Anchoring know-how: Action, affordance, and anticipation


Action is always situated, always tied to specific contexts, and this is the case with respect to both the non-conscious — and largely subpersonal — processes or mechanisms that make action possible, and the person-level — and sometimes conscious — aspects of action that make action more than mere behaviour. According to one theory about the kind of know-how that we require to do what we do, the ‘automatic mechanisms’ that support action are ‘perfectly general’ (Stanley, 2011, p. 84), in contrast to the detailed propositional knowledge that informs action. We will argue, against this view, that the motoric aspects of action are not perfectly general but are extremely specific, and indeed, more so than any propositional knowledge that we may have in regard to our actions. We will also argue that one reason for this specificity involves the anticipatory processes involved in action which tie action to the particularities of the agent’s affordance space. One implication of this, at the very least, is that not all aspects of know-how are reducible to or can be subsumed by propositional knowledge. We draw from both phenomenological and predictive processing accounts to make this case.

Publication Title

Journal of Consciousness Studies

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