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Summary Understanding and explanation are both central topics in philosophy of science and epistemology. But how are the two related? One popular view is that understanding is just the cognitive state you are in then you can explain something. Another view is that understanding involves explanation, but also involves other cognitive abilities, such as an ability to explain other things. Finally, some argue that understanding needn't even involve explanation at all.
Key works Early work on explanation which emphasize its role in generating understanding include Friedman 1974 and Salmon 1993. Strevens 2013 and Khalifa 2012 (see also Khalifa 2013) both argue that understanding and explanation are roughly two sides of the same coin. Grimm 2010 argues that understanding is the goal of explanation, and Hills 2015 argues that understanding amounts to a kind of cognitive (and partly explanatory) know-how.  Lipton 2009 argues that there are cases that show that understanding needn't involve explanation. Kvanvig 2009 argues that there is a type of understanding -- objectual understanding -- that isn't necessarily explanatory. Khalifa 2013 demurs.
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  1. The Meta-Explanatory Question.L. R. Franklin-Hall - manuscript
    Philosophical theories of explanation characterize the difference between correct and incorrect explanations. While remaining neutral as to which of these ‘first-order’ theories is right, this paper asks the ‘meta-explanatory’ question: is the difference between correct and incorrect explanation real, i.e., objective or mind-independent? After offering a framework for distinguishing realist from anti-realist views, I sketch three distinct paths to explanatory anti-realism.
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  2. A Problem-Solving Account of Scientific Explanation.Gary Hardcastle - manuscript
    An account of scientific explanation is presented according to which (1) scientific explanation consists in solving “insight” problems (Metcalfe and Wiebe 1984) and (2) understanding is the result of solving such problems. The theory is pragmatic; it draws upon van Fraassen’s (1977, 1980) insights, avoids the objections to pragmatic accounts offered by Kitcher and Salmon (1987), and relates scientific explanation directly to understanding. The theory also accommodates cases of explanatory asymmetry and intuitively legitimate rejections of explanation requests.
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  3. Scientific Understanding, Representation, and Explanation.Jan Faye - forthcoming - Epistemologia.
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  4. Understanding and Equivalent Reformulations.Josh Hunt - forthcoming - Philosophy of Science.
    Reformulating a scientific theory often leads to a significantly different way of understanding the world. Nevertheless, accounts of both theoretical equivalence and scientific understanding have neglected this important aspect of scientific theorizing. This essay provides a positive account of how reformulating theories changes our understanding. My account simultaneously addresses a serious challenge facing existing accounts of scientific understanding. These accounts have failed to characterize understanding in a way that goes beyond the epistemology of scientific explanation. By focusing on cases where (...)
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  5. Epistemic Dependence & Understanding: Reformulating Through Symmetry.Joshua Robert Hunt - forthcoming - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science.
    Science frequently gives us multiple, compatible ways of solving the same problem or formulating the same theory. These compatible formulations change our understanding of the world, despite providing the same explanations. According to what I call "conceptualism," reformulations change our understanding by clarifying the epistemic structure of theories. I illustrate conceptualism by analyzing a typical example of symmetry-based reformulation in chemical physics. This case study poses a problem for "explanationism," the rival thesis that differences in understanding require ontic explanatory differences. (...)
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  6. Scientific Understanding and Felicitous Legitimate Falsehoods.Insa Lawler - forthcoming - Synthese:1-29.
    Science is replete with falsehoods that epistemically facilitate understanding by virtue of being the very falsehoods they are. In view of this puzzling fact, some have relaxed the truth requirement on understanding. I offer a factive view of understanding that fully accommodates the puzzling fact in four steps: (i) I argue that the question how these falsehoods are related to the phenomenon to be understood and the question how they figure into the content of understanding it are independent. (ii) I (...)
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  7. Veritism Refuted? Understanding, Idealizations, and the Facts.Tamer Nawar - forthcoming - Synthese:1-19.
    Elgin offers an influential and far-reaching challenge to veritism. She takes scientific understanding to be non-factive and maintains that there are epistemically useful falsehoods that figure ineliminably in scientific understanding and whose falsehood is no epistemic defect. Veritism, she argues, cannot account for these facts. This paper argues that while Elgin rightly draws attention to several features of epistemic practices frequently neglected by veritists, veritists have numerous plausible ways of responding to her arguments. In particular, it is not clear that (...)
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  8. The Truth About Better Understanding?Lewis Ross - forthcoming - Erkenntnis:1-24.
    The notion of understanding occupies an increasingly prominent place in contemporary epistemology, philosophy of science, and moral theory. A central and ongoing debate about the nature of understanding is how it relates to the truth. In a series of influential contributions, Catherine Elgin has used a variety of familiar motivations for antirealism in philosophy of science to defend a non- factive theory of understanding. Key to her position are: (i) the fact that false theories can contribute to the upwards trajectory (...)
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  9. Realism and Explanatory Perspectivism.Juha Saatsi - forthcoming - In Michela Massimi & C. D. McCoy (eds.), Understanding Perspectivism: Scientific Challenges and Methodological Prospects. New York: Routledge.
    This chapter defends a (minimal) realist conception of progress in scientific understanding in the face of the ubiquitous plurality of perspectives in science. The argument turns on the counterfactual-dependence framework of explanation and understanding, which is illustrated and evidenced with reference to different explanations of the rainbow.
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  10. How Idealizations Provide Understanding.Michael Strevens - forthcoming - In Stephen Grimm, Christoph Baumberger & Sabine Ammon (eds.), Explaining Understanding: New Essays in Epistemology and the Philosophy of Science. Routledge.
    How can a model that stops short of representing the whole truth about the causal production of a phenomenon help us to understand the phenomenon? I answer this question from the perspective of what I call the simple view of understanding, on which to understand a phenomenon is to grasp a correct explanation of the phenomenon. Idealizations, I have argued in previous work, flag factors that are casually relevant but explanatorily irrelevant to the phenomena to be explained. Though useful to (...)
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  11. Understanding From Machine Learning Models.Emily Sullivan - forthcoming - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science:axz035.
    Simple idealized models seem to provide more understanding than opaque, complex, and hyper-realistic models. However, an increasing number of scientists are going in the opposite direction by utilizing opaque machine learning models to make predictions and draw inferences, suggesting that scientists are opting for models that have less potential for understanding. Are scientists trading understanding for some other epistemic or pragmatic good when they choose a machine learning model? Or are the assumptions behind why minimal models provide understanding misguided? In (...)
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  12. Simplicity of What? A Case Study From Generative Linguistics.Giulia Terzian & María Inés Corbalán - forthcoming - Synthese:1-26.
    The Minimalist Program in generative linguistics is predicated on the idea that simplicity is a defining property of the human language faculty, on the one hand; on the other, a central aim of linguistic theorising. Worryingly, however, justifications for either claim are hard to come by in the literature. We sketch a proposal that would allow for both shortcomings to be addressed, and that furthermore honours the program’s declared commitment to naturalism. We begin by teasing apart and clarifying the different (...)
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  13. How Do We Obtain Understanding with the Help of Explanations?Gabriel Târziu - 2021 - Axiomathes 31 (2):173-197.
    What exactly do we need in order to enjoy the cognitive benefit that is supposed to be provided by an explanation? Some philosophers :15–37, 2012, Episteme 10:1–17, 2013, Eur J Philos Sci 5:377–385, 2015, Understanding, explanation, and scientific knowledge, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2017) would say that all that we need is to know the explanation. Others :1–26, 2012; Strevens in Stud Hist Philos Sci Part A 44:510–515, 2013) would say that achieving understanding with the help of an explanation requires (...)
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  14. How to Explain How-Possibly.Lindsay Brainard - 2020 - Philosophers' Imprint 20 (13):1-23.
    Explaining how something is possible is a familiar and epistemically important achievement in both science and ordinary life. But a satisfactory general account of how-possibly explanation has not yet been given. A crucial desideratum for a successful account is that it must differentiate a demonstration that something is possible from an explanation of how it is possible. In this paper, I offer an account of how-possibly explanation that fully captures this distinction. I motivate my account using two cases, one from (...)
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  15. Philosophical Perspectives on Earth System Modeling: Truth, Adequacy and Understanding.G. Gramelsberger, J. Lenhard & Wendy Parker - 2020 - Journal of Advances in Modeling Earth Systems 12 (1):e2019MS001720.
    We explore three questions about Earth system modeling that are of both scientific and philosophical interest: What kind of understanding can be gained via complex Earth system models? How can the limits of understanding be bypassed or managed? How should the task of evaluating Earth system models be conceptualized?
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  16. Understanding, Truth, and Epistemic Goals.Kareem Khalifa - 2020 - Philosophy of Science 87 (5):944-956.
    Several argue that truth cannot be science’s sole epistemic goal, for it would fail to do justice to several scientific practices that advance understanding. I challenge these arguments but only af...
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  17. Toward a Pluralist Account of the Imagination in Science.Alice Murphy - 2020 - Philosophy of Science 87 (5):957-967.
    Typically, the imagination in thought experiments has been taken to consist in mental images; we visualize the state of affairs described. A recent alternative from Fiora Salis and Roman Frigg main...
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  18. Idealization and Many Aims.Angela Potochnik - 2020 - Philosophy of Science 87 (5):933-943.
    In this paper, I first outline the view developed in my recent book on the role of idealization in scientific understanding. I discuss how this view leads to the recognition of a number of kinds of variability among scientific representations, including variability introduced by the many different aims of scientific projects. I then argue that the role of idealization in securing understanding distances understanding from truth, but that this understanding nonetheless gives rise to scientific knowledge. This discussion will clarify how (...)
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  19. Is Understanding Reducible?Lewis D. Ross - 2020 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 63 (2):117-135.
    Despite playing an important role in epistemology, philosophy of science, and more recently in moral philosophy and aesthetics, the nature of understanding is still much contested. One attractive framework attempts to reduce understanding to other familiar epistemic states. This paper explores and develops a methodology for testing such reductionist theories before offering a counterexample to a recently defended variant on which understanding reduces to what an agent knows.
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  20. Unification and the Myth of Purely Reductive Understanding.Michael J. Shaffer - 2020 - Organon F: Medzinárodný Časopis Pre Analytickú Filozofiu 27:142-168.
    In this paper significant challenges are raised with respect to the view that explanation essentially involves unification. These objections are raised specifically with respect to the well-known versions of unificationism developed and defended by Michael Friedman and Philip Kitcher. The objections involve the explanatory regress argument and the concepts of reduction and scientific understanding. Essentially, the contention made here is that these versions of unificationism wrongly assume that reduction secures understanding.
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  21. Radical Scepticism and the Epistemology of Confusion.J. Adam Carter - 2019 - International Journal for the Study of Skepticism (3):1-15.
    The lack of knowledge—as Timothy Williamson (2000) famously maintains—is ignorance. Radical sceptical arguments, at least in the tradition of Descartes, threaten universal ignorance. They do so by attempting to establish that we lack any knowledge, even if we can retain other kinds of epistemic standings, like epistemically justified belief. If understanding is a species of knowledge, then radical sceptical arguments threaten to rob us categorically of knowledge and understanding in one fell swoop by implying universal ignorance. If, however, understanding is (...)
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  22. What is Scientific Understanding and How Can It Be Achieved?Henk de Regt & Christoph Baumberger - 2019 - In Kevin McKain & Kostas Kampourakis (eds.), What Is Scientific Knowledge? An Introduction to Contemporary Epistemology of Science. New York, NY, USA: pp. 66-81.
    Science has not only produced a vast amount of knowledge about a wide range of phenomena, it has also enhanced our understanding of these phenomena. Indeed, understanding can be regarded as one of the central aims of science. But what exactly is it to understand phenomena scientifically, and how can scientific understanding be achieved? What is the difference between scientific knowledge and scientific understanding? These questions are hotly debated in contemporary epistemology and philosophy of science. While philosophers have long regarded (...)
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  23. Rational Understanding: Toward a Probabilistic Epistemology of Acceptability.Finnur Dellsén - 2019 - Synthese 198 (3):2475-2494.
    To understand something involves some sort of commitment to a set of propositions comprising an account of the understood phenomenon. Some take this commitment to be a species of belief; others, such as Elgin and I, take it to be a kind of cognitive policy. This paper takes a step back from debates about the nature of understanding and asks when this commitment involved in understanding is epistemically appropriate, or ‘acceptable’ in Elgin’s terminology. In particular, appealing to lessons from the (...)
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  24. Non-Factive Understanding: A Statement and Defense.Yannick Doyle, Spencer Egan, Noah Graham & Kareem Khalifa - 2019 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 50 (3):345-365.
    In epistemology and philosophy of science, there has been substantial debate about truth’s relation to understanding. “Non-factivists” hold that radical departures from the truth are not always barriers to understanding; “quasi-factivists” demur. The most discussed example concerns scientists’ use of idealizations in certain derivations of the ideal gas law from statistical mechanics. Yet, these discussions have suffered from confusions about the relevant science, as well as conceptual confusions. Addressing this example, we shall argue that the ideal gas law is best (...)
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  25. Speech Act Theory and the Multiple Aims of Science.Paul L. Franco - 2019 - Philosophy of Science 86 (5):1005-1015.
    I draw upon speech act theory to understand the speech acts appropriate to the multiple aims of scientific practice and the role of nonepistemic values in evaluating speech acts made relative to those aims. First, I look at work that distinguishes explaining from describing within scientific practices. I then argue speech act theory provides a framework to make sense of how explaining, describing, and other acts have different felicity conditions. Finally, I argue that if explaining aims to convey understanding to (...)
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  26. Understanding and Explaining.Christoph Hoerl - 2019 - In Giovanni Stanghellini, Matthew Broome, Anthony Vincent Fernandez, Paolo Fusar-Poli, Andrea Raballo & Rene Rosfort (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Phenomenological Psychopathology. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 407-413.
    This chapter examines Karl Jaspers’s influential distinction between understanding and explaining, and its significance in psychiatry. It first outlines one way of interpreting the distinction, on which it is connected to the distinction between singular and general causal claims. It then discusses one reason for thinking that understanding has an essential role to play in psychiatry: Not achieving at least some level of understanding in the context of dealing with psychiatric patients would constitute a particular kind of epistemic failure—a failure (...)
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  27. Force and Objectivity: On Impact, Form, and Receptivity to Nature in Science and Art.Eli I. Lichtenstein - 2019 - Dissertation, University of Michigan
  28. A Dialogue on Understanding.C. Mantzavinos - 2019 - Philosophy of the Social Sciences 49 (4):307-322.
    This paper written as a dialogue between two interlocutors, Julie and a Student, deals with Understanding and its role in the social sciences. The fictional dialogue takes place in Hannover, Germany, and the interlocutors are exchanging arguments about Verstehen and how it should be conceptualized in the philosophy of the social sciences. A range of different approaches is discussed and a naturalistic strategy emerges as a defensible alternative.
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  29. The Pragmatic Turn in Explainable Artificial Intelligence (XAI).Andrés Páez - 2019 - Minds and Machines 29 (3):441-459.
    In this paper I argue that the search for explainable models and interpretable decisions in AI must be reformulated in terms of the broader project of offering a pragmatic and naturalistic account of understanding in AI. Intuitively, the purpose of providing an explanation of a model or a decision is to make it understandable to its stakeholders. But without a previous grasp of what it means to say that an agent understands a model or a decision, the explanatory strategies will (...)
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  30. Idealizations and Understanding: Much Ado About Nothing?Emily Sullivan & Kareem Khalifa - 2019 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 97 (4):673-689.
    Because idealizations frequently advance scientific understanding, many claim that falsehoods play an epistemic role. In this paper, we argue that these positions greatly overstate idealiza...
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  31. Understanding Does Not Depend on (Causal) Explanation.Philippe Verreault-Julien - 2019 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science 9 (2):18.
    One can find in the literature two sets of views concerning the relationship between understanding and explanation: that one understands only if 1) one has knowledge of causes and 2) that knowledge is provided by an explanation. Taken together, these tenets characterize what I call the narrow knowledge account of understanding. While the first tenet has recently come under severe attack, the second has been more resistant to change. I argue that we have good reasons to reject it on the (...)
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  32. How Could Models Possibly Provide How-Possibly Explanations?Philippe Verreault-Julien - 2019 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 73:1-12.
    One puzzle concerning highly idealized models is whether they explain. Some suggest they provide so-called ‘how-possibly explanations’. However, this raises an important question about the nature of how-possibly explanations, namely what distinguishes them from ‘normal’, or how-actually, explanations? I provide an account of how-possibly explanations that clarifies their nature in the context of solving the puzzle of model-based explanation. I argue that the modal notions of actuality and possibility provide the relevant dividing lines between how-possibly and how-actually explanations. Whereas how-possibly (...)
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  33. Review of Chrysostomos Mantzavinos's Explanatory Pluralism. [REVIEW]Alexander Beard & Cory Wright - 2018 - Analysis 78 (3):569–572.
  34. String Theory, Non-Empirical Theory Assessment, and the Context of Pursuit.Frank Cabrera - 2018 - Synthese:1-29.
    In this paper, I offer an analysis of the radical disagreement over the adequacy of string theory. The prominence of string theory despite its notorious lack of empirical support is sometimes explained as a troubling case of science gone awry, driven largely by sociological mechanisms such as groupthink (e.g. Smolin 2006). Others, such as Dawid (2013), explain the controversy by positing a methodological revolution of sorts, according to which string theorists have quietly turned to nonempirical methods of theory assessment given (...)
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  35. Beyond Explanation: Understanding as Dependency Modeling.Finnur Dellsén - 2018 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science (4):1261-1286.
    This paper presents and argues for an account of objectual understanding that aims to do justice to the full range of cases of scientific understanding, including cases in which one does not have an explanation of the understood phenomenon. According to the proposed account, one understands a phenomenon just in case one grasps a sufficiently accurate and comprehensive model of the ways in which it or its features are situated within a network of dependence relations; one’s degree of understanding is (...)
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  36. Understanding in Epistemology and Philosophy of Science: A Complicated Relationship: Stephen Grimm, Christoph Baumberger, and Sabine Ammon : Explaining Understanding: New Perspectives From Epistemology and Philosophy of Science. New York and London: Routledge, 2017, Xvi + 337 Pp, £110 HB. [REVIEW]Finnur Dellsén - 2018 - Metascience 27 (2):195-198.
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  37. Understanding, Explanation, and Intelligibility: Henk de Regt: Understanding Scientific Understanding. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017, Xii+301pp, £ 47.99HB. [REVIEW]Insa Lawler - 2018 - Metascience (1):57-60.
    Review of Henk de Regt's "Understanding Scientific Understanding".
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  38. Explanation, Understanding, and Belief Revision.Andrés Páez - 2018 - In Marco Ruffino, Max Freund & Max Fernández de Castro (eds.), Logic and philosophy of logic. Recent trends from Latin America and Spain. London: College Publications. pp. 233-252.
  39. Eight Other Questions About Explanation.Angela Potochnik - 2018 - In Alexander Reutlinger & Juha Saatsi (eds.), Explanation Beyond Causation: Philosophical Perspectives on Non-Causal Explanations. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    The tremendous philosophical focus on how to characterize explanatory metaphysical dependence has eclipsed a number of other unresolved issued about scientific explanation. The purpose of this paper is taxonomical. I will outline a number of other questions about the nature of explanation and its role in science—eight, to be precise—and argue that each is independent. All of these topics have received some philosophical attention, but none nearly so much as it deserves. Furthermore, existing views on these topics have been obscured (...)
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  40. Can We Have Mathematical Understanding of Physical Phenomena?Gabriel Târziu - 2018 - Theoria : An International Journal for Theory, History and Fundations of Science 33 (1):91-109.
    Can mathematics contribute to our understanding of physical phenomena? One way to try to answer this question is by getting involved in the recent philosophical dispute about the existence of mathematical explanations of physical phenomena. If there is such a thing, given the relation between explanation and understanding, we can say that there is an affirmative answer to our question. But what if we do not agree that mathematics can play an explanatory role in science? Can we still consider that (...)
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  41. Is Understanding Factive?Sorin Bangu - 2017 - Balkan Journal of Philosophy 9 (1):35-44.
    Factivism is the view that understanding why a natural phenomenon takes place must rest exclusively on truths. One of the arguments for nonfactivism—the opposite view, that falsehoods can play principal roles in producing understanding—relies on our inclination to say that past, false, now superseded but still important scientific theories do provide understanding. In this paper, my aim is to articulate what I take to be an interesting point that has yet to be discussed: the natural way in which nonfactivism fits (...)
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  42. Scientific Explanation and Understanding: Unificationism Reconsidered.Sorin Bangu - 2017 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science 7 (1):103-126.
    The articulation of an overarching account of scientific explanation has long been a central preoccupation for the philosophers of science. Although a while ago the literature was dominated by two approaches—a causal account and a unificationist account—today the consensus seems to be that the causal account has won. In this paper, I challenge this consensus and attempt to revive unificationism. More specifically, I aim to accomplish three goals. First, I add new criticisms to the standard anti-unificationist arguments, in order to (...)
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  43. What is Understanding? An Overview of Recent Debates in Epistemology and Philosophy of Science.Christoph Baumberger, Claus Beisbart & Georg Brun - 2017 - In Stephen Grimm Christoph Baumberger & Sabine Ammon (eds.), Explaining Understanding: New Perspectives from Epistemolgy and Philosophy of Science. Routledge. pp. 1-34.
    The paper provides a systematic overview of recent debates in epistemology and philosophy of science on the nature of understanding. We explain why philosophers have turned their attention to understanding and discuss conditions for “explanatory” understanding of why something is the case and for “objectual” understanding of a whole subject matter. The most debated conditions for these types of understanding roughly resemble the three traditional conditions for knowledge: truth, justification and belief. We discuss prominent views about how to construe these (...)
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  44. Understanding Without Justification or Belief.Finnur Dellsén - 2017 - Ratio 30 (3):239-254.
    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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  45. Varying the Explanatory Span: Scientific Explanation for Computer Simulations.Juan Manuel Durán - 2017 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 31 (1):27-45.
    This article aims to develop a new account of scientific explanation for computer simulations. To this end, two questions are answered: what is the explanatory relation for computer simulations? And what kind of epistemic gain should be expected? For several reasons tailored to the benefits and needs of computer simulations, these questions are better answered within the unificationist model of scientific explanation. Unlike previous efforts in the literature, I submit that the explanatory relation is between the simulation model and the (...)
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  46. Review of Henk de Regt's Understanding Scientific Understanding. [REVIEW]Kareem Khalifa - 2017 - Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews.
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  47. Understanding, Explanation, and Scientific Knowledge.Kareem Khalifa - 2017 - Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
    From antiquity to the end of the twentieth century, philosophical discussions of understanding remained undeveloped, guided by a 'received view' that takes understanding to be nothing more than knowledge of an explanation. More recently, however, this received view has been criticized, and bold new philosophical proposals about understanding have emerged in its place. In this book, Kareem Khalifa argues that the received view should be revised but not abandoned. In doing so, he clarifies and answers the most central questions in (...)
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  48. Idealization and the Aims of Science.Angela Potochnik - 2017 - Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
    Science is the study of our world, as it is in its messy reality. Nonetheless, science requires idealization to function—if we are to attempt to understand the world, we have to find ways to reduce its complexity. Idealization and the Aims of Science shows just how crucial idealization is to science and why it matters. Beginning with the acknowledgment of our status as limited human agents trying to make sense of an exceedingly complex world, Angela Potochnik moves on to explain (...)
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  49. Explanation and Understanding Revisited.Panu Raatikainen - 2017 - In Human Condition. Philosophical Essays in Honour of the Centennial Anniversary of Georg Henrik von Wright. Helsinki: , The Philosophical Society of Finland. pp. 339-353.
    "Explanation and Understanding" (1971) by Georg Henrik von Wright is a modern classic in analytic hermeneutics, and in the philosophy of the social sciences and humanities in general. In this work, von Wright argues against naturalism, or methodological monism, i.e. the idea that both the natural sciences and the social sciences follow broadly the same general scientific approach and aim to achieve causal explanations. Against this view, von Wright contends that the social sciences are qualitatively different from the natural sciences: (...)
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  50. How Thought Experiments Increase Understanding.Michael T. Stuart - 2017 - In Michael T. Stuart, Yiftach Fehige & James Robert Brown (eds.), The Routledge Companion to Thought Experiments. London: Routledge. pp. 526-544.
    We might think that thought experiments are at their most powerful or most interesting when they produce new knowledge. This would be a mistake; thought experiments that seek understanding are just as powerful and interesting, and perhaps even more so. A growing number of epistemologists are emphasizing the importance of understanding for epistemology, arguing that it should supplant knowledge as the central notion. In this chapter, I bring the literature on understanding in epistemology to bear on explicating the different ways (...)
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