Warp, Weft, and Way

Chinese and Comparative Philosophy 中國哲學與比較哲學

Practicising to know: Practicalism and Confucian philosophy


This article “Practicising to know: Practicalism and Confucian philosophy” is co-authored by me and one of my colleagues, Stephen Hetherington, an advocate of a version of knowing-how (a version he names ‘Practicalism’). In this paper, we explore how Confucian philosophy lends support to Practicalism.

Practising to Know: Practicalism and Confucian Philosophy. Co-authored with Stephen Hetherington. Published in Philosophy, July 2012, 87 : pp 375-393. Copyright © The Royal Institute of Philosophy 2012. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0031819112000289.


For a while now, there has been much conceptual discussion about the respective natures of knowledge-that and knowledge-how, along with the intellectualist idea that knowledge-how is really a kind of knowledge-that. Gilbert Ryle put in place most of the terms that have so far been distinctive of that debate, when he argued for knowledge-how’s conceptual distinctness from knowledge-that. But maybe those terms should be supplemented, expanding the debate. In that spirit, the conceptual option of practicalism has recently entered the fray. Practicalism conceives anew the nature of knowledge-that, as being a kind of knowledge-how. In this paper we enlarge upon this conceptual suggestion. We draw from an ancient Chinese text, the Analects of Confucius, explaining how it lends some support to practicalism.



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