May 06, 2004

Knowledge As

[UPDATE: Er, the conclusion really is kind of batty, and I left out all the best examples of de re ascriptions of knowing the way. This problems may be fixed in another post.]

In Brian's post about "knowledge the," I was slightly bothered by his use of "as such." In my idiolect "as such" means pretty much the same as "really" (except it comes after the thing it modifies), as in "I didn't go to the office as such" for "I didn't really go to the office" (and frequently "I didn't go within a hundred miles of the office," but never mind that).

But I think what is going on here is that "as such" is just a case of a more general formulation of "knowing as", and that this "knowing as" applies only to what Brian's calling objectual knowledge.


(1) Mary Jane knows Spiderman, as Peter Parker.

(2) The average beginning Latin student knows Tully as Cicero.

The comma can be inserted in (1), because "Mary Jane knows Spiderman" is just plain true--M.J. knows that person--and the as-clause gives the name she knows him under. (2) is a bit trickier; it may not be literally true unless you put quotes around "Cicero," or it might require that you convert "knows" to "knows of," or both. (Though I intend eventually to argue that there's a sense in which "Classicists know Cicero" is literally true.)

Here there's a simple account of knowledge as such--"X knows Y as such" equals "X knows Y[,] as Y."* (OK, it's not quite so simple, since I haven't figured out whether the comma is necessary.) So:

(3) Mary Jane knows Peter Parker as such.

(4) Mary Jane knows Spiderman, but not as such.

What about cases like

(5) Dionne knows the way to San Jose,

which Brian argues seem semantically like propositional knowledge but syntactically like objectual knowledge?**

Brian cites "as such" as a reason to think that (5) is propositional, since it doesn't seem to make sense to add "as such" to (5), in contrast to (4). That seems convincing with respect to (5). But I think there are de re-de dicto issues lurking in the vicinity.


(6) Hildegarde knows the way to the site of Burbank.

(7) Hildegarde knows the way to the site of Troy, as the way to the site of Burbank.

(8) Hildegarde knows the way to the site of Troy, but not as such.

If Hildegarde can truthfully answer the question "How do you get to the site of Burbank?" but not "How do you get to the site of Troy?" and if the site of Burbank is the site of Troy, then (7) strikes me as true--and hence so does (8). We can make a de re ascription of knowledge of the way to the site of Troy; but that doesn't imply that Hildegarde knows the way to the site of Troy, ascribed de dicto.


(9) Every beginning Latin student knows what Cicero's most famous oration was.

(10) Every beginning Latin student knows what Tully's most famous oration was, though they know of him as Cicero.

(11) Every beginning Latin student knows what Tully's most famous oration was, though not under that name.

(10) and (11) strike me as at least arguably true.

Now, I still do think that propositional and objectual knowledge are two different kinds of knowledge, and that (1), (3), and (4) are objectual while (5)-(11) are propositional. But perhaps there's a little bit of a push here to treat all knowledge as objectual--with clausal knowledge ascriptions ascribing knowledge of propositions, facts, structured propositions, or something. Then the "as such" clauses could tell you what guises the propositions are known under; and the reason that (5) is false (de re effects aside) if Dionne can't answer "How do you get to San Jose?" would be that it's useless to ascribe knowledge of that fact unless it's known under the guise corresponding to the way it's named.

(Well, that would involve a lot of revisionary semantics! Best to avoid it if at all possible. I wouldn't have typed that if I had more than 5 minutes before the computer logs me off.)

*And maybe there is an account here of why "as such" means really--compare
"I didn't call him a moron as such" = "I didn't call him a moron using the word 'moron' (but maybe I did using other words)."
"I didn't go to the office as such" = "It wouldn't be true to say that I went to the office, but there's something in the vicinity that's correct."
Well, maybe.
**Well, maybe he doesn't argue that as such.

Posted by Matt Weiner at May 6, 2004 09:55 AM