What is human understanding and why should we care about it? I propose a method of philosophical investigation called ‘function-first epistemology’ and use this method to investigate the nature and value of understanding-why. I argue that the concept of understanding-why serves the practical function of identifying good explainers, which is an important role in the general economy of our concepts. This hypothesis sheds light on a variety of issues in the epistemology of understanding including the role of explanation, the relationship between understanding-why and knowledge, and the value of understanding-why. I conclude that understanding-why is valuable and yet knowledge plays more important roles in our epistemic life.