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Is understanding explanatory or objectual?

Synthese 190 (6):1153-1171 (2013)

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  1. Dimensions of Objectual Understanding.Christoph Baumberger & Georg Brun - 2017 - In Stephen Grimm Christoph Baumberger & Sabine Ammon (eds.), Explaining Understanding: New Perspectives from Epistemology and Philosophy of Science. Routledge. pp. 165-189.
    In science and philosophy, a relatively demanding notion of understanding is of central interest: an epistemic subject understands a subject matter by means of a theory. This notion can be explicated in a way which resembles JTB analyses of knowledge. The explication requires that the theory answers to the facts, that the subject grasps the theory, that she is committed to the theory and that the theory is justified for her. In this paper, we focus on the justification condition and (...)
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  • Understanding Without Justification or Belief.Finnur Dellsén - 2017 - Ratio 30 (3):239-254.
    In recent years there has been a resurgence of interest among epistemologists in the nature of understanding, with some authors arguing that understanding should replace knowledge as the primary focus of epistemology. But what is understanding? According to what is often called the standard view, understanding is a species of knowledge. Although this view has recently been challenged in various ways, even the critics of the standard view have assumed that understanding requires justification and belief. I argue that it requires (...)
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  • The Role of Explanation in Understanding.K. Khalifa - 2013 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 64 (1):161-187.
    Peter Lipton has argued that understanding can exist in the absence of explanation. We argue that this does not denigrate explanation's importance to understanding. Specifically, we show that all of Lipton's examples are consistent with the idea that explanation is the ideal of understanding, i.e. other modes of understanding ought to be assessed by how well they replicate the understanding provided by a good and correct explanation. We defend this idea by showing that for all of Lipton's examples of non-explanatory (...)
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  • Rational Understanding: Toward a Probabilistic Epistemology of Acceptability.Finnur Dellsén - forthcoming - Synthese:1-20.
    To understand something involves some sort of commitment to a set of propositions comprising an account of the understood phenomenon. Some take this commitment to be a species of belief; others, such as Elgin and I, take it to be a kind of cognitive policy. This paper takes a step back from debates about the nature of understanding and asks when this commitment involved in understanding is epistemically appropriate, or `acceptable' in Elgin's terminology. In particular, appealing to lessons from the (...)
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  • Relativism, Knowledge and Understanding.J. Adam Carter - 2014 - Episteme 11 (1):35-52.
    The arguments for and against a truth-relativist semantics for propositional knowledge attributions (KTR) have been debated almost exclusively in the philosophy of language. But what implications would this semantic thesis have in epistemology? This question has been largely unexplored. The aim of this paper is to establish and critique several ramifications of KTR in mainstream epistemology. The first section of the paper develops, over a series of arguments, the claim that MacFarlane's (2005, 2010) core argument for KTR ultimately motivates (for (...)
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  • A New Maneuver Against the Epistemic Relativist.J. Adam Carter & Emma C. Gordon - 2014 - Synthese 191 (8).
    Epistemic relativists often appeal to an epistemic incommensurability thesis. One notable example is the position advanced by Wittgenstein in On certainty (1969). However, Ian Hacking’s radical denial of the possibility of objective epistemic reasons for belief poses, we suggest, an even more forceful challenge to mainstream meta-epistemology. Our central objective will be to develop a novel strategy for defusing Hacking’s line of argument. Specifically, we show that the epistemic incommensurability thesis can be resisted even if we grant the very insights (...)
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  • Understanding Why, Knowing Why, and Cognitive Achievements.Insa Lawler - 2018 - Synthese.
    Duncan Pritchard argues that a feature that sets understanding-why apart from knowledge-why is that whereas (I) understanding-why is a kind of cognitive achievement in a strong sense, (II) knowledge-why is not such a kind. I argue that (I) is false and that (II) is true. (I) is false because understanding-why featuring rudimentary explanations and understanding-why concerning very simple causal connections are not cognitive achievements in a strong sense. Knowledge-why is not a kind of cognitive achievement in a strong sense for (...)
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  • Scientific Progress: Knowledge Versus Understanding.Finnur Dellsén - 2016 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 56:72-83.
    What is scientific progress? On Alexander Bird’s epistemic account of scientific progress, an episode in science is progressive precisely when there is more scientific knowledge at the end of the episode than at the beginning. Using Bird’s epistemic account as a foil, this paper develops an alternative understanding-based account on which an episode in science is progressive precisely when scientists grasp how to correctly explain or predict more aspects of the world at the end of the episode than at the (...)
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  • Is Understanding Reducible?Lewis D. Ross - forthcoming - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 1:1-19.
    Despite playing an important role in epistemology, philosophy of science, and more recently in moral philosophy and aesthetics, the nature of understanding is still much contested. One attractive framework attempts to reduce understanding to other familiar epistemic states. This paper explores and develops a methodology for testing such reductionist theories before offering a counterexample to a recently defended variant on which understanding reduces to what an agent knows.
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  • Peeking Inside the Black Box: A New Kind of Scientific Visualization.Michael T. Stuart & Nancy J. Nersessian - 2018 - Minds and Machines 29 (1):87-107.
    Computational systems biologists create and manipulate computational models of biological systems, but they do not always have straightforward epistemic access to the content and behavioural profile of such models because of their length, coding idiosyncrasies, and formal complexity. This creates difficulties both for modellers in their research groups and for their bioscience collaborators who rely on these models. In this paper we introduce a new kind of visualization that was developed to address just this sort of epistemic opacity. The visualization (...)
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  • What is Understanding? An Overview of Recent Debates in Epistemology and Philosophy of Science.Christoph Baumberger, Claus Beisbart & Georg Brun - 2017 - In Stephen Grimm Christoph Baumberger & Sabine Ammon (eds.), Explaining Understanding: New Perspectives from Epistemolgy and Philosophy of Science. Routledge. pp. 1-34.
    The paper provides a systematic overview of recent debates in epistemology and philosophy of science on the nature of understanding. We explain why philosophers have turned their attention to understanding and discuss conditions for “explanatory” understanding of why something is the case and for “objectual” understanding of a whole subject matter. The most debated conditions for these types of understanding roughly resemble the three traditional conditions for knowledge: truth, justification and belief. We discuss prominent views about how to construe these (...)
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  • Understanding, Grasping and Luck.Kareem Khalifa - 2013 - Episteme 10 (1):1-17.
    Recently, it has been debated as to whether understanding is a species of explanatory knowledge. Those who deny this claim frequently argue that understanding, unlike knowledge, can be lucky. In this paper I argue that current arguments do not support this alleged compatibility between understanding and epistemic luck. First, I argue that understanding requires reliable explanatory evaluation, yet the putative examples of lucky understanding underspecify the extent to which subjects possess this ability. In the course of defending this claim, I (...)
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  • Beyond Explanation: Understanding as Dependency Modeling.Finnur Dellsén - 2018 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science.
    This paper presents and argues for an account of objectual understanding that aims to do justice to the full range of cases of scientific understanding, including cases in which one does not have an explanation of the understood phenomenon. According to the proposed account, one understands a phenomenon just in case one grasps a sufficiently accurate and comprehensive model of the ways in which it or its features are situated within a network of dependence relations; one’s degree of understanding is (...)
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  • A Noetic Theory of Understanding and Intuition as Sense-Maker.John Bengson - 2015 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 58 (7-8):633-668.
    The notion of a non-sensory mental state or event that plays a prominent role in coming to understand, an epistemic achievement distinct from mere knowledge, featured prominently in historical writings on philosophy, and philosophical methodology. It is, however, completely absent from contemporary discussions of the subject. This paper argues that intuition plays an epistemic role in understanding, including philosophical understanding, and offers an explanation of how intuition manages to play this role, if and when it does. It is argued, subsequently, (...)
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  • No Understanding Without Explanation.Michael Strevens - 2013 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 44 (3):510-515.
    Scientific understanding, this paper argues, can be analyzed entirely in terms of a mental act of “grasping” and a notion of explanation. To understand why a phenomenon occurs is to grasp a correct explanation of the phenomenon. To understand a scientific theory is to be able to construct, or at least to grasp, a range of potential explanations in which that theory accounts for other phenomena. There is no route to scientific understanding, then, that does not go by way of (...)
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  • Can Probabilistic Coherence Be a Measure of Understanding?Victor Gijsbers - 2015 - Theoria: Revista de Teoría, Historia y Fundamentos de la Ciencia 30 (1):53-71.
    Coherence is a measure of how much our beliefs hang together. Understanding is achieved when we see that something is not just a brute, isolated fact. This suggests that it might be possible to use the extant probabilistic measures of coherence to formulate a measure of understanding. We attempt to do so, but it turns out that a coherence theory runs into trouble with the asymmetry of understanding. We identify four difficulties and show how they have been solved by a (...)
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  • Understanding Does Not Depend on (Causal) Explanation.Philippe Verreault-Julien - 2019 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science 9 (2):18.
    One can find in the literature two sets of views concerning the relationship between understanding and explanation: that one understands only if 1) one has knowledge of causes and 2) that knowledge is provided by an explanation. Taken together, these tenets characterize what I call the narrow knowledge account of understanding. While the first tenet has recently come under severe attack, the second has been more resistant to change. I argue that we have good reasons to reject it on the (...)
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  • Understanding: Not Know-How.Emily Sullivan - 2018 - Philosophical Studies 175 (1):221-240.
    There is considerable agreement among epistemologists that certain abilities are constitutive of understanding-why. These abilities include: constructing explanations, drawing conclusions, and answering questions. This agreement has led epistemologists to conclude that understanding is a kind of know-how. However, in this paper, I argue that the abilities constitutive of understanding are the same kind of cognitive abilities that we find in ordinary cases of knowledge-that and not the kind of practical abilities associated with know-how. I argue for this by disambiguating between (...)
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  • Understanding Understanding: An Epistemological Investigation.Mikael Janvid - 2014 - Philosophia 42 (4):971-985.
    Understanding has received growing interest from epistemologists in recent years, but no consensus regarding its epistemic properties has yet been reached. This paper extracts, but also rejects, candidates of epistemic properties for construing an epistemological model of understanding from the writings of epistemologists participating in the current discussion surrounding that state. On the basis of these results, a suggestion is put forward according to which understanding is a non-basic epistemic state of warrant rather than knowledge. It is argued that this (...)
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