What is Intelligence For? A Peircean Pragmatist Response to the Knowing-How, Knowing-That Debate


Mainstream philosophy has seen a recent flowering in discussions of intellectualism which revisits Gilbert Ryle’s famous distinction between ‘knowing how’ and ‘knowing that’, and challenges his argument that the former cannot be reduced to the latter. These debates so far appear not to have engaged with pragmatist philosophy in any substantial way, which is curious as the relation between theory and practice is one of pragmatism’s main themes. Accordingly, this paper examines the contemporary debate in the light of Charles Peirce’s habit-based epistemology. We argue both that knowing-that can be understood as a particularly sophisticated form of knowing-how, and that all bodily competencies—if sufficiently deliberately developed—can be analysed as instantiating propositional structure broadly conceived. In this way, intellectualism and anti-intellectualism are seen to be not opposed, and both true, although Peirce’s original naturalistic account of propositional structure does lead him to reject what we shall call ‘linguistic intellectualism’.