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Understanding Scientific Understanding$
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Henk W. de Regt

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780190652913

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2017

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190652913.001.0001

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A Contextual Theory of Scientific Understanding

A Contextual Theory of Scientific Understanding

Chapter:
(p.87) 4 A Contextual Theory of Scientific Understanding
Source:
Understanding Scientific Understanding
Author(s):

Henk W. de Regt

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780190652913.003.0004

This chapter presents a full-fledged pluralistic, contextual theory of scientific understanding that is built on the analysis of intelligibility offered in chapter 2. The basic idea of this contextual theory of understanding is captured by the Criterion for the Understanding of Phenomena, which is articulated in section 4.1. Subsequently, in sections 4.2 and 4.3, the theory is further developed in terms of criteria for intelligibility and an analysis of the role of conceptual tools, and is supported by examples from scientific practice. Section 4.4 elaborates on various aspects of the contextuality of scientific understanding: its historical dynamics, the role of intuitions, and the relation of the theory to existing pragmatic theories of explanation. The theory’s implications for the issues of reductionism and scientific realism are discussed in section 4.5, and the final section defends the contextual theory against the charge that it implies relativism.

Keywords:   contextual theory of understanding, criteria for intelligibility, conceptual tools, pragmatic, intuitions, reductionism, realism, relativism

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