Advertisement

Journal for General Philosophy of Science

, Volume 50, Issue 3, pp 389–405 | Cite as

Understanding for Hire

  • Daniel A. WilkenfeldEmail author
  • Christa M. Johnson
Article
  • 40 Downloads

Abstract

In this paper, we will explore one way in which understanding can—and, we will argue, should—be valuable. We will do this by drawing on what has been said (primarily in Pritchard et al.: The nature and value of knowledge: Three investigations, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2010) about the different ways knowledge can be valuable. Our main contribution will be to identify one heretofore undiscussed way knowledge could be valuable, but isn’t—specifically, having value to someone other than the understander. We suggest that it is a desideratum on an account of understanding that understanding have the specified type of value; our basis for this claim will come from recent work in cognitive psychology. This desideratum can then be used to measure the success of various accounts of understanding. We argue that accounts of understanding that have a particular structure will predict (and perhaps explain) why understanding has that sort of value. For good measure, we then engage in a bit of a literature review, investigating which extant accounts of understanding satisfy this desideratum (spoiler: some do and some don’t).

Keywords

Understanding Explanation Epistemology Philosophy of science Value theory 

Notes

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank Kareem Khalifa and Henk de Regt for their assistance, the Center for Philosophy of Science, and the journal referees.

References

  1. Carter, J. A., & Gordon, E. C. (2014). Objectual understanding and the value problem. American Philosophical Quarterly, 51(1), 1–13.Google Scholar
  2. de Regt, H. (2009). Understanding and scientific explanation. In H. W. de Regt, S. Leonelli, & K. Eiger (Eds.), Scientific understanding (pp. 21–42). Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. de Regt, H. W. (2017). Understanding scientific understanding. New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. de Regt, H. W., & Dieks, D. (2005). A contextual approach to scientific understanding. Synthese, 144(1), 137–170.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Diacu, F. (1996). The solution of the n-body problem. The Mathematical Intelligencer, 18(3), 66–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Foley, R. (1994). Egoism in epistemology. In F. F. Schmitt (Ed.), Socializing epistemology (pp. 53–73). Rowman and Littlefield.Google Scholar
  7. Friedman, M. (1974). Explanation and scientific understanding. Journal of Philosophy, 71(1), 5–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Gettier, E. L. (1963). Is justified true belief knowledge? Analysis, 23(6), 121–123.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Greco, J. (2007). The nature of ability and the purpose of knowledge. Philosophical Issues, 17(1), 57–69.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Grimm, S. R. (2006). Is understanding a species of knowledge? The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 57(3), 515–535.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Grimm, S. R. (2010). The goal of explanation. Studies in the History and Philosophy of Science Part A, 41(4), 337–344.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Hills, A. (2016). Understanding why. Noûs, 50(4), 661–688.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Humphreys, P. (1993). Greater unification equals greater understanding? Analysis, 53(3), 183–188.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Khalifa, K. (2017). Understanding, explanation, and scientific knowledge. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Kim, J. (1994). Explanatory knowledge and metaphysical dependence. Philosophical Issues, 5, 51–69.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Kitcher, P. (1989). Explanatory unification and the causal structure of the world. In P. Kitcher & W. Salmon (Eds.), Scientific explanation (pp. 410–505). Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  17. Kvanvig, J. L. (2003). The value of knowledge and the pursuit of understanding. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Lackey, J. (2007). Why we don’t deserve credit for everything we know. Synthese, 158(3), 345–361.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Le Bihan, S. (2016). Enlightening falsehoods: A modal view of scientific understanding. In S. R. Grimm, C. Baumberger, & S. Ammon (Eds.), Explaining understanding: New essays in epistemology and the philosophy of science. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  20. Pritchard, D., Millar, A., & Haddock, A. (2010). The nature and value of knowledge: Three investigations. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Stich, S. P. (1983). From folk psychology to cognitive science: The case against belief (Vol. 12). Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.Google Scholar
  22. Strevens, M. (2013). No understanding without explanation. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A, 44(3), 510–515.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Suárez, M. (2010). Scientific representation. Philosophy Compass, 5(1), 91–101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Wilkenfeld, D. A. (2013). Understanding as representation manipulability. Synthese, 190(6), 997–1016.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Wilkenfeld, D. A., & Hellmann, J. K. (2014). Understanding beyond grasping propositions: A discussion of chess and fish. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A, 48, 46–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Wilkenfeld, D. A., Plunkett, D., & Lombrozo, T. (2016). Depth and deference: When and why we attribute understanding. Philosophical Studies, 173(2), 373–393.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Woodward, J. (2003). Making things happen: A theory of causal explanation. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  28. Zagzebski, L. (2003). The search for the source of epistemic good. Metaphilosophy, 34(1–2), 12–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of History and Philosophy of ScienceUniversity of PittsburghPittsburghUSA
  2. 2.California State University Long BeachLong BeachUSA

Personalised recommendations