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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. Alessandro Arbo (2013). Language Games and Musical Understanding. Aisthesis. Pratiche, Linguaggi E Saperi Dell’Estetico 6 (1):187-200.
    Wittgenstein has often explored language games that have to do with musical objects of different sizes (phrases, themes, formal sections or entire works). These games can refer to a technical language or to common parlance and correspond to different targets. One of these coincides with the intention to suggest a way of conceiving musical understanding. His model takes the form of the invitation to "hear (something) as (something)": typically, to hear a musical passage as an introduction or as a conclusion (...)
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  5. Magdalena Balcerak Jackson & Brendan Balcerak Jackson (2012). Understanding and Philosophical Methodology. Philosophical Studies 161 (2):185-205.
    According to Conceptualism, philosophy is an independent discipline that can be pursued from the armchair because philosophy seeks truths that can be discovered purely on the basis of our understanding of expressions and the concepts they express. In his recent book, The Philosophy of Philosophy, Timothy Williamson argues that while philosophy can indeed be pursued from the armchair, we should reject any form of Conceptualism. In this paper, we show that Williamson’s arguments against Conceptualism are not successful, and we sketch (...)
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  6. Victor Balowitz (1977). Saying and Understanding. International Studies in Philosophy 9:175-176.
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  7. 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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  8. 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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  9. Christoph Baumberger (2013). Art and Understanding. In Defence of Aesthetic Cognitivism. In Marc Greenlee, Rainer Hammwöhner, Bernd Köber, Christoph Wagner & Christian Wolff (eds.), Bilder sehen. Perspektiven der Bildwissenschaft. Schnell + Steiner 41-67.
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  10. Christoph Baumberger, Explanatorisches Verstehen. Ein Definitionsvorschlag. Was Dürfen Wir Glauben? Was Sollen Wir Tun? – Sektionsbeiträge des Achten Internationalen Kongresses der Gesellschaft Für Analytische Philosophie E.V.
    In diesem Aufsatz entwickle ich eine Definition von explanatorischem Verstehen, indem ich dieses mit Wissen vergleiche. Erstens zeige ich, inwiefern explanatorisches Verstehen das Erfassen einer anspruchsvolleren Erklärung und eine anspruchsvollere Rechtfertigung verlangt als explanatorisches Wissen. Zweitens argumentiere ich dafür, dass die Erklärung den Tatsachen gerecht werden muss, explanatorisches Verstehen aber im Gegensatz zu Wissen nicht immer faktiv ist. Drittens verteidige ich die Auffassung, dass explanatorisches Verstehen, anders als Wissen, mit epistemischem Glück kompatibel ist. Als Ergebnis schlage ich vor, dass S (...)
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  11. Christoph Baumberger (2011). Types of Understanding: Their Nature and Their Relation to Knowledge. Conceptus: Zeitschrift Fur Philosophie 40 (98):67-88.
    What does it mean to understand something? I approach this question by comparing understanding with knowledge. Like knowledge, understanding comes, at least prima facia, in three varieties: propositional, interrogative and objectual. I argue that explanatory understanding (this being the most important form of interrogative understanding) and objectual understanding are not reducible to one another and are neither identical with, nor even a form of, the corresponding type of knowledge (nor any other type of knowledge). My discussion suggests that definitions of (...)
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  12. Christoph Baumberger (2011). Understanding and its Relation to Knowledge. In Christoph Jäger Winfrid Löffler (ed.), Epistemology: Contexts, Values, Disagreement. Papers of the 34th International Wittgenstein Symposium. Austrian Ludwig Wittgenstein Society 16-18.
    Is understanding the same as or at least a species of knowledge? This question has to be answered with respect to each of three types of understanding and of knowledge. I argue that understanding-why and objectual understanding are not reducible to one another and neither identical with nor a species of the corresponding or any other type of knowledge. My discussion reveals important characteristics of these two types of understanding and has consequences for propositional understanding.
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  13. William Bechtel (1986). Stephan Strasser, Understanding and Explanation Reviewed By. Philosophy in Review 6 (3):131-133.
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  14. William Bechtel (1986). Stephan Strasser, Understanding and Explanation. [REVIEW] Philosophy in Review 6:131-133.
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  15. 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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  16. 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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  17. 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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  18. Review author[S.]: José Luis Bermúdez (1997). Practical Understanding Vs Reflective Understanding. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 57 (3):635-641.
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  19. James Blachowicz (1999). Knowledge Vs. Inquiry. The Owl of Minerva 31 (1):45-52.
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  20. P. Bourdieu (1996). Understanding. Theory, Culture and Society 13 (2):17-37.
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  21. Pierre Bourdieu (1996). Understanding. Theory, Culture and Society 13 (2):17-37.
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  22. David Bourget (2015). The Role of Consciousness in Grasping and Understanding. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 91 (1).
    One sometimes believes a proposition without grasping it. For example, a complete achromat might believe that ripe tomatoes are red without grasping this proposition. My aim in this paper is to shed light on the difference between merely believing a proposition and grasping it. I focus on two possible theories of grasping: the inferential theory, which explains grasping in terms of inferential role, and the phenomenal theory, which explains grasping in terms of phenomenal consciousness. I argue that the phenomenal theory (...)
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  23. Kenneth Boyd (forthcoming). Testifying Understanding. Episteme:1-25.
    While it is widely acknowledged that knowledge can be acquired via testimony, it has been argued that understanding cannot. While there is no consensus about what the epistemic relationship of understanding consists in, I argue here that regardless of how understanding is conceived there are kinds of understanding that can be acquired through testimony: easy understanding and easy-s understanding. I address a number of aspects of understanding that might stand in the way of being able to acquire understanding through testimony, (...)
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  24. 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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  25. 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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  26. 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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  27. 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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  28. John Campbell (1982). Knowledge and Understanding. Philosophical Quarterly 32 (126):17-34.
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  29. 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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  30. 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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  31. 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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  32. 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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  33. 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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  34. 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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  35. Elijah Chudnoff (2013). Is Intuition Based On Understanding? Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 86 (1):42-67.
    According to the most popular non-skeptical views about intuition, intuitions justify beliefs because they are based on understanding. More precisely: if intuiting that p justifies you in believing that p it does so because your intuition is based on your understanding of the proposition that p. The aim of this paper is to raise some challenges for accounts of intuitive justification along these lines. I pursue this project from a non-skeptical perspective. I argue that there are cases in which intuiting (...)
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  36. 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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  37. 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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  38. 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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  39. Peter Davson-Galle (2004). Understanding:'Knowledge','Belief'and 'Understanding'. Science and Education 13 (6):591-598.
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  40. 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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  41. Henk W. de Regt (2015). Scientific Understanding: Truth or Dare? Synthese 192 (12):3781-3797.
    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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  42. 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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  43. 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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  44. 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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  45. 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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  46. 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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  47. 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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  48. 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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  49. Finnur Dellsén (2016). Scientific Progress: Knowledge Versus Understanding. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 56:72-83.
    What is scientific progress? On Alexander Bird’s epistemic account of scientific progress, an episode in science is progressive precisely when there is more scientific knowledge at the end of the episode than at the beginning. Using Bird’s epistemic account as a foil, this paper develops an alternative understanding-based account on which an episode in science is progressive precisely when scientists grasp how to correctly explain or predict more aspects of the world at the end of the episode than at the (...)
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  50. Finnur Dellsén (2016). Understanding Without Justification or Belief. Ratio 29 (2):n/a-n/a.
    In recent years there has been a resurgence of interest among epistemologists in the nature of understanding, with some authors arguing that understanding should replace knowledge as the primary focus of epistemology. But what is understanding? According to what is often called the standard view, understanding is a species of knowledge. Although this view has recently been challenged in various ways, even the critics of the standard view have assumed that understanding requires justification and belief. I argue that it requires (...)
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