Grasp and Scientific Understanding

Forthcoming in Philosophical Studies

Abstract: To understand why a phenomenon occurs, it is not enough to possess a correct explanation of the phenomenon: you must grasp the explanation. In this formulation, grasp is a placeholder, standing for the psychological or epistemic relation that connects a mind to the explanatory facts in such a way as to produce understanding. This paper proposes and defends an account of the grasping relation according to which grasp of a property (to take one example of the sort of entity that turns up in explanations) is a matter of recognitional ability: roughly, a property is grasped to the extent to which the would-be understander is capable of recognizing instances of the property.

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