Scientific understanding and colorful quarks
David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Archives International d'Histoire des Sciences 60 (164):155-171 (2010)
Scientific understanding comes in different kinds, and each kind comes in degrees. Two of these kinds are revealed by the examination of a recent episode from the history of physics: the making of the theory of strong interactions. The first of these kinds of understanding is associated with the realization that some mathematical formalism or theory may have a fruitful application to physical phenomena. This is what I call prior understanding. Yet another kind is associated with the development of the mathematical formalism into a physical theory that purports to be mathematically consistent and empirically complete –at least in the domain of its applicability. This second kind I call internal understanding. None of these two kinds is conferred by explanations; both are associated with what some authors have called genuine or scientific understanding; and both are epistemically relevant in that they are required for the achievement of some of science’s epistemic aims.
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