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No Understanding without Explanation Michael Strevens Studies in History and Philosophy of Science fZh Scientic understanding this paper argues can be analyzed entirely in terms of a mental act of

To understand why a phenomenon occurs is to grasp a correct explanation of the phenomenon To understand a scienti57501c theory is to be able to construct or at least to grasp a range of potential explanations in which that theory accounts for other

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No Understanding without Explanation Michael Strevens Studies in History and Philosophy of Science fZh Scientic understanding this paper argues can be analyzed entirely in terms of a mental act of






Presentation on theme: "No Understanding without Explanation Michael Strevens Studies in History and Philosophy of Science fZh Scientic understanding this paper argues can be analyzed entirely in terms of a mental act of "— Presentation transcript:

doeshavetheimplicationpromisedinthetitle,thatexplanationisessentiallyinvolvedinscienticunderstanding,andthatthenormsofcorrectscienticexplanationlogicallyprecedeandparticipateindeterminingthenatureandnormsofunderstanding.Doesthesimpleviewneedadefense?Somethinglikeitcanbefoundinmanydišerentphilosophicalworksonunderstanding(deRegtandDieksóþþ¢;Grimmóþþä;KhalifaóþÕó),althoughsomeofthesewriterswouldliketocomplicatetherecipewithadditionalingredients(seesection¦).YetIdonotthinkthatthefundamentalpiecesoftheviewhavebeenlaidoutinsu›cientdetailÐbesideswhich,ifthetitleofthiscollection,ªUnderstandingwithoutExplanationºisanyguide,thesimpleviewishardlyoutofdanger.AlthoughIadvocatethesimpleview,Iwillarguethatitoughttoberegardedasonepartofabiggerpicture.ebiggerpicturewillbuildonthecentralideaofthesimpleview,thatscienticunderstandingisamatterofhavingtherightepistemicrelationtoanexplanationorexplanationsÐandsothatinscience,thereisnounderstandingwithoutexplanation.Õ.ExplanationGraspingacorrectexplanation.Whatisanexplanation,suchthatitcanbegrasped?Itcanbeassumed,Ithinkwithoutanylossofgenerality,thatanexplana-tionisasetofpropositionswithacertainstructure.Suchacharacterizationiswellsuited,ofcourse,tocaptureHempel'sdeductive-nomologicalandinductive-statisticalaccountsofexplanation(HempelandOppenheimÕɦ˜;HempelÕÉä¢),alongwithotheraccountsaccordingtowhichexplanationshavetheformofarguments,whethertheargumentsareexplanatoryendsinthemselvesorwhethertheyrepresentstructuralelementsofreality,suchastheinstantiationofunifyingpatterns(KitcherÕɘÕ)orcausalprocesses(Strevensóþþ˜).Butalmostanyviewofexplanationcanbeputintheseterms.OnSalmon's(ÕÉßþ)statisticalrelevanceview,forexample,anexplanationisatableofó fromªunderstandingthatº:youmightbeexquisitely,incandescentlyawareofthecat'sbeingonthematwithouthavingtheslightestcluehowitgotthere.íesimpleviewisananalysisofunderstandingwhy,aviewthatiscouchedintermsofgraspingpropositions,whichisamatterofunderstandingthat.Ihavenoaccountofunderstandingthat,buttovoidthechargeofcircularity,itisenoughtoobservethatitisentirelydistinctfromunderstandingwhy.–Letmetrytosayalittlemore,however,aboutthisunderstandingthat,thisgrasping.Isgraspingthatastateofašairsholdsthesamethingasknowingthatitholds?erearevariousdimensionsalongwhichthisquestionmightbeexplored.Youmight,forexample,askwhethertograspthatastateofašairsholdsyoumustbejustiedinbelievingthatitholds,andifso,whetherthisjusticationcanbeªGettier-izedº.Iwillnotattemptaninvestigationofsuchquestions;Žletmerathergiveonereasonthatgraspingmustbesomethingoverandaboveknowledge(therebydissentingfromtheviewofKhalifa(óþÕó),whootherwisepresentssomethingmuchlikethesimpleview).Someonewithrelativelylittleunderstandingofchemistrycan,Ithink,knowthatwaterismadeupofHóO,orthatmercuryisametal.Buttheydonottherebygraspthatthesestatesofašairsholdinthesenserequiredforunderstandingthechemicalpropertiesofwaterormercury.Inthesamewaythatunderstandingthatthecatisonthematrequiresanappreciationofthe ì.Bestnottotreatthewordªwhyºinªunderstandingwhyºasanimplicitrestriction:somekindsofunderstandingwhywouldbemoreidiomaticallyexpressedasunderstandinghow(Khalifainpress).Forexample,itisperhapsmorenaturaltospeakofunderstandinghowthedinosaurswentextinctthanunderstandingwhytheywentextinct,thoughthereisnointerestingdišerencebetweenthetwo:eitherway,whatisrequiredisacorrectexplanationoftheextinction.¦.CompareHempel's(ÕÉä¢,§¦.Õ)discussionofvarioussensesofthetermexplanation.Kvanvig(óþþì)makesabroadlysimilar,thoughnotidentical,distinctionbetweenªobjectualunderstandingºandªpropositionalunderstandingº.Hisªexplanatoryunderstandingº,aspeciesofobjectualunderstanding,ismoreorlessmyunderstandingwhy.¢.ForadiscussionofthegrowingliteratureonthistopicfromGrimm,Kvanvig,andothers,seeMorris(inpress).¦ nameforthisdirectapprehension.ØWhatisgrasping,orunderstandingthat,ordirectapprehension,then?Itisthefundamentalrelationbetweenmindandworld,invirtueofwhichthemindhaswhateverfamiliarityitdoeswiththewaytheworldis.equestionofthenatureofthisrelationisperhapsthedeepestinallphilosophy;Iwillnottrytomakeanyprogressonitinthispaper.atmeans,ofcourse,thatthispaperwillnotpretendtogiveacompleteaccountofunderstandingwhy;itsaimisrathertoshowhowsuchanaccountshoulddependonindependentaccountsofgraspingandofexplanation(thelatterofwhichwearemuchclosertohaving,Ithink,thantheformer).Letmegiveanswerstotwoshortquestionsaboutgrasping,however.First:isgraspingfactive?Mustthecatbeonthemat,ifyouaretograspthatthecatisonthemat?Factivityseemstobeimpliedbytheªgraspingthatºlocution;nevertheless,afriendofthesimpleviewmight,Isuppose,ndthisimplicationunwelcome.Letmethereforebriežydevelopanon-factivenotiontoparallelªgraspingthatº.Supposethatgraspinghastwocomponents:apurelypsychological(orªnarrowº)component,andtheobtainingofthegraspedstateofašairs.Whatiswantedisthepurelypsychologicalstate,thestatethatwouldpersistinyourmindifanevildemon,atthemomentofyourgraspingthatthecatisonthemat,destroyedthecatwhilemaintaininginyourmindtheappearanceofanenmattedcat.Callthisstategrasping*.enthesimpleviewmightbereformulatedasfollows:Anindividualhasscienticunderstandingofaphenomenonjustincasetheygrasp*acorrectscienticexplanationofthatphenomenon.Inmyview,anexplanationiscorrectonlyifitsconstitutivepropositionsaretrue,sothisreformulationisadišerencethatmakesnodišerence,butthenotionofgrasping*willndaphilosophicaluseinwhatfollows. ä.WhatIhavesaidintheseparagraphsiscompatible,note,withtheviewthatunderstand-ingthatisaspecialkindofknowledge(Grimmóþþä),hencethatknowledgeisnecessarybutnotsu›cientforunderstandingthat.ä necessaryconditionforscienticunderstanding.Andyet...considerthreereasonsforthinkingthatamorenuancedatti-tudetoexplanatorycorrectnessisrequired.First,manyexplanatorymodelsinsciencecontainidealizations;inter-pretedliterally,thesemodelsarefalse.Scientistsgainunderstanding,never-theless,bygraspingidealizedmodels.Areasontoabandonthesimpleview'srequirementofexplanatorycorrectness(Elginóþþß)?No;atmostareasontousethetermcorrectratherthan,say,trueÐasthesimpleviewalreadydoes.Why?eapparentfalsehoodofsomemodelsdoesnotstandinthewayofexplanation,butthatofothersÐastheyoungearthcreationistcaseshowsÐmostcertainlydoes.eformerclassofmodelsareªcorrectºinasensethatthelatterclassarenot.eircorrectnesscannot,ofcourse,consistintheirliteraltruth.Butifidealizingexplanationisgovernedbyanystandardatall,thereisatranslationmanualthat,foranyidealizedmodelandcontextof(re)production,picksoutasetofpropositionsthatstatethefactsabouttheworldthatmustobtainifthemodelistobeexplanatory,andinvirtueofwhichthemodelisexplanatory,iftheydoobtain.Calltheseputativefactstheexplanatorycontentofthemodel.Inthesimplestkindofidealizedmodel,ªAllFsareGºmighttranslateto,thushavetheexplanatorycontent,ªAlmostallFsareGº.OritmighthavetheexplanatorycontentªInconditionsC,allFsareGº,wheretheconditionsCaredeterminedbythecontextofproductionÐtheintentionsoftheexplainer,forexample.Myownviewofthenatureofthetranslationmanualismorecomplex(Strevensóþþ˜,chap.˜).IholdthatidealizationsthatappeartomakesomefalseassumptionabouttheworldÐforexample,theassumptionthattherearenolong-rangeintermolecularforces(intheidealgasmodel),thatbiologicalpopulationsareinnite(insomeevolutionarymodels),thathumanshaveperfectinstrumentalrationality(ineconomicmodels)Ðinfactmaketrueclaimsaboutdišerence-making.˜ SofarIhaveputthebroadandnarrowsensesofunderstandingwhyonapar.Letmenowdiscriminate:Ithinkthatoureverydayattributionsofunderstandingarealmostalwaysbroad.Forexample,Icannotthinkofanyconversationalcontextinwhichitiscorrecttosay,withoutfrantichedging,thattheyoungearthcreationistsunderstandtheformationoftheGrandCanyon,orthatthephlogistontheoristsunderstoodcombustion.(Perhapsyoucansaythatthephlogistontheoristshadawayofunderstandingcom-bustion,butthatitwasanincorrectway,andsotheydidnotachievetheunderstandingthattheysought.)Further,Idonotthinkthathavingnarrowunderstandingisthatmuchcloserthanhavingbroadunderstandingtothepurelyphenomenalªsenseofunderstandingº.Eveniftheyoungearthcreationists'explanationweretoviolatetheinternalstandardsforexplanatoriness,theymightexperienceasenseofunderstanding,apsychologicalorbrainstateÐtheringofU-bers?Ðwhichpresumablycaninpathologicalcasesbecomeuncoupledfromanyexplanatorynorm(Troutóþþß).ethirdreasontothinkthatthecorrectnessofanexplanationis(atleastsometimes)toohighastandardforunderstandingarisesinsomecaseswhenitisatheory,ratherthanaphenomenonorstateofašairs,thatisthesubjectoftheunderstandingclaim:sometimeswetalkaboutunderstandingfalsetheories.HighschoolgraduatesareexpectedtounderstandNewtonianphysics;historiansofchemistryaresupposedtounderstandphlogistontheory;andmanycosmologistsfeelthattheyunderstandtheinžationmodeloftheearlyuniverseinasensethatisindependentofwhetheritultimatelyturnsouttobecorrect.isrepresents,Isuggest,athirdsenseofªunderstandingºthatmightbecalledunderstandingwith;theobjectofthisunderstandingis,asIhavesaid,atheoryratherthanaphenomenonorstateofašairs.Likeunderstandingwhy,andunlikeunderstandingthat,understandingwithinvolvesmasteringascienticexplanation:tounderstandatheoryinthisnewsenseistobeÕÕ intheªwhyºsenseistograspacorrectexplanationofthatthing.Itfollowsthatwhateverhasnoexplanation,cannotbeunderstood.Counterexample:Asfarasweknow,generalrelativityisafundamentaltheory(putasideitsdi›cultrelationshipwithquantummechanics).Assuch,ithasnoscienticexplanation;wecanuserelativitytoexplainmanythings,butwecannotexplainrelativityitselfusingfurtherlawsofnature,orelsethoselaws,notrelativity,wouldbewhatisfundamental.‡esimpleviewimplies,then,thatgeneralrelativitycannotbeunderstoodÐaconclusionatoddswithourattributionsofunderstandingtocompetentphysicists.eresponsetotheobjectionis,ofcourse,todistinguishunderstandingwithandunderstandingwhy.Physicistsunderstandwithrelativity,andthatiswhatwemeanwhenwesaythattheyunderstandgeneralrelativity.ButtheydonotunderstandwhythetheoryofrelativityistrueÐwhy,forexample,massinteractswithspace-timeinthewaythatthetheorystipulates.Nooneunderstandsthat;perhapsnooneeverwill.¦.BriefObjectionsandRepliesObjection:Understandingisapreconditionfor,notaproductof,correctexpla-nation.Reply:Trueinmanyways.ªUnderstandingthatºandªunderstandingwithºarepreconditionsforeveryexplanation.Butunderstandingwhyaphenomenonobtainsisnotapreconditionforconstructinganexplanationofthatphe-nomenon;thetwoarriveastwins,likeproofandknowledgeinmathematics.Objection:ªUnderstandingwhyºcomesindegrees;correctlyexplainingisanallornothingmatter.Reply:First,distinctionscanbemadebetweencorrectexplanationsofthe ˜.HereIassumethatalawcanbeexplainedonlyintermsofmorefundamentallaws.isisasubstantivepremise,butIknownoaccountofexplanationthatrejectsit.Õì Objection:Understandingisactive;itinvolvesnotonlythecomprehensionofatheorybuttheabilitytoputthetheorytouse(Grimmóþþä;deRegtóþþÉ).Sounderstandingcannotbeamatterofmerelygraspingpropositions.Reply:Someunderstandingisarguablyactive,namely,understandingwith,ifitisinterpretedasinvolvinganabilitytoconstructexplanations.Insofarasunderstandingisamatterofªmerelyºgraspingpropositions,however,itisunderstandingwhy.usitispossibletohaveitbothways:acertainkindofunderstandingismatterofgraspingpropositions,andacertainkindofunderstandingisamatterofhavingaparticularability,buttheyarenotthesamekind.Whynotaddanactivecomponenttounderstandingwhy?Whynotinsist,forexample,thattounderstandaphenomenon,youmustnotonlygraspacorrectexplanationofthephenomenon,butbecapableofconstructingthatexplanationfromitsparts(deRegtandDieksóþþ¢;deRegtóþþÉ)?Sucharequirementisfartoostrongtocaptureordinaryunderstandingtalk,Ithink:wemayunderstandtidalphenomena,say,withouthavingtheabilityÐforlackofphysicalimagination,mathematicalcreativity,orwhateverÐtoputtogetheranexplanationofthetidesfromgravitationalphysics.Tohavesuchanabilityisnodoubtstrongevidenceforunderstanding,butitisnotapreconditionforunderstanding.Perhapssomethingweakercouldbeaddedinstead;say,thattounderstandaphenomenonistohavetheabilitytoseehowitsoccurrencetsacorrectexplanatorymodel?atabilityisalreadyrequiredbythesimpleview:tograspwhatIcalledinthepreviousreplyanexplanation'sstateofinterrelationistoseehowtheexplanandumfollowsfromthemodel.Objection:Lipton(óþþÉ)givesgoodreasonstothinkthatunderstandingcancomebygraspingfactsthatarenotexplanatory.Reply:IconsidertwoofLipton'sexampleshere;su›ceittosaythattheydonotexhaustthecontentofthissubtlepaper(anotheraspectofwhichIÕ¢ Casetwo.Inamatchbetweentwoboxers,MalloyandWilson,itisagreedthatMalloywilltakeafallinthetenthround,althoughheisthefarsuperiorboxer.Asithappens,WilsonfellsMalloyintheŸhroundwithaªluckyuppercutº.LiptonarguesthatsomeonewhoknowsonlythattheghtisxedinWilson'sfavorcanunderstandwhyWilsonwins,eventhoughtheexplanationofthewindependsentirelyonthefortuitouspunch,astateofašairsindependentofthematch-xing.Itseemstomequitetendentious,however,thatthereisgenuineunder-standinginthiscase.Lipton'sspectatormaythinkthattheyunderstandwhyWilsonwon,buttheydonot,becausetheygraspthewrongexplanationforthematch'sresult.(Ishouldalsoaddthatanumberofwritershavearguedthatªbackupcausesºsuchasthematch-xingarrangementdofeatureincorrectscienticexplanationsÐseeforexampleRailton(ÕɘÕ)ontheimportanceoftherobustnessofcausalprocessesinstatisticalmechanics,JacksonandPettit(ÕÉÉó)andWoodward(óþþì)ÐalthoughIdonotmyselfthinkthatthisisquitecorrect.)Objection:WhatabouttheVerstehentraditioninthesocialsciences?Reply:esubjectofthispaperisakindofunderstandingthatisfoundacrossthesciences,inphysicsandbiologyaswellasinanthropologyandsociology.equestionwhetherthereisaspecialkindofunderstandingpropertothelatterdisciplineswouldrequireanintensiveexaminationofthedišerencesbetweenthenaturalandhumansciences,somethingthatiswellbeyondthescopeofthispaper.¢.Conclusionerearethreesensesinwhichitcanbesaidthatyouun-derstandastateofašairs:youmightunderstandthatitobtains,youmightunderstandwhyitobtains,andifitisatheoryoratheorypart,youmightunderstandhowtouseittoexplainotherstatesofašairs.eseareunder- fascinatingquestionthatcannotpossiblybeadequatelytreatedhere.Õß 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