•  210
    Understanding as representation manipulability
    Synthese 190 (6): 997-1016. 2013.
    Claims pertaining to understanding are made in a variety of contexts and ways. As a result, few in the philosophical literature have made an attempt to precisely characterize the state that is y understanding x. This paper builds an account that does just that. The account is motivated by two main observations. First, understanding x is somehow related to being able to manipulate x. Second, understanding is a mental phenomenon, and so what manipulations are required to be an understander must on…Read more
  •  139
    Depth and deference: When and why we attribute understanding
    with Dillon Plunkett and Tania Lombrozo
    Philosophical Studies 173 (2): 373-393. 2016.
    Four experiments investigate the folk concept of “understanding,” in particular when and why it is deployed differently from the concept of knowledge. We argue for the positions that people have higher demands with respect to explanatory depth when it comes to attributing understanding, and that this is true, in part, because understanding attributions play a functional role in identifying experts who should be heeded with respect to the general field in question. These claims are supported by o…Read more
  •  115
    MUDdy understanding
    Synthese 194 (4). 2017.
    This paper focuses on two questions: Is understanding intimately bound up with accurately representing the world? Is understanding intimately bound up with downstream abilities? We will argue that the answer to both these questions is “yes”, and for the same reason-both accuracy and ability are important elements of orthogonal evaluative criteria along which understanding can be assessed. More precisely, we will argue that representational-accuracy and intelligibility are good-making features of…Read more
  •  81
    In this paper, I argue that explanations just ARE those sorts of things that, under the right circumstances and in the right sort of way, bring about understanding. This raises the question of why such a seemingly simple account of explanation, if correct, would not have been identified and agreed upon decades ago. The answer is that only recently has it been made possible to analyze explanation in terms of understanding without the risk of collapsing both to merely phenomenological states. For …Read more
  •  70
    Understanding beyond grasping propositions: A discussion of chess and fish
    with Jennifer K. Hellmann
    Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 48 46-51. 2014.
    In this paper, we argue that, contra Strevens (2013), understanding in the sciences is sometimes partially constituted by the possession of abilities; hence, it is not (in such cases) exhausted by the understander’s bearing a particular psychological or epistemic relationship to some set of structured propositions. Specifically, the case will be made that one does not really understand why a modeled phenomenon occurred unless one has the ability to actually work through (meaning run and grasp at…Read more
  •  64
    Understanding as compression
    Philosophical Studies 176 (10): 2807-2831. 2019.
    What is understanding? My goal in this paper is to lay out a new approach to this question and clarify how that approach deals with certain issues. The claim is that understanding is a matter of compressing information about the understood so that it can be mentally useful. On this account, understanding amounts to having a representational kernel and the ability to use it to generate the information one needs regarding the target phenomenon. I argue that this ambitious new account can accommoda…Read more
  •  63
    In this chapter we explain what experimental philosophy of science is, how it relates to the philosophy of science, and STS more broadly, and what sorts of contributions is can make to ongoing research in the philosophy of science.
  •  54
    Modeling Authenticity
    Res Philosophica 93 (1): 245-268. 2016.
    In this paper, we explore the link between understanding and transformative decisions. Paul suggests that one important aspect of making some decisions is that we make them not just on the basis of what data from other people tell us, but based on our own acquaintance with how the decision affects us. In this paper, we draw out a parallel between the sort of reasoning that Paul argues is required for authentic decision making and the sort of epistemic grasp of a subject matter that is required f…Read more
  •  34
    Our goal in this paper is to experimentally investigate whether folk conceptions of explanation are psychologistic. In particular, are people more likely to classify speech acts as explanations when they cause understanding in their recipient? The empirical evidence that we present suggests this is so. Using the side-effect effect as a marker of mental state ascriptions, we argue that lay judgments of explanatory status are mediated by judgments of a speaker’s and/or audience’s mental states. Fi…Read more
  •  34
    In pedagogical contexts and in everyday life, we often come to believe something because it would best explain the data. What is it about the explanatory endeavor that makes it essential to everyday learning and to scientific progress? There are at least two plausible answers. On one view, there is something special about having true explanations. This view is highly intuitive: it’s clear why true explanations might improve one’s epistemic position. However, there is another possibility—it could…Read more
  •  32
    Transformative Understanding Acquisition
    Res Philosophica 94 (1): 67-93. 2017.
    Some experiences change who we are in ways we cannot understand until we have that very experience. In this paper I argue that so-called “transformative experiences” can not only bring about new understanding, but can actually be brought out by the gain of understanding itself. Coming to understand something new can change you. I argue that not only is understanding acquisition potentially a kind of transformative experience; given some of the recent philosophy of the phenomenology of understand…Read more
  •  31
    Moral understanding and moral illusions
    Thought: A Journal of Philosophy 9 (1): 25-33. 2020.
    Thought: A Journal of Philosophy, EarlyView.
  •  25
    Objectually Understanding Informed Consent
    Analytic Philosophy 62 (1): 33-56. 2021.
    Analytic Philosophy, Volume 62, Issue 1, Page 33-56, March 2021.
  •  16
    Understanding for Hire
    Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 50 (3): 389-405. 2019.
    In this paper, we will explore one way in which understanding can—and, we will argue, should—be valuable. We will do this by drawing on what has been said about the different ways knowledge can be valuable. Our main contribution will be to identify one heretofore undiscussed way knowledge could be valuable, but isn’t—specifically, having value to someone other than the understander. We suggest that it is a desideratum on an account of understanding that understanding have the specified type of v…Read more
  •  10
    Living with Autism: Quus-ing in a Plus-ers World
    Res Philosophica 97 (1): 53-68. 2020.
    In this paper, I explore the possibility that the point Kripke made about understanding meaning also applies to understanding social interaction. This understanding involves extending what one has learned from a finite number of past observations to provide normative guidance for an indefinitely complicated future. Kripke argues that what one should do in the future is inevitably underdetermined by the infinite possible interpretations of the past. Moreover, no matter how much one attempts to ma…Read more
  • This volume gathers together leading philosophers of science and cognitive scientists from around the world to provide one of the first book-length studies of this important and emerging field. Specific topics considered include learning and the nature of scientific knowledge, the cognitive consequences of exposure to explanations, climate change, and mechanistic reasoning and abstraction. Chapters explore how experimental methods can be applied to questions about the nature of science and show …Read more