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Summary Understanding considered as an epistemic accomplishment.  Some of the relevant questions include: How does understanding differ (if at all) from other epistemic accomplishments such as knowledge or wisdom?  And what does it take to understand events in the world, as opposed to people, or languages, or works of art?
Key works Influential recent works include Zagzebski 2001, Kvanvig 2003, and Grimm 2006.
Introductions Grimm 2011 offers an overview of the literature.
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  1. Peter Achinstein (1971). Law and Explanation: An Essay in the Philosophy of Science. London,Oxford University Press.
  2. James Albertson (1958). Insight. Modern Schoolman 35 (3):236-244.
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  3. Karl-Otto Apel (1988). Understanding and Explanation: A Transcendental-Pragmatic Perspective. The Mit Press.
    The explanation versus understanding debate was important to the philosophy of thesocial sciences from the time of Dilthey and Weber through the work of Popper and Hempel.
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  4. Victor Balowitz (1977). Saying and Understanding. International Studies in Philosophy 9:175-176.
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  5. Alex Barber (2013). Understanding as Knowledge of Meaning. Philosophy Compass 8 (10):964-977.
    Testimony, the transmission of knowledge through communication, requires a shared understanding of linguistic expressions and utterances of them. Is this understanding itself a kind of knowledge, knowledge of meaning? The intuitive answer is ‘yes’, but the nature of such knowledge is controversial, as is the assumption that understanding is a kind of knowledge at all. This article is a critical examination of recent work on the nature and role of semantic knowledge in the generation of the linguistic understanding needed for (...)
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  6. Eric Barnes (1992). Explanatory Unification and Scientific Understanding. PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1992:3 - 12.
    The theory of explanatory unification was first proposed by Friedman (1974) and developed by Kitcher (1981, 1989). The primary motivation for this theory, it seems to me, is the argument that this account of explanation is the only account that correctly describes the genesis of scientific understanding. Despite the apparent plausibility of Friedman's argument to this effect, however, I argue here that the unificationist thesis of understanding is false. The theory of explanatory unification as articulated by Friedman and Kitcher thus (...)
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  7. William Bechtel (1986). Stephan Strasser, Understanding and Explanation. [REVIEW] Philosophy in Review 6:131-133.
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  8. William Bechtel (1986). Stephan Strasser, Understanding and Explanation Reviewed By. Philosophy in Review 6 (3):131-133.
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  9. Kelly Becker (2012). Basic Knowledge and Easy Understanding. Acta Analytica 27 (2):145-161.
    Reliabilism is a theory that countenances basic knowledge, that is, knowledge from a reliable source, without requiring that the agent knows the source is reliable. Critics (especially Cohen 2002 ) have argued that such theories generate all-too-easy, intuitively implausible cases of higher-order knowledge based on inference from basic knowledge. For present purposes, the criticism might be recast as claiming that reliabilism implausibly generates cases of understanding from brute, basic knowledge. I argue that the easy knowledge (or easy understanding) criticism rests (...)
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  10. Frances Berenson (1984). Understanding Art and Understanding Persons. Royal Institute of Philosophy Lectures 17:43-60.
    I have been asked to contribute a paper to the present series of lectures on culture, specifically on whether it is possible to understand the art of other cultures. What I find intriguing is why this question arises; why is such understanding seen as a problem needing discussion? These are significant questions. How they are answered will be important for any possibility of cross-cultural aesthetic judgments and aesthetic experience. In order to deal with them it is necessary to see how (...)
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  11. Ruth Berger (1998). Understanding Science: Why Causes Are Not Enough. Philosophy of Science 65 (2):306-332.
    This paper is an empirical critique of causal accounts of scientific explanation. Drawing on explanations which rely on nonlinear dynamical modeling, I argue that the requirement of causal relevance is both too strong and too weak to be constitutive of scientific explanation. In addition, causal accounts obscure how the process of mathematical modeling produces explanatory information. I advance three arguments for the inadequacy of causal accounts. First, I argue that explanatorily relevant information is not always information about causes, even in (...)
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  12. Review author[S.]: José Luis Bermúdez (1997). Practical Understanding Vs Reflective Understanding. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 57 (3):635-641.
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  13. James Blachowicz (1999). Knowledge Vs. Inquiry. The Owl of Minerva 31 (1):45-52.
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  14. P. Bourdieu (1996). Understanding. Theory, Culture and Society 13 (2):17-37.
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  15. Pierre Bourdieu (1996). Understanding. Theory, Culture and Society 13 (2):17-37.
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  16. Ayca Boylu (2010). How Understanding Makes Knowledge Valuable. Canadian Journal of Philosophy 40 (4):591-609.
    Many have suggested that understanding is a worthier goal for theoretical reflection than is propositional knowledge.1 Some have even claimed that, unlike knowledge, understanding is always intrinsically valuable.2 In this essay, I aim only to show that there is a basic value in understanding and that when knowledge conduces to understanding, it gets this basic value extrinsically from understanding. After distinguishing two kinds of understanding, namely, teleological and non-teleological understanding, I will conclude that teleological understanding has more of this basic (...)
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  17. Jochen Briesen (2014). Pictorial Art and Epistemic Aims. In Harald Klinke (ed.), Art Theory as Visual Epistemology. Cambridge Scholars Publishing. 11-28.
    The question whether art is of any epistemic value is an old question in the philosophy of art. Whereas many contemporary artists, art-critics, and art-historians answer this question affirmatively, many contemporary philosophers remain skeptical. If art is of epistemic significance, they maintain, then it has to contribute to our quest of achieving our most basic epistemic aim, namely knowledge.Unfortunately, recent and widely accepted analyses of knowledge make it very hard to see how art might significantly contribute to the quest of (...)
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  18. Berit Brogaard, I Know. Therefore, I Understand.
    The so-called Meno problem is one of the recent trendy topics in epistemology.1 In a nutshell, the Meno problem is that of explaining why we value knowledge more than true belief. In his recent book The Value of Knowledge and the Pursuit of Understanding Jon Kvanvig argues quite convincingly that no existing account of knowledge can accommodate the intuition that the value of knowledge exceeds the value of true belief.
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  19. Tyler Burge (2013). Cognition Through Understanding: Self-Knowledge, Interlocution, Reasoning, Reflection: Philosophical Essays, Volume 3. Oup Oxford.
    Cognition Through Understanding presents a selection of Tyler Burge's essays on cognition, thought, and language. The essays collected here use epistemology as a way of interpreting underlying powers of mind, and focus on four types of cognition that are warranted through understanding: self-knowledge, interlocution, reasoning, and reflection.
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  20. John Campbell (1982). Knowledge and Understanding. Philosophical Quarterly 32 (126):17-34.
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  21. Zhiping Cao (2005). Li Jie Yu Ke Xue Jie Shi: Jie Shi Xue Shi Ye Zhong de Ke Xue Jie Shi Yan Jiu = Understanding and Scientific Explanation: A Study of Scientific Explanation From the Perspective of Hermeneutics. She Hui Ke Xue Wen Xian Chu Ban She.
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  22. J. Adam Carter (2013). Relativism, Knowledge and Understanding. Episteme (1):1-18.
    The arguments for and against a truth-relativist semantics for propositional knowledge attributions (KTR) have been debated almost exclusively in the philosophy of language. But what implications would this semantic thesis have in epistemology? This question has been largely unexplored. The aim of this paper is to establish and critique several ramifications of KTR in mainstream epistemology. The first section of the paper develops, over a series of arguments, the claim that MacFarlane's (2005, 2010) core argument for KTR ultimately motivates (for (...)
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  23. J. Adam Carter & Emma C. Gordon (forthcoming). On Pritchard, Objectual Understanding and the Value Problem. American Philosophical Quarterly.
    Duncan Pritchard (2008, 2009, 2010, forthcoming) has argued for an elegant solution to what have been called the value problems for knowledge at the forefront of recent literature on epistemic value. As Pritchard sees it, these problems dissolve once it is recognized that that it is understanding-why, not knowledge, that bears the distinctive epistemic value often (mistakenly) attributed to knowledge. A key element of Pritchard’s revisionist argument is the claim that understanding-why always involves what he calls strong cognitive achievement—viz., cognitive (...)
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  24. J. Adam Carter & Emma C. Gordon (2014). On Cognitive and Moral Enhancement: A Reply to Savulescu and Persson. Bioethics 28 (1):153-161.
    In a series of recent works, Julian Savulescu and Ingmar Persson insist that, given the ease by which irreversible destruction is achievable by a morally wicked minority, (i) strictly cognitive bio-enhancement is currently too risky, while (ii) moral bio-enhancement is plausibly morally mandatory (and urgently so). This article aims to show that the proposal Savulescu and Persson advance relies on several problematic assumptions about the separability of cognitive and moral enhancement as distinct aims. Specifically, we propose that the underpinnings of (...)
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  25. J. Adam Carter & Emma C. Gordon (2013). A New Maneuver Against the Epistemic Relativist. Synthese (8):1-13.
    Epistemic relativists often appeal to an epistemic incommensurability thesis. One notable example is the position advanced by Wittgenstein in On certainty (1969). However, Ian Hacking’s radical denial of the possibility of objective epistemic reasons for belief poses, we suggest, an even more forceful challenge to mainstream meta-epistemology. Our central objective will be to develop a novel strategy for defusing Hacking’s line of argument. Specifically, we show that the epistemic incommensurability thesis can be resisted even if we grant the very insights (...)
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  26. Timothy Chappell (2007). Jonathan Kvanvig: The Value of Knowledge and the Pursuit of Understanding. Faith and Philosophy 24 (4):475-479.
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  27. Neil Cooper (1995). The Epistemology of Understanding. Inquiry 38 (3):205 – 215.
    My principal aims are to question the conventional wisdom on two points. First, it argues that cognitive understanding is neither identical with nor reducible to knowledge?why, and that it is a multiform capacity which adds value to knowledge, true belief, and human creative activity. Essential to understanding is epistemic ascent, the rising above bare knowledge, to assess, appraise, compare, contrast, emphasize, connect and so on. Different modes of understanding are distinguished and an accompanying vocabulary of mode?indicators (expressing Fregean ?colour'). Second, (...)
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  28. Frank Cunningham (1967). More on Understanding in the Social Sciences. Inquiry 10 (1-4):321-326.
    A central mistake in Rolf Gruner's recent article on understanding in the socia sciences in ferreted out, and consideration of it is used both to analyse Gruner's interpretation of understanding and to sketch a more adequate interpretation. The mistake is in distinguishing meanings and facts. The analysis suggests that Gruner was forced to see understanding both as a special kind of explanation and at the same time as no explanation. The sketch offers a distinction of three senses of ?understanding? ? (...)
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  29. James T. Cushing (1991). Quantum Theory and Explanatory Discourse: Endgame for Understanding? Philosophy of Science 58 (3):337-358.
    Empirical adequacy, formal explanation and understanding are distinct goals of science. While no a priori criterion for understanding should be laid down, there may be inherent limitations on the way we are able to understand explanations of physical phenomena. I examine several recent contributions to the exercise of fashioning an explanatory discourse to mold the formal explanation provided by quantum mechanics to our modes of understanding. The question is whether we are capable of truly understanding (or comprehending) quantum phenomena, as (...)
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  30. Peter Davson-Galle (2004). Understanding:'Knowledge','Belief'and 'Understanding'. Science and Education 13 (6):591-598.
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  31. Henk de Regt (2009). Intelligibility and Scientific Understanding. In Henk De Regt, Sabina Leonelli & Kai Eigner (eds.), Scientific Understanding: Philosophical Perspectives. University of Pittsburgh Press.
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  32. Henk W. De Regt (forthcoming). Scientific Understanding: Truth or Dare? Synthese:1-17.
    It is often claimed—especially by scientific realists—that science provides understanding of the world only if its theories are (at least approximately) true descriptions of reality, in its observable as well as unobservable aspects. This paper critically examines this ‘realist thesis’ concerning understanding. A crucial problem for the realist thesis is that (as study of the history and practice of science reveals) understanding is frequently obtained via theories and models that appear to be highly unrealistic or even completely fictional. So we (...)
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  33. Henk W. de Regt (2014). Visualization as a Tool for Understanding. Perspectives on Science 22 (3):377-396.
    The act of understanding is at the heart of all scientific activity; without it any ostensibly scientific activity is as sterile as that of a high school student substituting numbers into a formula. Ordinary language often uses visual metaphors in connection with understanding. When we finally understand what someone is trying to point out to us, we exclaim: “I see!” When someone really understands a subject matter, we say that she has “insight”. There appears to be a link between visualization (...)
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  34. Henk W. de Regt (2013). Understanding and Explanation: Living Apart Together? Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 44 (3):505-509.
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  35. Henk W. de Regt (2009). The Epistemic Value of Understanding. Philosophy of Science 76 (5):585-597.
    This article analyzes the epistemic value of understanding and offers an account of the role of understanding in science. First, I discuss the objectivist view of the relation between explanation and understanding, defended by Carl Hempel and J. D. Trout. I challenge this view by arguing that pragmatic aspects of explanation are crucial for achieving the epistemic aims of science. Subsequently, I present an analysis of these pragmatic aspects in terms of ‘intelligibility’ and a contextual account of scientific understanding based (...)
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  36. Henk W. de Regt (2004). Discussion Note: Making Sense of Understanding. Philosophy of Science 71 (1):98-109.
    J.D. Trout (2002) presents a challenge to all theorists of scientific explanation who appeal to the notion of understanding. Trout denounces understanding as irrelevant, if not dangerous, from an epistemic perspective and he endorses a radically objectivist view of explanation instead. In this note I accept Trout's challenge. I criticize his argument and defend a non-objectivist, pragmatic conception of understanding that is epistemically relevant.
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  37. Henk W. de Regt (1999). Ludwig Boltzmann's Bildtheorie and Scientific Understanding. Synthese 119 (1-2):113-134.
    Boltzmann’s Bildtheorie, which asserts that scientific theories are ‘mental pictures’ having at best a partial similarity to reality, was a core element of his philosophy of science. The aim of this article is to draw attention to a neglected aspect of it, namely its significance for the issue of scientific explanation and understanding, regarded by Boltzmann as central goals of science. I argue that, in addition to being an epistemological view of the interpretation of scientific theories Boltzmann’s Bildtheorie has implications (...)
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  38. Henk W. de Regt, Sabina Leonelli & K. Eigner (2009). Focusing on Scientific Understanding. In Henk De Regt, Sabina Leonelli & Kai Eigner (eds.), Scientific Understanding: Philosophical Perspectives. University of Pittsburgh Press.
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  39. Henk W. de Regt & Wendy S. Parker (2014). Introduction: Simulation, Visualization, and Scientific Understanding. Perspectives on Science 22 (3):311-317.
    Only a decade ago, the topic of scientific understanding remained one that philosophers of science largely avoided. Earlier discussions by Hempel and others had branded scientific understanding a mere subjective state or feeling, one to be studied by psychologists perhaps, but not an important or fruitful focus for philosophers of science. Even as scientific explanation became a central topic in philosophy of science, little attention was given to understanding. Over the last decade, however, this situation has changed. Analyses of scientific (...)
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  40. Michael R. Depaul & Stephen R. Grimm (2007). Review Essay on Jonathan Kvanvig's the Value of Knowledge and the Pursuit of Understanding. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 74 (2):498–514.
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  41. Dennis Dieks & Henk W. de Regt (1998). Reduction and Understanding. Foundations of Science 3 (1):45-59.
    Reductionism, in the sense of the doctrine that theories on different levels of reality should exhibit strict and general relations of deducibility, faces well-known difficulties. Nevertheless, the idea that deeper layers of reality are responsible for what happens at higher levels is well-entrenched in scientific practice. We argue that the intuition behind this idea is adequately captured by the notion of supervenience: the physical state of the fundamental physical layers fixes the states of the higher levels. Supervenience is weaker than (...)
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  42. Andreas Dorschel (2005). Über das Verstehen und Interpretieren von Kunstwerken. In Wolf-Jürgen Cramm, Wulf Kellerwessel, David Krause & Hans-Christoph Kupfer (eds.), Diskurs und Reflexion. Wolfgang Kuhlmann zum 65. Geburtstag. Königshausen & Neumann. 375-387.
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  43. Matti Eklund (2007). Meaning-Constitutivity. Inquiry 50 (6):559-574.
    I discuss some problems faced by the meaning‐inconsistency view on the liar and sorites paradoxes which I have elsewhere defended. Most of the discussion is devoted to the question of what a defender of the meaning‐inconsistency view should say about semantic competence.
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  44. Catherine Elgin (2007). Understanding and the Facts. Philosophical Studies 132 (1):33 - 42.
    If understanding is factive, the propositions that express an understanding are true. I argue that a factive conception of understanding is unduly restrictive. It neither reflects our practices in ascribing understanding nor does justice to contemporary science. For science uses idealizations and models that do not mirror the facts. Strictly speaking, they are false. By appeal to exemplification, I devise a more generous, flexible conception of understanding that accommodates science, reflects our practices, and shows a sufficient but not slavish sensitivity (...)
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  45. Catherine Elgin (2006). From Knowledge to Understanding. In Stephen Cade Hetherington (ed.), Epistemology Futures. Oxford University Press. 199--215.
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  46. Catherine Z. Elgin (1993). Understanding: Art and Science. Synthese 95 (1):196-208.
    The arts and the sciences perform many of the same cognitive functions, both serving to advance understanding. This paper explores some of the ways exemplification operates in the two fields. Both scientific experiments and works of art highlight, underscore, display, or convey some of their own features. They thereby focus attention on them, and make them available for examination and projection. Thus, the Michelson-Morley experiment exemplifies the constancy of the speed of light. Jackson Pollock'sNumber One exemplifies the viscosity of paint. (...)
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  47. Jan Faye (forthcoming). Scientific Understanding, Representation, and Explanation. Epistemologia.
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  48. Erika Fischer-Lichte (1983). What is "Understanding"? Semiotics:361-369.
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  49. R. L. Franklin (1983). On Understanding. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 43 (3):307-328.
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  50. R. L. Franklin (1981). Knowledge, Belief and Understanding. Philosophical Quarterly 31 (124):193-208.
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