Telling, Showing and Knowing

Pedagogy is a pillar of human culture and society. Our main vehicle for transmitting information is assertion. As we leave the forest, we tell our friend that there is a jaguar nearby. We also teach each other skills and crafts. We show our friend how to get a jaguar to reveal its location to avoid becoming its next meal.

A strong case has been made that declarative knowledge is the norm of assertion, which is our primary way of telling others information. So can an analogous case be made for the hypothesis that procedural knowledge is the norm of instructional demonstration, which is a primary way of showing others how to do things?

In a new paper with John Turri to appear in Analysis, we argue that the same sorts of observed patterns surrounding the give, take and evaluation of conversational exchanges used to support the knowledge rule for assertion also strongly suggest a knowledge rule for instructional demonstration. For example, just as knowledge features in prompts and challenges to assertion, so too can knowledge feature in prompts and challenges to instructional demonstrations. In other words, we propose that just as knowing that is the norm of telling, knowing how is the norm of showing. Putting the two hypotheses together, we get a unified theory of instructional norms common to both main forms of human pedagogy: knowledge is the norm of instruction.


Telling, Showing and Knowing — 5 Comments

  1. Nice paper but, just for the record, the assertion (last paragraph) that I proposed a truth norm violates that would-be norm. How did you get the idea that I did, in particular from either of the two places you cite? In asking I don’t mean to detract from the rest of your paper, but I am curious to know what gave you that impression.

  2. Right, Wesley, I endorsed a belief norm, not a truth norm. Still, I think it’s misleading not to mention (maybe in a fn) that in the cited 2008 paper I went on to suggest a way of indirectly deriving from that a knowledge norm on assertion, at least on the supposition that knowledge is (in some sense) the norm on belief. I’ll gladly grant this is not the rationale relied on by those, like you guys, who argue directly for a knowledge norm on assertion.

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