The Difference Between Knowledge and Understanding

Explaining Knowledge: New Essays on the Gettier Problem (2017)
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Abstract
In the aftermath of Gettier’s examples, knowledge came to be thought of as what you would have if in addition to a true belief and your favorite epistemic goody, such as justifiedness, you also were ungettiered, and the theory of knowledge was frequently equated, especially by its detractors, with the project of pinning down that extra bit. It would follow that knowledge contributes something distinctive that makes it indispensable in our pantheon of epistemic concepts only if avoiding gettierization has a value that can be explained without presupposing the value of knowledge. Tracking-type knowledge has a value that no other logically possible conditions on true belief does. As an Evolutionarily Stable Strategy it preserves appropriate belief states through time and changing circumstances. If we characterize gettierization through the concept of relevance matching, then we see that avoiding gettierization has a value independent of that of knowledge, namely, understanding, and that it is unnecessary to add a clause to the tracking conditions to make them suppress gettierization directly, though fallibly. The bright line of value is between gettierization avoidance and understanding on the one hand and knowledge on the other, and so should be the bright line defining concepts. The concept of relevance matching is key to a definition of what it is to understand why p is true, as opposed merely to knowing that p is true. Perfect tracking implies perfect relevance matching, so knowledge and understanding are intimately connected but understanding also requires that one own states that accomplish the relevance matching rather than achieving it vicariously. The theory of understanding based on relevance matching implies that understanding requires appreciation of not only p but its connections to other matters, and explains how it is possible to know that p is true without understanding why. The view implies that understanding is literally simulation, and is suggestive about understanding other minds.
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First archival date: 2020-06-28
Latest version: 2 (2020-06-29)
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