A model of writing in cognitive development, Understanding the Representational Mind synthesizes the burgeoning literature on the child’s theory of mind to provide an integrated account of children’s understanding of representational and mental processes, which is crucial in their acquisition of our commonsense psychology. Perner describes experimental work on children’s acquisition of a theory of mind and representation, offers a theoretical account of this acquisition, and gives examples of how the increased sophistication in children’s theory of mind improves (...) their understanding of social interaction and how, in the case of autistic children, an impairment results in social ineptitude. He analyzes the concepts of representation and metarepresentation as they appear in current discussion in the philosophy of cognitive science and explains how the unfolding of mental representation enables infants to comprehend change over time, engage in pretence, and use representational systems like pictures and language. Perner goes on to show that around age four children become able to understand the representational nature of pictures and language and to distinguish appearance from reality. Introducing basic distinctions in philosophy of mind for characterizing the mental, Perner discusses differences in how commonsense and cognitive psychology view the mind. Tracing the onset of a commonsense psychology in the social and emotional awareness of early infancy, he reveals how the child begins to take a cognitive, representational view of the mind with repercussions for children’s episodic memory, self control, and their ability to engage in deception. Perner concludes by describing the observed developmental changes as a case of theory change And contrasts his thesis with competing proposals. Josef Perner is Lecturer in Experimental Psychology at Sussex University, Brighton, England. (shrink)
Understanding Computers and Cognition presents an important and controversial new approach to understanding what computers do and how their functioning is related to human language, thought, and action. While it is a book about computers, Understanding Computers and Cognition goes beyond the specific issues of what computers can or can't do. It is a broad-ranging discussion exploring the background of understanding in which the discourse about computers and technology takes place. Understanding Computers and Cognition is (...) written for a wide audience, not just those professionals involved in computer design or artificial intelligence. It represents an important contribution to the ongoing discussion about what it means to be a machine, and what it means to be human. Book jacket. (shrink)
I argue that understanding why p involves a kind of intellectual know how and differsfrom both knowledge that p and knowledge why p (as they are standardly understood).I argue that understanding, in this sense, is valuable.
Moral understanding is a species of knowledge. Understanding why an action is wrong, for example, amounts to knowing why the action is wrong. The claim that moral understanding is immune to luck while moral knowledge is not does not withstand scrutiny; nor does the idea that there is something deep about understanding for there are different degrees of understanding. It is also mistaken to suppose that grasping is a distinct psychological state that accompanies understanding. (...) To understand why something is the case is to grasp or see why something is the case and grasping and seeing are ways of knowing. (shrink)
Jonathan Kvanvig has argued that “objectual” understanding, i.e. the understanding we have of a large body of information, cannot be reduced to explanatory concepts. In this paper, I show that Kvanvig fails to establish this point, and then propose a framework for reducing objectual understanding to explanatory understanding.
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. (shrink)
Is understanding epistemic in nature? Does a correct account of what constitutes understanding of a concept mention epistemological notions such as knowledge, justification or epistemic rationality? We defend the view that understanding is epistemic in nature – we defend epistemological conceptions of understanding. We focus our discussion with a critical evaluation of Tim Williamson's challenges to epistemological conceptions of understanding in The Philosophy of Philosophy. Against Williamson, we distinguish three kinds of epistemological conceptions and argue (...) that Williamson's arguments succeed against only the most heavily committed kind, and leave the less heavily committed kinds untouched. Further, we argue that Williamson's elaboration of lessons from his arguments point in a direction opposite of his own conclusions and give vivid articulation and support to epistemological conceptions. We suggest also that skepticism about Williamson's larger metaphilosophical conclusions – according to which understanding plays no special role in the epistemology of philosophy – may be in order. (shrink)
Is linguistic understanding a form of knowledge? I clarify the question and then consider two natural forms a positive answer might take. I argue that, although some recent arguments fail to decide the issue, neither positive answer should be accepted. The aim is not yet to foreclose on the view that linguistic understanding is a form of knowledge, but to develop desiderata on a satisfactory successor to the two natural views rejected here.
Alan Millar examines our understanding of why people think and act as they do. His key theme is that normative considerations form an indispensable part of the explanatory framework which we use to understand each other. Millar offers illuminating discussions of reasons for belief and reasons for action, the explanation of beliefs and actions in terms of the subject's reasons, the idea that simulation has a key role in understanding people, and the limits of explanation in terms of (...) propositional attitudes. (shrink)
Our self-understanding as human agents includes a commitment to three crucial claims about human agency: that agents must be active, that actions are part of the natural order of the universe, and that intentional actions can be explained by the agent's reasons for acting. While all of these claims are indispensable elements of our view of ourselves as human agents, they are in continuous conflict and tension with one another, especially once one adopts the currently predominant view of what (...) the natural order must be like. One of the central tasks of philosophy of action consists in showing how, despite appearances, these conflicts can be resolved and our self-understanding as agents be vindicated. The mainstream of contemporary philosophy of action holds that this task can only be fulfilled by an event-causal reductive view of human agency, paradigmatically embodied in the so-called 'standard model' developed by Donald Davidson. Erasmus Mayr, in contrast, develops a new agent-causal solution to these conflicts and shows why this solution is superior both to event-causalist accounts and to Von Wright's intentionalism about agency. He offers a comprehensive theory of substance-causation on the basis of a realist conception of powers, which allows one to see how the widespread rejection of agent-causation rests on an unfounded 'Humean' view of nature and of causal processes. At the same time, Mayr addresses the question of the nature of reasons for acting and complements its substance-causal account of activity with a non-causal account of acting for reasons in terms of following a standard of success. (shrink)
Understanding enjoys a special kind of value, one not held by lesser epistemic states such as knowledge and true belief. I explain the value of understanding via a seemingly unrelated topic, the implausibility of veritism. Veritism holds that true belief is the sole ultimate epistemic good and all other epistemic goods derive their value from the epistemic value of true belief. Veritism entails that if you have a true belief that p, you have all the epistemic good qua (...) p. Veritism is a plausible and widely held view; I argue that it is untenable. I argue that integration among beliefs possesses epistemic value independent from the good of true belief, and so has value veritism cannot account for. I argue further that this integration among beliefs comprises the distinctive epistemic value of understanding. (shrink)
While social epistemologists have recently begun addressing questions about whether groups can possess beliefs or knowledge, little has yet been said about whether groups can properly be said to possess understanding. Here I want to make some progress on this question by considering two possible accounts of group understanding, modeled on accounts of group belief and knowledge: a deflationary account, according to which a group understands just in case most or all of its members understand, and an inflationary (...) account, according to which a group’s understanding does not depend solely on whether its members understand. I argue that both accounts face problems. The deflationary account has two such problems: aggregation problems that are familiar from discussions of group belief, and the problem of different bases, wherein members possess understanding for different but consistent reasons. The inflationary account faces what I call the problem of distributed grasping: while it is widely accepted that understanding requires a kind of “grasping”, it is hard to make sense of how this requirement could be met at the group level while not necessarily being met by any individual member. Despite its problems, I make a case for the inflationary account. This will require addressing the problem of distributed grasping: to do this, I propose a different way of thinking about the grasping relation at the group level, such that it is constituted by a dependency relationship between members. (shrink)
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. (shrink)
The mysteries of consciousness have gripped the human imagination for over 2,500 years. At the dawn of the new millennium, Understanding Consciousness provides new solutions to some of the deepest puzzles surrounding its nature and function. Drawing on recent scientific discoveries, Max Velmans challenges conventional reductionist thought, providing an understanding of how consciousness relates to the brain and physical world that is neither dualist, nor reductionist. Understanding Consciousness will be of great interest to psychologists, philosophers, neuroscientists and (...) other professionals concerned with mind/body relationships, and all who care deeply about this subject. (shrink)
In this book, Scott Soames illuminates the notion of truth and the role it plays in our ordinary thought as well as in our logical, philosophical, and scientific theories. Soames aims to integrate and deepen the most significant insights on truth from a variety of sources. He powerfully brings together the best technical work and the most important philosophical reflection on truth and shows how each can illuminate the other. Investigating such questions as whether we need a truth predicate at (...) all, what theoretical tasks it allows us to accomplish, and how we are to understand the content of any predicate capable of accomplishing these tasks, Soames organizes his discussion into three parts. Part I addresses crucial foundational issues as it identifies the bearers of truth, provides a basis for distinguishing truth from other notions, and formulates positive responses to well-known forms of truth-skepticism. Part II explicates the formal theories of Alfred Tarski and Saul Kripke and evaluates the philosophical significance of their work. It discusses their treatments of the Liar paradox, the relationship between truth and proof, the notion of a partially defined predicate, the concepts of logical truth and logical consequence, and the connection between truth and meaning. Part III extends important lessons drawn from Tarski and Kripke into new domains: vague predicates, the Sorites paradox, and the development of a larger, deflationary perspective on truth. Throughout the book, Soames examines a wide range of deflationary theories of truth, and attempts to separate what is correct and worth preserving in them from what is not. In doing so, he seeks to clear up many of the most significant philosophical doubts about truth. Written for a general audience while offering engaging material to the specialist, this rich study will be profitably read by both. (shrink)
There is not one but many ways to picture the world--Australian "x-ray" pictures, cubish collages, Amerindian split-style figures, and pictures in two-point perspective each draw attention to different features of what they represent. Understanding Pictures argues that this diversity is the central fact with which a theory of figurative pictures must reckon. Lopes advances the theory that identifying pictures' subjects is akin to recognizing objects whose appearances have changed over time. He develops a schema for categorizing the different ways (...) pictures represent--the different kinds of meaning they have--and argues that that depiction's epistemic value lies in its representational diversity. He also offers a novel account of the phenomenology of pictorial experience, comparing pictures to visual prostheses like mirrors and binoculars. (shrink)
Obtaining informed consent is a cornerstone of biomedical research, yet participants comprehension of presented information is often low. The most effective interventions to improve understanding rates have not been identified.
To understand something involves some sort of commitment to a set of propositions comprising an account of the understood phenomenon. Some take this commitment to be a species of belief; others, such as Elgin and I, take it to be a kind of cognitive policy. This paper takes a step back from debates about the nature of understanding and asks when this commitment involved in understanding is epistemically appropriate, or ‘acceptable’ in Elgin’s terminology. In particular, appealing to lessons (...) from the lottery and preface paradoxes, it is argued that this type of commitment is sometimes acceptable even when it would be rational to assign arbitrarily low probabilities to the relevant propositions. This strongly suggests that the relevant type of commitment is sometimes acceptable in the absence of epistemic justification for belief, which in turn implies that understanding does not require justification in the traditional sense. The paper goes on to develop a new probabilistic model of acceptability, based on the idea that the maximally informative accounts of the understood phenomenon should be optimally probable. Interestingly, this probabilistic model ends up being similar in important ways to Elgin’s proposal to analyze the acceptability of such commitments in terms of ‘reflective equilibrium’. (shrink)
In the Phaedrus, Socreates sympathetically describes the ability “to cut up each kind according to its species along its natural joints, and to try not to splinter any part, as a bad butcher might do.” (265e) In contemporary philosophy, Ted Sider (2009, 2011) defends the same idea. As I shall put it, Plato and Sider’s idea is that limning structure is an epistemic goal. My aim in this paper is to articulate and defend this idea. First, I’ll articulate the notion (...) of a structural proposition (§1), and the notion of an epistemic goal (§2), where I’ll assume that epistemic goals are species of accuracy. Then (§3), I’ll argue against some proposals for understanding the idea that limning structure is an epistemic goal: limning structure is neither an aim of belief (§3.1), nor of inquiry (§3.2), nor of concept possession (§3.3). Importantly, non-structural belief is not thereby inaccurate; belief does not “aim” at being structural. Next (§4), I’ll propose a framework for understanding the idea that limning structure is an epistemic goal, and defend that idea. What is required, to defend the view that limning structure is an epistemic goal, is the notion of (what I call) theorizing – a propositional attitude that, unlike belief, does “aim” at being structural (§4.1). I’ll argue that structural truths constitute a species of “important” truths (§4.2), and that apt theorizing is a species of understanding (§4.3). Finally (§5), I’ll discuss the possibility that there is no structure. (shrink)
Scientific understanding, this paper argues, can be analyzed entirely in terms of a mental act of “grasping” and a notion of explanation. To understand why a phenomenon occurs is to grasp a correct explanation of the phenomenon. To understand a scientific theory is to be able to construct, or at least to grasp, a range of potential explanations in which that theory accounts for other phenomena. There is no route to scientific understanding, then, that does not go by (...) way of scientific explanation. (shrink)
Critics have often misunderstood the higher-order theory (HOT) of consciousness. Here we clarify its position on several issues, and distinguish it from other views such as the global The higher-order theory (HOT) of consciousness has often been misunderstood by critics. Here we clarify its position on several issues, and distinguish it from other views such as the global workspace theory (GWT) and early sensory models (e.g. first-order local recurrency theories). For example, HOT has been criticized for over-intellectualizing consciousness. We show (...) that while higher-order states are cognitively assembled, the requirements are actually considerably less than often presumed. In this sense HOT may be viewed as an intermediate position between GWT and early sensory views. Also, we clarify that most proponents of HOT do not stipulate consciousness as equivalent to metacognition or confidence. Further, compared to other existing theories, HOT can arguably account better for complex everyday experiences, such as of emotions and episodic memories. This makes HOT particularly useful as a framework for conceptualizing pathological mental states. (shrink)
Understanding has received growing interest from epistemologists in recent years, but no consensus regarding its epistemic properties has yet been reached. This paper extracts, but also rejects, candidates of epistemic properties for construing an epistemological model of understanding from the writings of epistemologists participating in the current discussion surrounding that state. On the basis of these results, a suggestion is put forward according to which understanding is a non-basic epistemic state of warrant rather than knowledge. It is (...) argued that this move provides a satisfactory conciliatory answer to the central question whether understanding is a factive epistemic state. Some differences between understanding and knowledge are recorded along the way: for instance, that in contrast to knowledge, understanding does not require belief and that, even though neither knowledge nor understanding iterates, so that a subject can both know without knowing that she knows, as well as understanding without understanding that she understands, the reasons for the failure is different. (shrink)
There is considerable agreement among epistemologists that certain abilities are constitutive of understanding-why. These abilities include: constructing explanations, drawing conclusions, and answering questions. This agreement has led epistemologists to conclude that understanding is a kind of know-how. However, in this paper, I argue that the abilities constitutive of understanding are the same kind of cognitive abilities that we find in ordinary cases of knowledge-that and not the kind of practical abilities associated with know-how. I argue for this (...) by disambiguating between different senses of abilities that are too often lumped together. As a consequence, non-reductionists about understanding—those that claim that understanding-why is not reducible to knowledge-that—need to find another way to motivate the view. In the end, the fact that abilities are constitutive of understanding-why does not give us reason to conclude that understanding is a kind of know-how. (shrink)
Can one still have understanding in situations that involve the kind of epistemic luck that undermines knowledge? Kvanvig (The value of knowledge and the pursuit of understanding, 2003; in: Haddock A, Miller A, Pritchard D (eds) Epistemic value, 2009a; in: Haddock A, Miller A, Pritchard D (eds) Epistemic value, 2009b) says yes, Prichard (Grazer Philos Stud 77:325–339, 2008; in: O’Hear A (ed) Epistemology, 2009; in: Pritchard D, Millar A, Haddock A (eds) The nature and value of knowledge: three (...) investigations, 2010) say sometimes, DePaul and Grimm (Philos Phenomenol Res 74:498–514, 2007) and Grimm (Br J Philos Sci 57:515–535, 2006; in: Bernecker S, Pritchard D (eds) The Routledge companion to epistemology, 2011), Kvanvig’s critics, say no. The cases put forth by Kvanvig’s critics share a common feature, which seems to drive the intuition that understanding can’t be lucky: the fact that the information that makes up the individual’s understanding comes exclusively from a bad source. I formulate a case that lacks this feature, drawing on the fact that understanding produced from scientific inquiry is often produced by collaboration. I argue that my case provides good evidence that understanding is not a species of knowledge. (shrink)
It is often claimed—especially by scientific realists—that science provides understanding of the world only if its theories are (at least approximately) true descriptions of reality, in its observable as well as unobservable aspects. This paper critically examines this ‘realist thesis’ concerning understanding. A crucial problem for the realist thesis is that (as study of the history and practice of science reveals) understanding is frequently obtained via theories and models that appear to be highly unrealistic or even completely (...) fictional. So we face the dilemma of either giving up the realist thesis that understanding requires truth, or allowing for the possibility that in many if not all practical cases we do not have scientific understanding. I will argue that the first horn is preferable: the link between understanding and truth can be severed. This becomes a live option if we abandon the traditional view that scientific understanding is a special type of knowledge. While this view implies that understanding must be factive, I avoid this implication by identifying understanding with a skill rather than with knowledge. I will develop the idea that understanding phenomena consists in the ability to use a theory to generate predictions of the target system’s behavior. This implies that the crucial condition for understanding is not truth but intelligibility of the theory, where intelligibility is defined as the value that scientists attribute to the theoretical virtues that facilitate the construction of models of the phenomena. I will show, first, that my account accords with the way practicing scientists conceive of understanding, and second, that it allows for the use of idealized or fictional models and theories in achieving understanding. (shrink)
Oxford Philosophical Texts Series Editor: John Cottingham The Oxford Philosophical Texts series consists of authoritative teaching editions of canonical texts in the history of philosophy from the ancient world down to modern times. Each volume provides a clear, well laid out text together with a comprehensive introduction by a leading specialist, giving the student detailed critical guidance on the intellectual context of the work and the structure and philosophical importance of the main arguments. Endnotes are supplied which provide further commentary (...) on the arguments and explain unfamiliar references and terminology, and a full bibliography and index are also included. The series aims to build up a definitive corpus of key texts in the Western philosophical tradition, which will form a reliable and enduring resource for students and teachers alike. David Hume's aim in writing An Enquiry concerning Human Understanding was to introduce his philosophy to a European culture in which many educated people read original works of philosophy. He gives an elegant and accessible presentation of strikingly original and challenging views about the limited powers of human understanding, the attractions of scepticism, the compatibility of free will and determinism, and weaknesses in the foundations of religion. Hume's philosophy was highly controversial in the eighteenth century and remains so today. The text printed in this edition is that of the Clarendon critical edition of Hume's works. A substantial introduction by the editor explains the intellectual background to the work and surveys its main themes. The volume also includes detailed explanatory notes on the text, a glossary of terms, a full list of references, and a section of supplementary readings. (shrink)
If understanding is factive, the propositions that express an understanding are true. I argue that a factive conception of understanding is unduly restrictive. It neither reflects our practices in ascribing understanding nor does justice to contemporary science. For science uses idealizations and models that do not mirror the facts. Strictly speaking, they are false. By appeal to exemplification, I devise a more generous, flexible conception of understanding that accommodates science, reflects our practices, and shows a (...) sufficient but not slavish sensitivity to the facts. (shrink)
This radical reading of Wittgenstein's third and last masterpiece, On Certainty, has major implications for philosophy. It elucidates Wittgenstein's ultimate thoughts on the nature of our basic beliefs and his demystification of scepticism. Our basic certainties are shown to be nonepistemic, nonpropositional attitudes that, as such, have no verbal occurrence but manifest themselves exclusively in our actions. This fundamental certainty is a belief-in, a primitive confidence or ur-trust whose practical nature bridges the hitherto unresolved categorial gap between belief and action.
Current books on evolutionary theory all seem to take for granted the fact that students find evolution easy to understand when actually, from a psychological perspective, it is a rather counterintuitive idea. Evolutionary theory, like all scientific theories, is a means to understanding the natural world. Understanding Evolution is intended for undergraduate students in the life sciences, biology teachers or anyone wanting a basic introduction to evolutionary theory. Covering core concepts and the structure of evolutionary explanations, it clarifies (...) both what evolution is about and why so many people find it difficult to grasp. The book provides an introduction to the major concepts and conceptual obstacles to understanding evolution, including the development of Darwin's theory, and a detailed presentation of the most important evolutionary concepts. Bridging the gap between the concepts and conceptual obstacles, Understanding Evolution presents evolutionary theory with a clarity and vision students will quickly appreciate. (shrink)
Can understanding be based on false beliefs? I argue that it can. I first argue that the best way to understand the question is that it is whether one can increase one's degree of understanding by adopting an overall less accurate body of beliefs. I identify three sufficient conditions for one body of beliefs to be more accurate than another. Next, I appeal to two widely used methods of comparing degrees of understanding. With these methods, I show (...) that understanding can be gained by acquiring false beliefs. In addition, I show that this implies that understanding is not factive. (shrink)
Knowledge of many facts does not amount to understanding unless one also has a sense of how the facts fit together. This aspect of coherence among scientific observations and theories is usually overlooked in summaries of scientific method, since the emphasis is on justification and verification rather than on understanding. I argue that the inter-theoretic coherence, as the hallmark of understanding, is an essential and informative component of any accurate description of science.
Few can imagine a world without telephones or televisions; many depend on computers and the Internet as part of daily life. Without scientific theory, these developments would not have been possible. In this exceptionally clear and engaging introduction to philosophy of science, James Ladyman explores the philosophical questions that arise when we reflect on the nature of the scientific method and the knowledge it produces. He discusses whether fundamental philosophical questions about knowledge and reality might be answered by science, and (...) considers in detail the debate between realists and antirealists about the extent of scientific knowledge. Along the way, central topics in philosophy of science, such as the demarcation of science from non-science, induction, confirmation and falsification, the relationship between theory and observation and relativism are all addressed. Important and complex current debates over underdetermination, inference to the best explaination and the implications of radical theory change are clarified and clearly explained for those new to the subject. (shrink)
Understanding is a central aim of science and highly important in present-day society. But what precisely is scientific understanding and how can it be achieved? This book answers these questions, through philosophical analysis and historical case studies, and presents a philosophical theory of scientific understanding that highlights its contextual nature.
Recent scholarship in philosophy, law, and information systems suggests that respecting privacy entails understanding the implicit privacy norms about what, why, and to whom information is shared within specific relationships. These social contracts are important to understand if firms are to adequately manage the privacy expectations of stakeholders. This paper explores a social contract approach to developing, acknowledging, and protecting privacy norms within specific contexts. While privacy as a social contract—a mutually beneficial agreement within a community about sharing and (...) using information—has been introduced theoretically and empirically, the full impact on firms of an alternative framework to respecting the privacy expectations of stakeholders has not been examined. The goal of this paper is to examine how privacy norms develop through social contract’s narrative, to redescribe privacy violations given the social contract approach, and to critically examine the role of business as a contractor in developing privacy norms. A social contract narrative dealing specifically with issues of privacy is an important next step in exploring a social contract approach to privacy. Here, the narrative is used to explain to analyze the dynamic process of privacy norm generation within particular communities. Based on this narrative, individuals within a given community discriminately share information with a particular set of obligations in mind as to who has access to the information and how it will be used. Rather than giving away privacy, individuals discriminately share information within a particular community and with norms governing the use of their information. Similar to contractual business ethics’ impact on global commerce in explaining how and why norms vary across global contexts, the social contract approach to privacy explains how and why norms vary across communities of actors. Focusing on agreements around privacy expectations shifts the responsibility of firms from adequate notification to the responsibility of firms as contractors to maintain a mutually beneficial and sustainable solution. (shrink)
In recent years there has been a resurgence of interest among epistemologists in the nature of understanding, with some authors arguing that understanding should replace knowledge as the primary focus of epistemology. But what is understanding? According to what is often called the standard view, understanding is a species of knowledge. Although this view has recently been challenged in various ways, even the critics of the standard view have assumed that understanding requires justification and belief. (...) I argue that it requires neither. If sound, these arguments have important upshots not only for the nature of understanding, but also for its distinctive epistemic value and its role in contemporary epistemology. (shrink)
Meaning, Understanding, and Practice is a selection of the most notable essays of leading contemporary philosopher Barry Stroud on a set of topics central to analytic philosophy. In this collection, Stroud offers penetrating studies of meaning, understanding, necessity, and the intentionality of thought. Throughout he asks how much can be expected from a philosophical account of one's understanding of the meaning of something, and questions whether such an account can succeed without implying that the person understands many (...) other things as well. Most of the essays work with ideas derived from Wittgenstein, and five of the essays focus specifically on Wittgenstein's philosophy. Stroud's helpful introduction draws out the recurring themes he pursues and explains how his ideas and aims have developed over the years. (shrink)
There is a recent interest within both philosophy of science as well as within epistemology to provide a defensible account of understanding. In the present article I build on insights from previous work in attempt to provide an account of two related forms of understanding in terms of the ability to form rational intentions when using specific types of mental representations. I propose first that “understanding that X” requires that one form a representation of X and, further, (...) that one must be capable of forming rational intentions using this representation across a range of conceivable conditions. I then propose that “understanding why X” requires that one possess a representation of a successful explanation for why X, and that one must be similarly capable of forming rational intentions using this representation across a range of conceivable conditions. I conclude the manuscript by reviewing objections and considering the way this account relates to other literature on explanation and understanding. (shrink)
In this paper, I propose that the debate in epistemology concerning the nature and value of understanding can shed light on the role of scientific idealizations in producing scientific understanding. In philosophy of science, the received view seems to be that understanding is a species of knowledge. On this view, understanding is factive just as knowledge is, i.e., if S knows that p, then p is true. Epistemologists, however, distinguish between different kinds of understanding. Among (...) epistemologists, there are those who think that a certain kind of understanding—objectual understanding—is not factive, and those who think that objectual understanding is quasi-factive. Those who think that understanding is not factive argue that scientific idealizations constitute cognitive success, which we then consider as instances of understanding, and yet they are not true. This paper is an attempt to draw lessons from this debate as they pertain to the role of idealizations in producing scientific understanding. I argue that scientific understanding is quasi-factive. (shrink)
Standing is a peculiar norm, allowing for deflecting that is rejecting offhand and without deliberation interventions such as directives. Directives are speech acts that aim to give directive-reasons, which are reason to do as the directive directs because of the directive. Standing norms, therefore, provide for deflecting directives regardless of validity or the normative weight of the rejected directive. The logic of the normativity of standing is, therefore, not the logic of invalidating directives or of competing with directive-reasons but of (...) ‘exclusionary permission’. That is, standing norms provide for permission to exclude from practical deliberation directive-reasons if given without the requisite standing, regardless of their normative weight. As such, standing is a type of second-order norm. Numerous everyday practices involve the deflection of directives, such as pervasive practices of deflecting hypocritical and officious directives. Of various possible models, the one that best captures the normative structure of these practices of deflection is the standing model. Accordingly, the normativity of standing is pervasive in our everyday practices. Establishing that standing, although a neglected philosophical idea, is a significant and independent normative concept. (shrink)
Affordances are possibilities for action offered by the environment. Recent research on affordances holds that there are differences in how people experience such possibilities for action. However, these differences have not been properly investigated. In this paper I start by briefly scrutinizing the existing literature on this issue, and then argue for two claims. First, that whether an affordance solicits action or not depends on its relevance to the agent’s concerns. Second, that the experiential character of how an affordance solicits (...) action depends on the character of the concern to which it is relevant. Concerns are conceived of as bodily forms of responsiveness, and solicitations are experienced through this responsiveness. The main aim of this paper is to make clear that an understanding of experiential differences in solicitations has to be based on a phenomenological appreciation of how one experiences one’s responsiveness to those solicitations. In the remainder of the paper I show how such a phenomenological appreciation reveals several characteristics of our responsiveness and I briefly explore three of them: valence, force and mineness. In the final section I discuss the self-referentiality of affordances in light of the current proposal, and argue that this self-referentiality is broader than is typically acknowledged. (shrink)
The literature on the nature of understanding can be divided into two broad camps. Explanationists believe that it is knowledge of explanations that is key to understanding. In contrast, their manipulationist rivals maintain that understanding essentially involves an ability to manipulate certain representations. The aim of this paper is to provide a novel knowledge based account of understanding. More specifically, it proposes an account of maximal understanding of a given phenomenon in terms of fully comprehensive (...) and maximally well-connected knowledge of it and of degrees of understanding in terms of approximations to such knowledge. It is completed by a contextualist semantics for outright attributions of understanding according to which an attribution of understanding is true of one just in case one knows enough about it to perform some contextually determined task. It is argued that this account has an edge over both its explanationist and manipulationist competitors. (shrink)
Reformulating a scientific theory often leads to a significantly different way of understanding the world. Nevertheless, accounts of both theoretical equivalence and scientific understanding have neglected this important aspect of scientific theorizing. This essay provides a positive account of how reformulating theories changes our understanding. My account simultaneously addresses a serious challenge facing existing accounts of scientific understanding. These accounts have failed to characterize understanding in a way that goes beyond the epistemology of scientific explanation. (...) By focusing on cases where we have differences in understanding without differences in explanation, I show that understanding cannot be reduced to explanation. (shrink)
In this paper, I defend a well-known theory of belief reports from an important objection. The theory is Russellianism, sometimes also called `neo-Russellianism', `Millianism', `the direct reference theory', `the "Fido"-Fido theory', or `the naive theory'. The objection concernssubstitution of co-referring names in belief sentences. Russellianism implies that any two belief sentences, that differ only in containing distinct co-referring names, express the same proposition (in any given context). Since `Hesperus' and `Phosphorus' both refer to the planet Venus, this view implies that (...) all utterances of (1) and.. (shrink)
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. (shrink)
Claims pertaining to understanding are made in a variety of contexts and ways. As a result, few in the philosophical literature have made an attempt to precisely characterize the state that is y understanding x. This paper builds an account that does just that. The account is motivated by two main observations. First, understanding x is somehow related to being able to manipulate x. Second, understanding is a mental phenomenon, and so what manipulations are required to (...) be an understander must only be mental manipulations. Combining these two insights, the paper builds an account (URM) of understanding as a certain representational capacity—specifically, understanding x involves possessing a representation of x that could be manipulated in useful ways. By tying understanding to representation, the account correctly identifies that understanding is a fundamentally cognitive achievement. However, by also demanding that which representations count as understanding-conferring be determined by their practical effects, URM captures the insight that understanding is vitally connected to practice. URM is fully general, and can apply equally well to understanding states of affairs, understanding events, and even understanding people and works of art. The ultimate test of URM is its applicability in actual scientific and philosophical discourse. To that end the paper discusses the importance of understanding in the philosophy of science, psychology, and computer science. (shrink)
Moral understanding is a valuable epistemic and moral good. I argue that moral understanding is the ability to know right from wrong. I defend the account against challenges from nonreductionists, such as Alison Hills, who argue that moral understanding is distinct from moral knowledge. Moral understanding, she suggests, is constituted by a set of abilities: to give and follow moral explanations and to draw moral conclusions. I argue that Hills’s account rests on too narrow a conception (...) of moral understanding. Among other things, it cannot account for the importance of first-personal experience for achieving moral understanding. (shrink)
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