Defending Nonreductionism About Understanding

Thought: A Journal of Philosophy 8 (3):222-231 (2019)
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In this note I defend nonreductionism about understanding by arguing that knowledge is neither necessary nor sufficient for understanding. To do so, I examine Paulina Sliwa’s recent (Sliwa 2015, 2017) defence of knowledge-based Reductionism (Reductionism for short). Sliwa claims that one understands why p if and only if one has a sufficient amount of knowledge why p. Sliwa also contends that Reductionism is supported by intuitive verdicts about our uses of ‘understanding why’ and ‘knowing why’. In reply, I first argue that Sliwa’s Reductionism leads to a vicious infinite regress. Secondly, I defuse the motivation in favour of Reductionism by showing how the linguistic data can be accommodated within a Nonreductionist framework.

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Michele Palmira
Complutense University of Madrid


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