Goering Special Issue

Philosophical Studies

, Volume 132, Issue 1, pp 33-42

First online:

Understanding and the facts

  • Catherine ElginAffiliated withGraduate School of Education, Harvard University Email author 

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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.


Understanding Exemplification Factive Model Idealization Fiction