Article

Understanding

Stephen Grimm and Michael Hannon

in Philosophy

ISBN: 9780195396577
Published online May 2010 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780195396577-0121
Understanding

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  • Philosophy
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  • History of Western Philosophy
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Understanding is a kind of cognitive accomplishment, and the objects of understanding—from people, to languages, to scientific theories, to logical proofs—are strikingly varied. As this variety suggests, debates about the nature and value of understanding occur across philosophy. In the philosophy of science, understanding is typically taken to be one of the main goods at which scientific inquiry aims; it is therefore intimately related to issues concerning scientific explanation and to debates about what it is that makes scientific inquiry distinctive. In epistemology, the interest lies in characterizing what kind of cognitive accomplishment understanding is, exactly, and how (if at all) it differs from other cognitive accomplishments such as knowledge and wisdom. In the philosophy of language, a central concern is characterizing what is involved in understanding (or grasping) linguistic items like words, sentences, or languages as a whole; similar questions about what is involved in our understanding or grasp of concepts are crucial to the philosophy of mind. Debates in additional areas will be discussed below, but one overarching question is whether the sort of understanding we have of scientific theories, languages, people, and the like are similar in name alone or whether they share certain essential traits. For example, one common thought is that across all of these areas understanding involves the discernment of structure of some kind. It is also commonly thought that to achieve understanding this structure must not be discerned in just any old way, but that it must be “seen” or “grasped.” Just how to understand the metaphors of “seeing” and “grasping” has been a central issue in work on understanding across disciplines.

Article.  7712 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art ; Epistemology ; Feminist Philosophy ; History of Western Philosophy ; Metaphysics ; Moral Philosophy ; Non-Western Philosophy ; Philosophy of Language ; Philosophy of Law ; Philosophy of Mathematics and Logic ; Philosophy of Mind ; Philosophy of Religion ; Philosophy of Science ; Social and Political Philosophy

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