Understanding why, knowing why, and cognitive achievements

Synthese 196 (11):4583-4603 (2019)
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Abstract

Duncan Pritchard argues that a feature that sets understanding-why apart from knowledge-why is that whereas (I) understanding-why is a kind of cognitive achievement in a strong sense, (II) knowledge-why is not such a kind. I argue that (I) is false and that (II) is true. (I) is false because understanding-why featuring rudimentary explanations and understanding-why concerning very simple causal connections are not cognitive achievements in a strong sense. Knowledge-why is not a kind of cognitive achievement in a strong sense for the same reason knowledge-that is not. The latter thesis requires showing that having (p because q) information is not equivalent to having information about facts or principles that establish the explanatory connections between the phenomena in question. I make a positive case for this claim and defend it against objections. Based on this argument, I identify an alternative feature that sets understanding-why apart from knowledge-why: The minimal condition for understanding-why and knowledge-why with respect to their contents is not identical. Knowing why p merely requires information that some explanatorily relevant dependency obtains. Understanding why p additionally requires information about facts or principles that establish the explanatory connections between the phenomena in question.

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Insa Lawler
University of North Carolina, Greensboro

Citations of this work

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Appreciation as an Epistemic Emotion.Dong An - 2022 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 25 (2):249-264.

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References found in this work

Inference to the Best Explanation.Peter Lipton - 1991 - London and New York: Routledge/Taylor and Francis Group.
The scientific image.C. Van Fraassen Bas - 1980 - New York: Oxford University Press.
A virtue epistemology.Ernest Sosa - 2007 - New York: Oxford University Press.

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