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 that p justifies you in believing that p, but such that there is no compelling reason to think this is because your intuition is based on your understanding of the proposition that p. (shrink)
Jonathan Kvanvig has argued that “objectual” understanding, i.e. the understanding we have of a large body of information, cannot be reduced to explanatory concepts. In this paper, I show that Kvanvig fails to establish this point, and then propose a framework for reducing objectual understanding to explanatory understanding.
In this paper, I propose that the debate in epistemology concerning the nature and value of understanding can shed light on the role of scientific idealizations in producing scientific understanding. In philosophy of science, the received view seems to be that understanding is a species of knowledge. On this view, understanding is factive just as knowledge is, i.e., if S knows that p, then p is true. Epistemologists, however, distinguish between different kinds of understanding. Among (...) epistemologists, there are those who think that a certain kind of understanding—objectual understanding—is not factive, and those who think that objectual understanding is quasi-factive. Those who think that understanding is not factive argue that scientific idealizations constitute cognitive success, which we then consider as instances of understanding, and yet they are not true. This paper is an attempt to draw lessons from this debate as they pertain to the role of idealizations in producing scientific understanding. I argue that scientific understanding is quasi-factive. (shrink)
The extended mind hypothesis (Clark and Chalmers in Analysis 58(1):7–19, 1998; Clark 2008) is an influential hypothesis in philosophy of mind and cognitive science. I argue that the extended mind hypothesis is born to be wild. It has undeniable and irrepressible tendencies of flouting grounding assumptions of the traditional information-processing paradigm. I present case-studies from social cognition which not only support the extended mind proposal but also bring out its inherent wildness. In particular, I focus on cases of action-understanding (...) and discuss the role of embodied intentionality in the extended mind project. I discuss two theories of action-understanding for exploring the support for the extended mind hypothesis in embodied intersubjective interaction, namely, simulation theory and a non-simulationist perceptual account. I argue that, if the extended mind adopts a simulation theory of action-understanding, it rejects representationalism. If it adopts a non-simulationist perceptual account of action-understanding, it rejects the classical sandwich view of the mind. (shrink)
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 achievement that consists always in either (i) the overcoming of a significant obstacle or (ii) the exercise of a significant level of cognitive ability. After outlining Pritchard’s argument, we show (contra Pritchard) that understanding-why does not essentially involve strong cognitive achievement. Interestingly, in the cases in which understanding-why is distinctively valuable, it is (we argue) only because there is sufficiently rich objectual understanding in the background. If that’s right, then a plausible revisionist solution to the value problems must be sensitive to different kinds of understanding and what makes them valuable, respectively. (shrink)
Recently, it has been debated as to whether understanding is a species of explanatory knowledge. Those who deny this claim frequently argue that understanding, unlike knowledge, can be lucky. In this paper I argue that current arguments do not support this alleged compatibility between understanding and epistemic luck. First, I argue that understanding requires reliable explanatory evaluation, yet the putative examples of lucky understanding underspecify the extent to which subjects possess this ability. In the course (...) of defending this claim, I also provide a new account of the kind of ‘grasping’ taken to be central to understanding. Second, I show that putative examples of lucky understanding unwittingly deploy a kind of luck that is compatible with knowledge. Finally, appealing to a number of works on explanation and its attendant epistemology, I argue that alleged instances of lucky understanding that overcome these two obstacles will invariably violate certain norms of explanatory inquiry – our paradigmatic understanding-oriented practice. By contrast, knowledge of the same information is immune to these criticisms. Consequently, if understanding is environmentally lucky, it is always inferior to the understanding that a corresponding case of knowledge would provide. (shrink)
Many philosophers claim that understanding a logical constant (e.g. ‘if, then’) fundamentally consists in having dispositions to infer according to the logical rules (e.g. Modus Ponens) that fix its meaning. This paper argues that such dispositionalist accounts give us the wrong picture of what understanding a logical constant consists in. The objection here is that they give an account of understanding a logical constant which is inconsistent with what seem to be adequate manifestations of such understanding. (...) I then outline an alternative account according to which understanding a logical constant is not to be understood dispositionally, but propositionally. I argue that this account is not inconsistent with intuitively correct manifestations of understanding the logical constants. (shrink)
Over the last several years a number of leading philosophers – including Catherine Elgin, Linda Zagzebski, Jonathan Kvanvig, and Duncan Pritchard – have grown increasingly dissatisfied with the contemporary focus on knowledge in epistemology and have attempted to “recover” the notion of understanding. According to some of these philosophers, in fact, understanding deserves not just to be recovered, but to supplant knowledge as the focus of epistemological inquiry. This entry considers some of the main reasons why philosophers have (...) taken understanding to be more valuable than knowledge, focusing on claims that it is more transparent, that it better reflects or mirrors the world, and that it is a greater intellectual achievement. (shrink)
Is linguistic understanding a form of knowledge? I clarify the question and then consider two natural forms a positive answer might take. I argue that, although some recent arguments fail to decide the issue, neither positive answer should be accepted. The aim is not yet to foreclose on the view that linguistic understanding is a form of knowledge, but to develop desiderata on a satisfactory successor to the two natural views rejected here.
Modal epistemology has been dominated by a focus on establishing an account either of how we have modal knowledge or how we have justified beliefs about modality. One component of this focus has been that necessity and possibility are basic access points for modal reasoning. For example, knowing that P is necessary plays a role in deducing that P is essential, and knowing that both P and ¬P are possible plays a role in knowing that P is accidental. Chalmers (2002) (...) and Williamson (2007) provide two good examples of contrasting views in modal epistemology that focus on providing an account of modal knowledge where necessity and possibility are basic access points for modal knowledge, and Yablo (1993) provides a good account of how we have justified beliefs about modality. In contrast to this tradition I argue for and outline a modal epistemology based on objectual understanding and essence, rather than knowledge or justification and necessity and possibility. The account employs a non-modal conception of essence and takes objectual understanding of essence, rather than knowledge of essence to be basic in modal reasoning. I begin by articulating Kvanvig’s (2003) account of objectual understanding, on which objectual understanding of Φ is not equivalent to propositional knowledge of Φ. I then argue that an epistemology of essence that uses property variation-in-imagination is better construed as a model that delivers objectual understanding of essence rather than knowledge of essence. I argue that this is so, since the latter and not the former runs into a version of the Meno paradox. I show how this account can be applied to two issues in modal epistemology: the Benacerraf problem for modality, and the architecture of modal knowledge. (shrink)
Following Burge, many anti-individualists suppose that a subject can possess a concept even if she incompletely understands it. While agreeing that this is possible, I argue that there is a limit on the extent to which a subject can incompletely understand the set of concepts she thinks with. This limit derives from our conception of our ability to reflectively evaluate our own thoughts or, as Burge puts it, our ability to engage in critical reasoning. The paper extends Burge's own work (...) on critical reasoning. He argued that critical reasoning imposes a limit on the extent to which we can be mistaken about what thoughts we are having; in general, we can know non-empirically what we are thinking (Burge, "Our Entitlement to Self-Knowledge", Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society XCVI, 1996). He does not explicitly consider whether critical reasoning also imposes a limit on incomplete understanding of thoughts. (shrink)
Epistemologists have recently debated whether understanding is a species of knowledge. However, because they have offered little in the way of a detailed analysis of understanding, they lack the resources to resolve this issue. In this paper, I propose that S understands why p if and only if S has the non-Gettierised true belief that p, and for some proposition q, S has the non-Gettierised true belief that q is the best available explanation of p, S can correctly (...) explain p with q, and S can identify the features that make q the best explanation of p. On this analysis, understanding is reducible to knowing that p and that q is the best available explanation of p. (shrink)
The paper develops and addresses a major challenge for therapeutic conceptions of philosophy of the sort increasingly attributed to Wittgenstein. To be substantive and relevant, such conceptions have to identify “diseases of the understanding” from which philosophers suffer, and to explain why these “diseases” need to be cured in order to resolve or overcome important philosophical problems. The paper addresses this challenge in three steps: With the help of findings and concepts from cognitive linguistics and cognitive psychology, it redevelops (...) the Wittgensteinian notion of “philosophical pictures.” Through a case study on seminal versions of familiar mind-body problems, it examines how such pictures shape philosophical reflection and generate ill-motivated but captivating problems. Third, it shows that philosophical pictures are constitutive of “diseases of the understanding,” in a quite strict sense of the term. On this basis, the paper explains when and why philosophical therapy is required. (shrink)
ABSTRACT: 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 better or worse) the extension of a truthrelativist semantics to a subset of understanding attributions—attributions of understandingwhy. I conclude by presenting some reasons to think that even if KTR were otherwise plausible, a truth-relativist semantics for understanding-why attributions is not. These claims, taken together, constitute a kind of epistemological argument against MacFarlanestyle truth-relativism for knowledge attributions. (shrink)
This paper offers and analysis of Ernest Sosa's Virtue Perspectivism. Although Sosa has been credited with fathering the influential contemporary movement known as Virtue Epistemology, I argue that Sosa imprudently abandons the reliabilist-based insights of Virtue Epistemology in favor of a reflection-based, "perspectival"' view. Sosa's mixed allegiance to reliabilist-based and reflection-based views of knowledge, in fact, leads to an unwelcome tension in his thought which can be relieved by recognizing that his reflection-based view is in fact an account of the (...) cognitive state of understanding, rather than an account of knowledge. Sosa makes matters difficult for himself because he expects too much, as it were, from the concept of knowledge, and in the process burdens his view with elements of reflection it does not require. To solve the problem, I suggest that Sosa needs to develop a two-tiered epistemology which recognizes that knowledge, on the one hand, and understanding, on the other, both have necessary and sufficient conditions unique to themselves. (shrink)
Tyler Burge has argued that an incorrect understanding of a word can be sufficient for possessing the concept the word literally expresses. His well-known 'arthritis' case involves a patient who understands 'arthritis' incorrectly, but who nevertheless, according to Burge, possesses the concept arthritis. Critics of Burge have objected that there is an alternative concept that best matches the patient's understanding and that this, therefore, is the patient's concept. The paper first argues that Burge's response to this objection is (...) unconvincing. A better response is then developed. It is argued that there is no alternative concept that matches the incorrect understanding, since the patient thinks he has a partial understanding. This, together with points about ordinary psychological explanation and modes of presentations of concepts, establish that it is impossible to undermine Burge's social externalism by appealing to the idea that an alternative concept matches the incorrect understanding. (shrink)
Aristotle has famously made the claim that having the right emotion at the right time is an essential part of moral virtue. Why might this be the case? I consider five possible relations between emotion and virtue and argue that an adequate answer to this question involves the epistemic status of emotion, that is, whether the perceptual awareness and hence the understanding of the object of emotion is like or unlike the perceptual awareness of an unemotional awareness of the (...) same object. If an emotional awareness does not have a unique character, then it is unlikely that emotions provide an understanding that is different from unemotional states of awareness: they are perhaps little more than “hot-blooded” instances of the same understanding. If, on the other hand, an emotional state involves a perceptual awareness that is unique to the emotion, then emotions are cognitively significant, providing an understanding of the object of the emotion that is absent in a similar but unemotional episode of awareness. I argue the latter and substantiate the claim that emotions are essential to moral virtue because they can be essential to a full understanding of the situations that they involve. In such cases, emotions are not merely a symptom of the possession of an adequate understanding, but are rather necessary for having an adequate understanding. (shrink)
Sarah Sawyer has challenged my claim that social externalism depends on the assumption that individuals have an incomplete grasp of their own concepts. Sawyer denies that Burge's later sofa thought-experiment relies on this assumption: the unifying principle behind the thought-experiments supporting social externalism, she argues, is just that referents play a role in the individuation of concepts. I argue that Sawyer fails to show that social externalism need not rely on the assumption of incomplete understanding. To establish the content (...) externalist conclusions, further considerations are required, and these do commit the externalist to the assumption of incomplete understanding. (shrink)
Why is mutual understanding between two substantially different comprehensive language communities often problematic and even unattainable? To answer this question, the author first introduces a notion of presuppositional languages. Based on the semantic structure of a presuppositional language, the author identifies a significant condition necessary for effective understanding of a language: the interpreter is able to effectively understand a language only if he/she is able to recognize and comprehend its metaphysical presuppositions. The essential role of the knowledge of (...) metaphysical presuppositions in understanding is further strengthened by developing a truth-value conditional theory of understanding. It is concluded that if the interpreter approaches an incompatible alien language from the standpoint of the interpreter's own language by projecting the metaphysical presuppositions of his/her own language upon the alien language, then the mutual understanding between the two language communities is doomed to failure. (shrink)
Claims pertaining to understanding are made in a variety of contexts and ways. As a result, few in the philosophical literature have made an attempt to precisely characterize the state that is y understanding x. This paper builds an account that does just that. The account is motivated by two main observations. First, understanding x is somehow related to being able to manipulate x. Second, understanding is a mental phenomenon, and so what manipulations are required to (...) be an understander must only be mental manipulations. Combining these two insights, the paper builds an account (URM) of understanding as a certain representational capacity—specifically, understanding x involves possessing a representation of x that could be manipulated in useful ways. By tying understanding to representation, the account correctly identifies that understanding is a fundamentally cognitive achievement. However, by also demanding that which representations count as understanding-conferring be determined by their practical effects, URM captures the insight that understanding is vitally connected to practice. URM is fully general, and can apply equally well to understanding states of affairs, understanding events, and even understanding people and works of art. The ultimate test of URM is its applicability in actual scientific and philosophical discourse. To that end the paper discusses the importance of understanding in the philosophy of science, psychology, and computer science. (shrink)
A pressing and difficult practical problem concerns the general issue of the right social response to offenders classified as having antisocial personality disorder. This paper approaches this general problem by focusing, from a philosophical perspective, on the still relevant but more approachable question whether psychopathic offenders are morally responsible. In particular, I investigate whether psychopaths possess moral understanding. A plausible way to approach the last question requires a satisfactory philosophical interpretation of the empirical evidence that appears to show that (...) psychopaths fail to draw the distinction between conventional and moral norms. Specifically, I will consider a recent philosophical debate polarized between supporters of rationalist and sentimentalist accounts of moral understanding. These opponents have discussed whether the case of psychopathy offers empirical support for their account and undermine the rival view. I will argue that the available empirical data leave the outcome of this discussion indeterminate. However, this implies that both these principal theories of moral understanding, if independently motivated, would imply that psychopaths have certain deficits that might affect their moral understanding and, consequently, their moral responsibility. (shrink)
Strawson (1994) and Peacocke (1992) introduced thought experiments that show that it seems intuitive that there is, in some way, an experiential character to mental events of understanding. Some (e.g., Siewert 1998, 2011; Pitt 2004) try to explain these intuitions by saying that just as we have, say, headache experiences and visual experiences of blueness, so too we have experiences of understanding. Others (e.g., Prinz 2006, 2011; Tye 1996) propose that these intuitions can be explained without positing experiences (...) of understanding. Call this the debate between Realism and Anti-Realism about experiences of understanding. This paper aims to advance that debate in two ways. In the first half, I develop more precise characterizations of what Realists and Anti-Realists propose. In the second half, I distinguish the four most plausible versions of Anti-Realism and argue that Realism better explains the target intuition than any of them does. (shrink)
In the current discussion on epistemic value, several philosophers argue that understanding enjoys higher epistemological significance and epistemic value than knowledge—the epistemic state the epistemological tradition has been preoccupied with. By noting a tension between the necessary conditions for understanding in the perhaps most prominent of these philosophers, Jonathan Kvanvig, this paper disputes the higher epistemological relevance of understanding. At the end, on the basis of the results of the previous sections, some alternative comparative contrasts between knowledge (...) and understanding are briefly explored, including one in which an analogue to the KK-principle for knowledge, the “UU-principle”, does not hold for a different reason than that for which the former principle fails. (shrink)
It is plausible to think, as many developmental psychologists do, that joint attention is important in the development of getting a full grasp on psychological notions. This chapter argues that this role of joint attention is best understood in the context of the simulation theory about the nature of psychological understanding rather than in the context of the theory. Episodes of joint attention can then be seen not as good occasions for learning a theory of mind but rather as (...) good occasions for developing skills of expressing and sharing thoughts. This approach suggests seeing language acquisition as learning how to focus and fine-tune joint attention already present in the normal basic relation of carer and infant. Philosophers in thinking about other minds have concentrated too much on the contrast of first and third person, I vs he/she, and forgotten the centrality of the contrast of first and second person, I vs you, and the related centrality of we. (shrink)
Evil acts strike us, by their very nature, as not only horrifying and reprehensible, but also as deeply puzzling. No doubt for reasons like this, evil has often been seen as mysterious, demonic and beyond our human powers of understanding. The question I examine in this paper is whether or not we can (or would want to) overcome this puzzlement in the face of evil acts. I shall argue that we ought want to (in all cases) and can (in (...) at least most cases) come to understand why people perpetrate evil acts. This is an appealing conclusion as it allows us to take practical steps to both minimise future occurrences of evil and come to terms with its past abominations. (shrink)
Recently, several authors have argued that scientific understanding should be a new topic of philosophical research. In this article, I argue that the three most developed accounts of understanding--Grimm's, de Regt's, and de Regt and Dieks's--can be replaced by earlier accounts of scientific explanation without loss. Indeed, in some cases, such replacements have clear benefits.
Judging Gadamer’s theoretical stance is a complicated matter, and his ontological hermeneutics is usually regarded as a text-centered theory of understanding. Through an analysis of the phenomenological premises from which his theories take off, however, we can clearly see his reader-centric stance. On the basis of this stance some cease to seek for the original intention of the author or the original meaning of the text, which ineluctably leads to the ignorance of an understanding methodology. As far as (...) people’s intentional understanding is concerned, however, the important as well as essential task is still that of striving for a certain kind of understanding that is relatively correct, with universally effective methodology as its necessary prerequisite. What is more, herein lies the significance of the epistemology of hermeneutics. This article aims to re-insert a sense of methodology after hermeneutics went through a period of ontological reflection, and hence clarify that it is of necessity that hermeneutics resumes its text-centric methodological stance. (shrink)
Understanding enjoys a special kind of value, one not held by lesser epistemic states such as knowledge and true belief. I explain the value of understanding via a seemingly unrelated topic, the implausibility of veritism. Veritism holds that true belief is the sole ultimate epistemic good and all other epistemic goods derive their value from the epistemic value of true belief. Veritism entails that if you have a true belief that p, you have all the epistemic good qua (...) p. Veritism is a plausible and widely held view; I argue that it is untenable. I argue that integration among beliefs possesses epistemic value independent from the good of true belief, and so has value veritism cannot account for. I argue further that this integration among beliefs comprises the distinctive epistemic value of understanding. (shrink)
In this essay, I attempt to assess Henk de Regt and Dennis Dieks recent pragmatic and contextual account of scientific understanding on the basis of an important historical case-study: understanding in Newton’s theory of universal gravitation and Huygens’ reception of universal gravitation. It will be shown that de Regt and Dieks’ Criterion for the Intelligibility of a Theory (CIT), which stipulates that the appropriate combination of scientists’ skills and intelligibility-enhancing theoretical virtues is a condition for scientific understanding, (...) is too strong. On the basis of this case-study, it will be shown that scientists can understand each others’ positions qualitatively and quantitatively, despite their endorsement of different worldviews and despite their convictions as what counts as a proper explanation. (shrink)
Although the success of Habermas’s theory of communicative action depends on his dialogical model of understanding in which a theorist is supposed to participate in the debate with the actors as a ‘virtual participant’ and seek context-transcendent truth through the exchange of speech acts, current literature on the theory of communicative action rarely touches on the difficulties it entails. In the first part of this paper, I will examine Habermas’s argument that understanding other cultural practices requires the interpreter (...) to virtually participate in the “dialogue” with the actors as to the rationality of their cultural practice and discuss why, according to Habermas,such dialogue leads to the “context-transcendent truth”. In the second part, by using a concrete historical example, I will reconstruct a “virtual dialogue” between Habermas and Michael Polanyi as to the rationality of scientific practice and indicate why Habermas’s dialogical model of understanding based on the methodology of virtual participation cannot achieve what it professes to do. (shrink)
This paper explores the role of empathy and detachment in historical explanation by comparing Collingwood and Hume's philosophies of history to Brecht and Stanislavki's theories of theatre. I argue that Collingwood's notion of re-enactment shares much more with Hume and Brecht than it does with Stanislavski. This enables a just medium between rationalistic and empathetic accounts of historical understanding, as recently put forth by Mark Bevir and Karsten Stueber respectively.
In this paper, I address Mitchell Herschbach’s arguments against the phenomenological critics of folk psychology. Central to Herschbach’s arguments is the introduction of Michael Wheeler’s distinction between ‘on-line’ and ‘off-line’ intelligence to the debate on social understanding. Herschbach uses this distinction to describe two arguments made by the phenomenological critics. The first is that folk psychology is exclusively off-line and mentalistic. The second is that social understanding is on-line and non-mentalistic. To counter the phenomenological critics, Herschbach argues for (...) the existence of on-line false belief understanding. This demonstrates that folk psychology is not restricted to off-line forms and that folk psychology is more widespread than the phenomenological critics acknowledge. In response, I argue the on-line/off-line distinction is a problematic way of demarcating the phenomenological critics from orthodox accounts of folk psychology. (shrink)
Fredrik Svenaeus has applied Heidegger’s concept of ‘being-in-the-world’ to health and illness. Health, Svenaeus contends, is a state of ‘homelike being-in-the-world’ characterised by being ‘balanced’ and ‘in-tune’ with the world. Illness, on the other hand, is a state of ‘unhomelike being-in-the-world’ characterised by being ‘off-balance’ and alienated from our own bodies. This paper applies the phenomenological concepts presented by Svenaeus to cases from a study of depression. In doing so, we show that while they can certainly enrich our understanding (...) of depression, they can also reveal a clash between some societal definitions of illness and the individual’s definition. Phenomenological analysis may thus cause us to question what we mean, or think should be meant, by the terms ‘health’ and ‘illness’. (shrink)
It is a common wisdom that linguistic communication is different from linguistic understanding. However, the distinction between communication and understanding is not as clear as it seems to be. It is argued that the relationship between linguistic communication and understanding depends upon the notions of understanding and communication involved. Thinking along the line of propositional understanding and informative communication, communication can be reduced to mutual understanding. In contrast, operating along the line of hermeneutic (...) class='Hi'>understanding and dialogical communication, the process of understanding is in essence a process of communication. However, dialogical communication should not be confused with (mutual) propositional understanding. Conversely, hermeneutic understanding should not be confused with informative communication either. The former is dialogical in nature while the latter is monological. (shrink)
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 or in a certain tonality. However one may ask to what extent or in what terms (literal or metaphorical) these procedures, and usually the intervention of language games, is requested by our common ways of understanding music. This article shows through the use of some examples that aspectual perception inherent to musical understanding does not require language games as a necessary condition (although in many cases the link between them seems very strong), in contradiction with the thesis of an essential linguistic character of music. At a basic level, it seems more appropriate to insist on the notion of a game: to understand music means to enter into the orbit of "music games" which show an autonomous functioning. Language games have, however, an important function when we develop this comprehension in the light of the criteria of judgment that substantiate the manner in which music is incorporated in and operates within specific forms of life. (shrink)
I propose a few epistemological and methodological reflexions to account for intercultural daily communication. These reflexions emerged during a sociological research in Mendoza, Argentina, with Huarpes Indigenous students at the University of Cuyo. I observed that Indigenous people became quasi ethnographers of diverse environments. To make intelligible their classmates’ behavior, and to account for their own behavior, Huarpes follow, in diverse environments and interactions, public rules of meaning. The objective of this paper is twofold: (a) to stress the methodological scope (...) of ordinary communication and ordinary reasoning in order to study understanding between people from different groups and categories, and (b) to contest a kind of pessimist standpoint in social sciences and philosophy according to which the use of ordinary language reduces possibilities for understanding. Interviews, participant observation in natural situations, and a review of literature about language and understanding are the basis of this paper. (shrink)
Education is interpreted as something basic to our humanity. As part of our primordial way of being human, education is intrinsic to the understanding’s functioning. At the same time education involves an originary ethical relation to the other, unsettling the self-directed character of the striving to live. And because of its social setting, the call of many others, education orients one to the social, to the call of justice.
In his essay ‘“Conceptual Truth”’, Timothy Williamson (2006) argues that there are no truths or entailments that are constitutive of understanding the sentences involved. In this reply I provide several examples of entailment patterns that are intuitively constitutive of understanding in just the way that Williamson rejects, and I argue that Williamson’s argument does nothing to show otherwise. Williamson bolsters his conclusion by appeal to a certain theory about the nature of understanding. I argue that his theory (...) fails to consider the role that the structure of a sentence plays in determining its meaning. The cases I present suggest that this role imposes greater cognitive requirements on understanding than Williamson can acknowledge. (shrink)
Reaching understanding is one of our central epistemic goals, dictated by our important motivational epistemic virtue, namely inquisitiveness about the way things hang together. Understanding of humanly important causal dependencies is also the basic factual-theoretic ingredient of wisdom on the anthropocentric view proposed in the article. It appears at two levels. At the first level of immediate, spontaneous wisdom, it is paired with practical knowledge and motivation ( phronesis ), and encompasses understanding of oneself (a distinct level (...) of self-knowledge having to do with one’s dispositions capacities, vulnerabilities, and ways of reacting), of other people, of possibilities of meaningful life, and of relevant courses of events. It is partly resistant to skeptical scenarios, but not completely. On the second and reflective level, understanding helps fuller holistic integration of one’s first order practical and factual-theoretic knowledge and motivation, thus minimizing potential and actual conflicts between all these components. It also participates in the reflective control whose exercise is needed for full reflective wisdom, the crucial epistemic-practical virtue or human excellence. (shrink)
In _Aspects of Scientific Explanation_ (New York, 1965), Carl Hempel argued that the philosophy of science should focus on objectivist explanation and should not incorporate an account of pragmatic or subjective understanding. The stated aim of this collection of essays is to argue against Hempel's objectivist view by arguing for incorporating accounts of understanding into the philosophy of science and by giving a substantive account of the role of understanding in modeling and in scientific practice. The volume (...) is ambitious and wide ranging, including essays on economics, biology, psychology, and history, among other matters. The essays make a substantive contribution, not only to accounts of scientific understanding, but to debates about methodology in science and about methods in history and philosophy of science. The ambitious reach of the project raises inevitable questions, including a pressing one about the relationship between the subjective and the objective in science - how to distinguish substantive understanding from explanation. (shrink)
hat the author attempts to address in this paper is a Kantian question: not whether, but how is cross-cultural understanding possible? And specifically, what is a more effective approach for cross-cultural understanding? The answer lies in an analysis of two different models of cross-cultural understanding, that is, propositional and hermeneutic understanding. To begin with, the author presents a linguistic interpretation of culture, i.e., a culture as a linguistically formulated and transmitted symbolic system with its conceptual core (...) as a scheme of basic cultural presuppositions, which it referred to as a cultural language. After exploring the essential role of cultural presuppositions in cross-cultural understanding, the author discusses the traditional model of cross-cultural understanding, namely, the propositional model. Through critically examining the two popular versions of the propositional model, i.e., the projective approach and the adoptive approach to cross-cultural understanding, it is found that cross-cultural propositional understanding is doomed to failure. To move us beyond the absolutism-relativism trap embedded within propositional understanding, the author first introduces and discusses Hans-Georg Gadamer’s hermeneutic understanding, and then applies Hans-Georg Gadamer’s hermeneutic model of understanding to cross-cultural understanding. It is finally concluded that cross-cultural understanding is essentially hermeneutic—including the case of cultural learning, not propositional. Therefore, cross-cultural understanding is hermeneutically possible. (shrink)
This article clarifies Hegel's argument within ``Force and the Understanding'' in his Phenomenology of Spirit by developing Hegel's underlying point through discussion of recent and ongoing issues concerning explanation in natural and psychological science. The latter proceeds by way of a critical discussion of the problem of other minds and the ``theory theory of mind.'' The article thereby shows how and why Hegel's analysis of the understanding inaugurates a crucial transition in his Phenomenology, from consciousness to self-consciousness and (...) life. Putting Hegel's underlying points into conversation with recent science shows how his point -- that scientific understanding is not abstract but embedded in human life -- still speaks to science. (shrink)
My paper seeks to maintain that in Wittgenstein there is more than the simple and obvious negation of artistic quality as the property of things, and thus a criticism of any essentialism. My reasoning will connect Wittgenstein’s evaluative idea of the aesthetic with its philosophical conception of Aspekt and the self-revealing character of the form. The themes this paper deals with are: the aesthetic judgment; the sensitivity toward rules; the aesthetic judgment as an example of the understanding of meaning. (...) Aesthetic judgments are not to be understood as a philosophical paradigm but as a case of what, for Wittgenstein, is in general the aesthetic understanding of meaning. (shrink)
The paper investigates the question as to which features of hypotheses make them explanatory. Given the intuitive appeal of causal explanations, one might suspect that explanatoriness is deeply connected with causation. I argue in detail that this is wrong by showing that none of the dominant analyses of causation are suited for general accounts of explanatoriness. In the second part, I provide the outlines of an account of explanatoriness that connects it with scientific understanding, which in turn is argued (...) to be analyzable as the cognitive realization of scientific models. (shrink)
Sketching is a powerful means of working out and communicating ideas. Sketch understanding involves a combination of visual, spatial, and conceptual knowledge and reasoning, which makes it both challenging to model and potentially illuminating for cognitive science. This paper describes CogSketch, an ongoing effort of the NSF-funded Spatial Intelligence and Learning Center, which is being developed both as a research instrument for cognitive science and as a platform for sketch-based educational software. We describe the idea of open-domain sketch (...) class='Hi'>understanding, the scientific hypotheses underlying CogSketch, and provide an overview of the models it employs, illustrated by simulation studies and ongoing experiments in creating sketch-based educational software. (shrink)
Understanding a proposition for an intelligent agent is an important epistemic concept. We first discuss intuitively general logic characteristics of understanding, and give a language and a semantics containing understanding as a modal operator. Secondly, we develop the system LU for the operator, give some results of its proof theory, and then we prove the frame soundness and frame completeness of LU.
Can one still have understanding in situations that involve the kind of epistemic luck that undermines knowledge? Kvanvig (The value of knowledge and the pursuit of understanding, 2003; in: Haddock A, Miller A, Pritchard D (eds) Epistemic value, 2009a; in: Haddock A, Miller A, Pritchard D (eds) Epistemic value, 2009b) says yes, Prichard (Grazer Philos Stud 77:325–339, 2008; in: O’Hear A (ed) Epistemology, 2009; in: Pritchard D, Millar A, Haddock A (eds) The nature and value of knowledge: three (...) investigations, 2010) say sometimes, DePaul and Grimm (Philos Phenomenol Res 74:498–514, 2007) and Grimm (Br J Philos Sci 57:515–535, 2006; in: Bernecker S, Pritchard D (eds) The Routledge companion to epistemology, 2011), Kvanvig’s critics, say no. The cases put forth by Kvanvig’s critics share a common feature, which seems to drive the intuition that understanding can’t be lucky: the fact that the information that makes up the individual’s understanding comes exclusively from a bad source. I formulate a case that lacks this feature, drawing on the fact that understanding produced from scientific inquiry is often produced by collaboration. I argue that my case provides good evidence that understanding is not a species of knowledge. (shrink)
“Ethics” is used as a label for a new kind of expertise in the field of science and technology. At the same time, it is not clear what ethical expertise consists in and what its political status in modern democracies can be. Starting from the “participatory turn” in recent social research and policy, we will argue that bioethical reasoning has to include public views of and attitudes towards biomedicine. We will sketch the outlines of a bioethical conception of “public (...) class='Hi'>understanding of ethics,” addressing three different issues: (a) the methodological relevance of moral questions and problems raised by lay persons in everyday life regarding biomedicine and technology, (b) the normative relevance of such lay moralities for the justification of ethical decisions, and (c) the necessity of public deliberation in this context. Finally, we draw conclusions in view of the concepts and methods such a conception of “public understanding of ethics” should employ. (shrink)
Efforts to improve patients’ understanding of their own medical treatments or research in which they are involved are progressing, especially with regard to informed consent procedures. We aimed to design a multisource informed consent procedure that is easily adaptable to both clinical and research applications, and to evaluate its effectiveness in terms of understanding and awareness, even in less educated patients.