Theoretical Understanding in Science

British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 68 (2) (2017)
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In this article I develop a model of theoretical understanding in science. This is a philosophical theory that specifies the conditions that are both necessary and sufficient for a scientist to satisfy the construction ‘S understands theory T ’. I first consider how this construction is preferable to others, then build a model of the requisite conditions on the basis of examples from elementary physics. I then show how this model of theoretical understanding can be made philosophically robust and provide a more sophisticated account than we see from models of a similar kind developed by those working in the psychology of physics and artificial intelligence. 1 Introduction2 The Explicandum/Analysandum3 Analysis of ‘S understands T’ 4 The Inferential Model4.1 Which problems are we talking about?4.2 Does the solution have to be true?4.3 Does each cycle have to be correct for S to understand T?4.4 What is problem-solving reliability?4.5 Does every specific inference of a cycle have to be correct?4.6 Does each inference have to use a principle that is part of the theory?5 Theoretical Understanding and Conceptual Expertise: Empirical Considerations6 Conclusion: Inferential Model of Scientific Understanding and Our Traditional Problems.



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Mark Newman
Arkansas State University

Citations of this work

Recent Work in the Epistemology of Understanding.Michael Hannon - 2021 - American Philosophical Quarterly 58 (3):269-290.
Beyond Explanation: Understanding as Dependency Modeling.Finnur Dellsén - 2018 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science (4):1261-1286.
Explicating Objectual Understanding: Taking Degrees Seriously.Christoph Baumberger - 2019 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 1:1-22.

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References found in this work

Epistemology and Cognition.Alvin Ira Goldman - 1986 - Cambridge, MA, USA: Harvard University Press.
No Understanding Without Explanation.Michael Strevens - 2013 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 44 (3):510-515.

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