Understanding Understanding: An Epistemological Investigation

Philosophia 42 (4):971-985 (2014)
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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



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Mikael Janvid
Stockholm University