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Understanding phenomena

Synthese 192 (12):3799-3816 (2015)

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  1. Explicating Objectual Understanding: Taking Degrees Seriously.Christoph Baumberger - 2019 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 1:1-22.
    The paper argues that an account of understanding should take the form of a Carnapian explication and acknowledge that understanding comes in degrees. An explication of objectual understanding is defended, which helps to make sense of the cognitive achievements and goals of science. The explication combines a necessary condition with three evaluative dimensions: An epistemic agent understands a subject matter by means of a theory only if the agent commits herself sufficiently to the theory of the subject matter, and to (...)
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  • Defending Nonreductionism About Understanding.Michele Palmira - 2019 - Thought: A Journal of Philosophy 8 (3):222-231.
    In this note I defend nonreductionism about understanding by arguing that knowledge is neither necessary nor sufficient for understanding. To do so, I examine Paulina Sliwa’s recent (Sliwa 2015, 2017) defence of knowledge-based Reductionism (Reductionism for short). Sliwa claims that one understands why p if and only if one has a sufficient amount of knowledge why p. Sliwa also contends that Reductionism is supported by intuitive verdicts about our uses of ‘understanding why’ and ‘knowing why’. In reply, I first argue (...)
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  • MUDdy Understanding.Daniel A. Wilkenfeld - 2017 - Synthese 194 (4).
    This paper focuses on two questions: Is understanding intimately bound up with accurately representing the world? Is understanding intimately bound up with downstream abilities? We will argue that the answer to both these questions is “yes”, and for the same reason-both accuracy and ability are important elements of orthogonal evaluative criteria along which understanding can be assessed. More precisely, we will argue that representational-accuracy and intelligibility are good-making features of a state of understanding. Interestingly, both evaluative claims have been defended (...)
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  • Understanding as Compression.Daniel A. Wilkenfeld - 2019 - Philosophical Studies 176 (10):2807-2831.
    What is understanding? My goal in this paper is to lay out a new approach to this question and clarify how that approach deals with certain issues. The claim is that understanding is a matter of compressing information about the understood so that it can be mentally useful. On this account, understanding amounts to having a representational kernel and the ability to use it to generate the information one needs regarding the target phenomenon. I argue that this ambitious new account (...)
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  • Can Testimony Generate Understanding?Federica Isabella Malfatti - forthcoming - Social Epistemology:1-14.
    Can we gain understanding from testifiers who themselves fail to understand? At first glance, this looks counterintuitive. How could a hearer who has no understanding or very poor understanding of a certain subject matter non-accidentally extract items of information relevant to understanding from a speaker’s testimony if the speaker does not understand what she is talking about? This paper shows that, when there are theories or representational devices working as mediators, speakers can intentionally generate understanding in their hearers by engaging (...)
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  • Knowledge-How, Understanding-Why, and Epistemic Luck: An Experimental Study.J. Adam Carter, Duncan Pritchard & Joshua Shepherd - forthcoming - Review of Philosophy and Psychology:1-34.
    Reductive intellectualists about knowledge-how hold, contra Ryle, that knowing how to do something is just a kind of propositional knowledge. In a similar vein, traditional reductivists about understanding-why insist, in accordance with a tradition beginning with Aristotle, that the epistemic standing one attains when one understands why something is so is itself just a kind of propositional knowledge—viz., propositional knowledge of causes. A point that has been granted on both sides of these debates is that if these reductive proposals are (...)
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  • Difficult Cases and the Epistemic Justification of Moral Belief.Joshua Schechter - 2017 - Oxford Studies in Metaethics 12.
    This paper concerns the epistemology of difficult moral cases where the difficulty is not traceable to ignorance about non-moral matters. The paper first argues for a principle concerning the epistemic status of moral beliefs about difficult moral cases. The basic idea behind the principle is that one’s belief about the moral status of a potential action in a difficult moral case is not justified unless one has some appreciation of what the relevant moral considerations are and how they bear on (...)
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  • No Need for Excuses: Against Knowledge-First Epistemology and the Knowledge Norm of Assertion.Joshua Schechter - 2017 - In J. Adam Carter, Emma Gordon & Benjamin Jarvis (eds.), Knowledge-First: Approaches in Epistemology and Mind. Oxford University Press. pp. 132-159.
    Since the publication of Timothy Williamson’s Knowledge and its Limits, knowledge-first epistemology has become increasingly influential within epistemology. This paper discusses the viability of the knowledge-first program. The paper has two main parts. In the first part, I briefly present knowledge-first epistemology as well as several big picture reasons for concern about this program. While this considerations are pressing, I concede, however, that they are not conclusive. To determine the viability of knowledge-first epistemology will require philosophers to carefully evaluate the (...)
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  • Truth and Epistemic Value.Nick Treanor - 2018 - European Journal of Philosophy 26 (3):1057-1068.
  • Environmental Luck and the Structure of Understanding.Kenneth Boyd - forthcoming - Episteme:1-15.
    Conventional wisdom holds that there is no lucky knowledge: if it is a matter of luck, in some relevant sense, that one’s belief that p is true, then one does not know that p. One sense of luck that is generally recognized to be incompatible with knowledge is environmental luck. While knowledge has traditionally been the primary interest of epistemologists, understanding has recently been receiving significant attention. While there is as of yet little consensus regarding a theory of understanding, one (...)
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  • Rational Understanding: Toward a Probabilistic Epistemology of Acceptability.Finnur Dellsén - forthcoming - Synthese:1-20.
    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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  • Explanation Classification Depends on Understanding: Extending the Epistemic Side-Effect Effect.Daniel A. Wilkenfeld & Tania Lombrozo - forthcoming - Synthese:1-28.
    Our goal in this paper is to experimentally investigate whether folk conceptions of explanation are psychologistic. In particular, are people more likely to classify speech acts as explanations when they cause understanding in their recipient? The empirical evidence that we present suggests this is so. Using the side-effect effect as a marker of mental state ascriptions, we argue that lay judgments of explanatory status are mediated by judgments of a speaker’s and/or audience’s mental states. First, we show that attributions of (...)
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  • The Explanation Proffering Norm of Moral Assertion.Mona Simion - 2018 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 21 (3):477-488.
    In recent years, much attention has been given to the epistemic credentials of belief based on moral testimony. Some people think pure moral deference is wrong, others disagree. It comes as a surprise, however, that while the epistemic responsibilities of the receiver of moral testimony have been closely scrutinized, little to no discussion has focused on the epistemic duties of the speaker. This paper aims to supply this lack: it defends a function-first account of the normativity of moral assertion. According (...)
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  • Scientific Progress: Knowledge Versus Understanding.Finnur Dellsén - 2016 - 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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  • Is Understanding Reducible?Lewis D. Ross - forthcoming - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 1:1-19.
    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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  • Peeking Inside the Black Box: A New Kind of Scientific Visualization.Michael T. Stuart & Nancy J. Nersessian - 2018 - Minds and Machines 29 (1):87-107.
    Computational systems biologists create and manipulate computational models of biological systems, but they do not always have straightforward epistemic access to the content and behavioural profile of such models because of their length, coding idiosyncrasies, and formal complexity. This creates difficulties both for modellers in their research groups and for their bioscience collaborators who rely on these models. In this paper we introduce a new kind of visualization that was developed to address just this sort of epistemic opacity. The visualization (...)
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  • 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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  • Beyond Explanation: Understanding as Dependency Modeling.Finnur Dellsén - 2018 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science.
    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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  • Understanding: Not Know-How.Emily Sullivan - 2018 - Philosophical Studies 175 (1):221-240.
    There is considerable agreement among epistemologists that certain abilities are constitutive of understanding-why. These abilities include: constructing explanations, drawing conclusions, and answering questions. This agreement has led epistemologists to conclude that understanding is a kind of know-how. However, in this paper, I argue that the abilities constitutive of understanding are the same kind of cognitive abilities that we find in ordinary cases of knowledge-that and not the kind of practical abilities associated with know-how. I argue for this by disambiguating between (...)
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  • Testifying Understanding.Kenneth Boyd - 2017 - Episteme 14 (1):103-127.
    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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  • Depth and Deference: When and Why We Attribute Understanding.Daniel A. Wilkenfeld, Dillon Plunkett & Tania Lombrozo - 2016 - Philosophical Studies 173 (2):373-393.
    Four experiments investigate the folk concept of “understanding,” in particular when and why it is deployed differently from the concept of knowledge. We argue for the positions that people have higher demands with respect to explanatory depth when it comes to attributing understanding, and that this is true, in part, because understanding attributions play a functional role in identifying experts who should be heeded with respect to the general field in question. These claims are supported by our findings that people (...)
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