Mario Hubert
American University in Cairo
I want to combine two hitherto largely independent research projects, scientific understanding and mechanistic explanations. Understanding is not only achieved by answering why-questions, that is, by providing scientific explanations, but also by answering what-questions, that is, by providing what I call scientific descriptions. Based on this distinction, I develop three forms of understanding: understanding-what, understanding-why, and understanding-how. I argue that understanding-how is a particularly deep form of understanding, because it is based on mechanistic explanations, which answer why something happens in virtue of what it is made of. I apply the three forms of understanding to two case studies: first, to the historical development of thermodynamics and, second, to the differences between the Clausius and the Boltzmann entropy in explaining thermodynamic processes.
Keywords understanding  mechanistic explanations  what-question  why-question  thermodynamics  statistical mechanics  Aristotle
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Reprint years 2021
DOI 10.1007/s13194-021-00399-w
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Thinking About Mechanisms.Peter Machamer, Lindley Darden & Carl F. Craver - 2000 - Philosophy of Science 67 (1):1-25.
Idealization and the Aims of Science.Angela Potochnik - 2017 - Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
The New Mechanical Philosophy.Stuart Glennan - 2017 - Oxford University Press.

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