2005.
- Tallis, Raymond. Aping Mankind: Neuromania, Darwinitis and the Misrepresentation of Humanity. Durham, England: Acumen, 2011.