Dissertation, Queen's University (2021)

Adham El Shazly
Cambridge University
A platitude about understanding is that it involves grasping. But what is grasping? In this thesis, I develop a novel account of grasping that is rooted in phenomenal consciousness. According to this account, grasping is a matter of having a distinct kind of conscious experience: clear perception. Clear perception has a distinct cognitive phenomenology that characterizes it. Call this the clarity account of grasping. I go on to argue that the dominant view of grasping in the literature, the ability account of grasping, is false. Using the new clarity account, I argue that grasping is not only distinct from the cognitive abilities associated with understanding, but also explanatory prior to them. Finally, I argue that the clarity account implies that understanding cannot be transmitted through testimony, because clear perception cannot be acquired on the basis of testimony. As such, clear perception plays key cognitive and epistemic roles in understanding and coming to understand.
Keywords understanding  grasping  consciousness  cognitive phenomenology  experience  clarity  abilities  skills  testimony  perception  intuition
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