Against understanding (as a condition on explanation)
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The idea that “explanation is that which produces understanding” is commonly accepted and often used to evaluate theories of explanation. But it cannot be used for this purpose. For the claim either means that knowing the answer to the question why X is sufficient for understand why X-in which case the claim is false; or it means that answering the question why X by performing the speech act of explaining invariably causes one’s audience to understand why X-in which case the claim is useless, for theories of explanation aim only to say what it takes to be an answer a why-question, not to say what it takes to provide an answer by performing the speech act of explaining. After defending these conclusions, this chapter examines a couple of philosophers’ attempts to use the alleged connection between explanation and understanding to argue against one or another theory of explanation.
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Linguistics and Philosophy
Making Sense of the World: New Essays on the Philosophy of Understanding
Oxford University Press
Skow, Bradford, "Against understanding (as a condition on explanation)." In Grimm, Stephen R., ed., Making Sense of the World: New Essays on the Philosophy of Understanding (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018): ch. 11 doi 10.1093/oso/9780190469863.003.0011 ©2018 Author(s)
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