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DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-P069-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 2017
Retrieved July 25, 2024, from

Article Summary

Understanding has recently become a focus of epistemological interest. Some, including Kvanvig (2003) and Pritchard (2010) maintain that it is intrinsically or finally valuable – that is, valuable in and of itself. Whether or not that is so, it is certainly important enough to be taken seriously. Following Kvanvig (2013), one may distinguish between two sorts of understanding – propositional understanding and objectual understanding. Propositional understanding is the sort of understanding that is expressed in individual propositions such as ‘Paul understands that the election is on Tuesday’ or ‘Ann understands why the bus is late’. Objectual understanding is understanding of a topic, subject matter, or body of information: Joan understands thermodynamics or Joe understands the stock market. Objectual understanding is then expressly holistic in a way that propositional understanding is not. One might doubt that the two are distinct. Perhaps the body of information that someone who has objectual understanding understands is simply a long, conjunctive proposition. If so, objectual understanding reduces to propositional understanding. Alternatively, perhaps the understanding of an individual matter of fact only is understanding because it is backed by a complex justificatory network. Then the agent’s grasp of the entire network is implicated in her understanding that, or why p. Things are not so simple. The first step is to investigate the two sorts of understanding separately.

Citing this article:
Elgin, Catherine Z.. Understanding, 2017, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-P069-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
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