Understanding as compression

Philosophical Studies 176 (10):2807-2831 (2019)
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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 can accommodate much of the data that has motivated theories of understanding in philosophy of science, and can also be generally applicable in epistemology and daily life as well.



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