Beyond Explanation: Understanding as Dependency Modeling

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Abstract
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 proportional to the comprehensiveness and accuracy of such a model. I compare this account with accounts of scientific understanding that explicate understanding in terms of having an explanation of the understood phenomenon. I discuss three distinct types of cases in which scientific understanding does not amount to possessing an explanation of any kind, and argue that the proposed model-based account can accommodate these cases while still retaining a strong link between understanding and explanation.
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Archival date: 2018-06-21
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The Scientific Image.Van Fraassen, Bas C.

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