Identifying Knowledge and Communication

Eduardo Coutinho Lourenço de Lima


In this paper, I discuss how the principle of identifying knowledge which Strawson advances in ‘Singular Terms and Predication’ (1961), and in ‘Identifying Reference and Truth-Values’ (1964) turns out to constrain communication.
The principle states that a speaker’s use of a referring expression should invoke identifying knowledge on the part of the hearer, if the hearer is to understand what the speaker is saying, and also that, in so referring, speakers are attentive to hearers’ epistemic states. In contrasting it with Russell’s Principle (Evans 1982), as well as with the principle of identifying descriptions (Donnellan 1970), I try to show that the principle of identifying knowledge, ultimately a condition for understanding, makes sense only in a situation of
conversation. This allows me to conclude that the cooperative feature of communication (Grice 1975) and reference (Clark andWilkes-Gibbs 1986) holds also at the understanding level. Finally, I discuss where Strawson’s views seem to be unsatisfactory, and suggest how they might be improved.


Copyright (c)

Principia: an internationnal journal of epistemology
Published by NEL - Epistemology and Logic Research Group
Federal University of Santa Catarina - UFSC
Center of Philosophy and Human Sciences – CFH
Campus Reitor João David Ferreira Lima
Florianópolis, Santa Catarina - Brazil
CEP: 88040-900

 ISSN: 1414-4217
EISSN: 1808-171