The Harvard Review of Philosophy


published on October 3, 2020

Eli Alshanetsky

Making Our Thoughts Clear

We often get clear on our thoughts in the process of putting them into words. I investigate the nature of this process by posing the question, “Do you know which thought you are trying to articulate, before successfully articulating it?” and rejecting two answers to the dilemma it yields. The first is that the answer is yes, and that articulation is either the recollection of prior knowledge or the mere acquisition of a skill or ability rather than of propositional knowledge. The second is that the answer is no, and that your thought is unknown in that it is not yet fully realized. Clarity, according to this response, is a metaphysical property of the thought rather than the thinker’s epistemic relation to it. I offer a third solution: you start out with implicit knowledge of your thought but lack explicit knowledge of it. The process of articulation moves you from implicit to explicit knowledge.

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