Realism and Anti-Realism about experiences of understanding

Philosophical Studies 168 (3):745-767 (2014)
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Strawson (1994) and Peacocke (1992) introduced thought experiments that show that it seems intuitive that there is, in some way, an experiential character to mental events of understanding. Some (e.g., Siewert 1998, 2011; Pitt 2004) try to explain these intuitions by saying that just as we have, say, headache experiences and visual experiences of blueness, so too we have experiences of understanding. Others (e.g., Prinz 2006, 2011; Tye 1996) propose that these intuitions can be explained without positing experiences of understanding. Call this the debate between Realism and Anti-Realism about experiences of understanding. This paper aims to advance that debate in two ways. In the first half, I develop more precise characterizations of what Realists and Anti-Realists propose. In the second half, I distinguish the four most plausible versions of Anti-Realism and argue that Realism better explains the target intuition than any of them does.

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Jordan Dodd
University of British Columbia


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