Understanding, grasping and luck

Episteme 10 (1):1-17 (2013)
Download Edit this record How to cite View on PhilPapers
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 also provide a new account of the kind of ‘grasping’ taken to be central to understanding. Second, I show that putative examples of lucky understanding unwittingly deploy a kind of luck that is compatible with knowledge. Finally, appealing to a number of works on explanation and its attendant epistemology, I argue that alleged instances of lucky understanding that overcome these two obstacles will invariably violate certain norms of explanatory inquiry – our paradigmatic understanding-oriented practice. By contrast, knowledge of the same information is immune to these criticisms. Consequently, if understanding is environmentally lucky, it is always inferior to the understanding that a corresponding case of knowledge would provide.
PhilPapers/Archive ID
Revision history
Archival date: 2013-04-26
View upload history
References found in this work BETA

View all 28 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

View all 15 citations / Add more citations

Added to PP index

Total views
620 ( #4,239 of 42,311 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
67 ( #8,759 of 42,311 )

How can I increase my downloads?

Downloads since first upload
This graph includes both downloads from PhilArchive and clicks to external links.