Scientific Understanding

Philosophical Perspectives

An excellent work, which clearly argues that science, a product of human activity, cannot exist apart and separately from the humans that perform science, but rather must function in the interstices between them to create a pluralism of understanding. Highly recommended.
Choice

To most scientists, and to those interested in the sciences, understanding is the ultimate aim of scientific endeavor. In spite of this, understanding, and how it is achieved, has received little attention in recent philosophy of science. Scientific Understanding seeks to reverse this trend by providing original and in-depth accounts of the concept of understanding and its essential role in the scientific process. To this end, the chapters in this volume explore and develop three key topics: understanding and explanation, understanding and models, and understanding in scientific practice.

Earlier philosophers, such as Carl Hempel, dismissed understanding as subjective and pragmatic. They believed that the essence of science was to be found in scientific theories and explanations. In Scientific Understanding, the contributors maintain that we must also consider the relation between explanations and the scientists who construct and use them. They focus on understanding as the cognitive state that is a goal of explanation and on the understanding of theories and models as a means to this end.

The chapters in this book highlight the multifaceted nature of the process of scientific research. The contributors examine current uses of theory, models, simulations, and experiments to evaluate the degree to which these elements contribute to understanding. Their analyses pay due attention to the roles of intelligibility, tacit knowledge, and feelings of understanding. Furthermore, they investigate how understanding is obtained within diverse scientific disciplines and examine how the acquisition of understanding depends on specific contexts, the objects of study, and the stated aims of research.

380 Pages, 6 x 9 in.

November, 2009

isbn : 9780822943785

about the editors

Henk W. de Regt

Henk de Regt is a philosophy lecturer at VU University Amsterdam. He has published on the history and philosophy of science, with a focus on scientific explanation and understanding. He is co-founder of the European Philosophy of Science Association and of the Society for Philosophy of Science in Practice.

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Henk W. de Regt
Sabina Leonelli

Sabina Leonelli is a research fellow of the ESRC Centre for Genomics in Society (Egenis) at the University of Exeter, UK. She investigates philosophical issues in relation to bioinformatics and model organism research in the biomedical sciences.

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Sabina Leonelli
Kai Eigner

Kai Eigner teaches philosophy of science at VU University Amsterdam. His research focuses on scientific understanding in the behavioral and cognitive sciences.

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Kai Eigner