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Types of Knowledge

Types of Knowledge: Philosophers typically divide knowledge into three categories:
i. Personal,
ii. Procedural, and
It is the last of these, propositional knowledge, that primarily concerns philosophers. However, understanding the connections between the three types of knowledge can be helpful in clearly understanding what is and what is not being analyzed by the various theories of knowledge.

1. Personal Knowledge: The first type of knowledge is personal knowledge, or knowledge by acquaintance. Knowledge in this sense is to do with being familiar with something: in order to know Amy, one must have met her; in order to know fear, one must have experienced it. In each of these cases, the word “know” is being use to refer to knowledge by acquaintance. Personal knowledge does, arguably, involve possessing at least some propositional knowledge.

If I have met Amy, but can’t remember a single thing about her, then I probably wouldn’t claim to know her. In fact, knowing a person (in the sense required for knowledge by acquaintance) does seem to involve knowing a significant number of propositions about them. What is important is that personal knowledge involves more than knowledge of propositions. No matter how much you tell me about Amy, no matter how many facts about her I learn, if I haven’t met her then I can’t be said to know her in the sense required for personal knowledge. Personal knowledge thus seems to involve coming to know a certain number of propositions in a particular way.

2. Procedural Knowledge: Thesecond kind of knowledge is procedural knowledge, or knowledge how todo something. The claims to know how to juggle and how to drive areclaims to have procedural knowledge. Procedural knowledge clearly differs from propositional knowledge.

It is possible to know all of the theory behind driving a car (i.e. tohave all of the relevant propositional knowledge) without actuallyknowing how to drive a car (i.e. without having the proceduralknowledge). You may know which pedal is the accelerator and which is the brake. You may know where the handbrake is and what it does. You may know whereyour blind spots are are when you need to check them. But until you getbehind the wheel and learn how to apply all this theory, you do notknow how to drive. Knowing how to drive involves possessing a skill, being able to dosomething, which is very different to merely knowing a collection offacts.

3. Propositional Knowledge: Although there are several different types of knowledge, the primary concern of epistemology is propositional knowledge. This is knowledge of facts, knowledge that such and such is the case. The difference between the three types of knowledge is not as sharp as it might at first appear. Personal knowledge does seem to involve knowledge of at least some propositions. Simply having met someone is not enough to know them (in the personal knowledge sense); you also have to know a few things about them (in the propositional knowledge sense). Procedural knowledge also seems to involve some propositional knowledge. If you know how to drive a car (in the procedural knowledge sense) then you presumably know certain facts about driving (e.g. which way the car will go if you turn the steering wheel to the left). What is important is that propositional knowledge is not enough to give you either personal knowledge or procedural knowledge. Personal knowledge involves acquiring propositional knowledge in a certain way, and procedural knowledge may entail propositional knowledge, but the same propositional knowledge certainly does not entail procedural knowledge. Whatever the connections between the various types of knowledge there may be, however, it is propositional knowledge that is in view in most epistemology.


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