0

Can we have non-propositional knowledge, for example knowledge of a predicate without a subject? I think an example would be: only this is now, which uses indexicals. I'm asking because I wonder whether we can have non-propositional knowledge of non-indexical present. Can we have non-propositional, but qualitative, knowledge of this sort?

closed as off-topic by Swami Vishwananda, user19563, virmaior, Joseph Weissman Feb 9 '17 at 22:17

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

  • "While this question may be related to philosophy or occur in a philosophical context, the question itself doesn't seem to be about philosophy, and is therefore not a good fit for our site." – Swami Vishwananda, Joseph Weissman
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • 1
    What do you mean by 'knowledge of a predicate'? Knowing what objects fall under that predicate? Something else? – Eliran Feb 6 '17 at 15:40
  • i'm not sure, which is why i asked the question, can't think of an example etc.. sorry if it's an appalling question @EliranH but not your phrase "what objects fall under the predicate" because surely, i'm thinking, that includes a subject. e.g. if colour were a predicate: could we have non propositional knowledge of (the universal?) "green"? – user6917 Feb 6 '17 at 15:46
  • 1
    "only this is now" the thing bound in that sentence is "this" which is a subject and not a predicate. "Is now" is the predicate. Can you explain what you mean by qualitative vs propositional knowledge, why are those two things different? In the other question you don't specify anything about the knowledge being non propositional. – Not_Here Feb 6 '17 at 15:52
  • @Not_Here i know, i was asking about the subject as a bound variable. i wasn't saying no 'qualitative' knowledge is 'proposoitional', only asking if we can have non proposiitional qualitative knowledge – user6917 Feb 6 '17 at 15:53
  • Sure, but in the other question you didn't mention anything about propositional knowledge but you said in this question that you were looking for non propositional knowledge and in this question you don't mention anything about indexicals or tense but the end of the question makes it seem like thats implied. So I'm just confused about what you're asking. And to Eliran's point, what do you mean by knowledge of a predicate, qualitative or otherwise? Can you define what "non propositional qualitative knowledge of a predicate" means? – Not_Here Feb 6 '17 at 16:01
2

I am guessing that "propositional" refers to the subject-predicate-object structure of traditional grammar. However, this structure is not semantically binding, we do use predicates with only nominal subjects (to satisfy the rules of grammar). This is what the "it is" construction and participles are for in English. For example, "it is raining" or "raining is occurring" have no semantic subject or object, there is no x that rains on y except for grammatical stand-ins like "it", at least not in the sentence. Descartes's cogito is often criticized for pulling the propositional subject, namely the "I", out of a hat when only "pure predicate" is warranted:

"The objection, as presented by Georg Lichtenberg, is that rather than supposing an entity that is thinking, Descartes should have said: "thinking is occurring." That is, whatever the force of the cogito, Descartes draws too much from it; the existence of a thinking thing, the reference to the "I", is more than the cogito can justify."

More generally, it is not particularly controversial that knowledge does not have to be propositionally framed, although the language of thought proponents, like Fodor, argue that in humans it is, in fact, so framed. But here is from Frank's Sentence Comprehension without Propositional Structure:

"Comprehending a sentence requires the construction of a mental representation of the situation the sentence describes... This paper presents a simple sentence comprehension model, consisting of a neural network that transforms sentences into representations of the events they describe. During training, the network develops internal representations of the sentences. An investigation of these representations reveals that they can encode propositional information without implementing propositional structure."

The idea of non-propositional knowledge is far more controversial, but there are many proponents that procedural knowledge (a.k.a. knowledge-how, see What is the relation between 'knowledge-that' and 'knowledge-how'?), and fewer that phenomenal knowledge (of qualia, etc., see Conee) are non-propositional. At least the former does not seem to be tied to the indexical present. In fact, the knowledge of qualia sounds like the closest thing to "non-propositional, but qualitative", and it can not be indexical if the Mary's room/knowledge argument is to work. So Mary's phenomenal knowledge of color red would be an example, if one accepts qualia.