Synthese 198 (7):6859-6887 (2021)

Insa Lawler
University of North Carolina, Greensboro
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 argue that the falsehoods do not figure into the understanding’s content by being elements of its periphery or core. (iii) Drawing lessons from case studies, I argue that the falsehoods merely enable understanding. When working with such falsehoods, only the truths we extract from them are elements of the content of our understanding. (iv) I argue that the extraction view is compatible with the thesis that falsehoods can have an epistemic value by virtue of being the very falsehoods they are.
Keywords Understanding  Factivism  Non-factivism  Quasi-factivism  Felicitous falsehoods  Idealization  Models
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Reprint years 2019, 2021
DOI 10.1007/s11229-019-02495-0
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References found in this work BETA

How the Laws of Physics Lie.Nancy Cartwright - 1983 - Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.
True Enough.Catherine Z. Elgin - 2017 - Cambridge: MIT Press.
Idealization and the Aims of Science.Angela Potochnik - 2017 - Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

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Citations of this work BETA

Do Fictions Explain?James Nguyen - 2020 - Synthese 199 (1-2):3219-3244.
Model Explanation Versus Model-Induced Explanation.Insa Lawler & Emily Sullivan - 2021 - Foundations of Science 26 (4):1049-1074.

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