Epistemic Dependence & Understanding: Reformulating through Symmetry

Abstract

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. To defend conceptualism, I consider how prominent accounts of explanation might accommodate this case study. I argue that either they do not succeed, or they generate a skeptical challenge.

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Author's Profile

Josh Hunt
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Citations of this work

Understanding and Equivalent Reformulations.Josh Hunt - 2021 - Philosophy of Science 88 (5):810-823.
Interpreting the Wigner–Eckart Theorem.Josh Hunt - 2021 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 87:28-43.

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