Grazer Philosophische Studien

Volume 11, 1980

Augustin Riska
Pages 129-140

Knowledge by Acquaintance Reconsidered

A propositional interpretation of knowledge by acquaintance seems more promising than the nonpropositional one, endorsed by Russell. According to the propositional interpretation, to be acquainted with an object means to attend (pay attention) to individuating features of the object. For the actual, direct acquaintance with an object, a subject's perception of the object and his attending to the individuating features of it (just as the fact that these features do belonge to the object in question) are the essential factors. Proper names of objects and subject's memory images referring to objects of acquaintance may be viewed as their special individuating features (in spite of being attached to these objects "externally"). For the dispositional (non-actual) notion of acquaintance, a relativization of time must be added, together with the subject's ability to attend to the individuating features of the object under proper conditions (when the object of previous acquaintance is presented or represented to the subject). Although the conditional formulas expressing these situations contribute to the explication of the concept of knowledge by acquaintance, their truth-status remains open and contingent upon the ways of solving the problem of individuation (identification).