New Seminar: Topics in Understanding

Convenor: Andrei Mărăşoiu (University of Virginia)

What is it to understand something? Is understanding something we come to possess and then hold on to, or is it episodic and can easily be lost? Is understanding a purely cognitive activity, or does it ineliminably depend on representational supports – theories, models, methodologies – in aid of conceptualizing the world around us? Is understanding unified, so that it may make sense to speak of, say, scientific and aesthetic understanding as sharing something substantive which makes each qualify as a species of understanding tout court? Is our understanding always accurate, or do we ever – perhaps even often – understand by means of false theories and inaccurate models? Is what we understand due to our cognitive skills and abilities, and to our intellectual virtues, or may it sometimes be due to the unforeseen intervention of cognitive biases? Finally, is there something special and irreducible about understanding language and how we use it, or is linguistic understanding in some important sense continuous with understanding aspects of the world depicted by our use of words?

These are only a handful of questions of the many raised in the recent literature. Organized around classical texts of the last 15-20 years, our bi-weekly summer meetings aim to briefly survey recent topics in the philosophy of understanding.

First meeting: 15 June 2017, 18.00.

More details here.