Author's Final Manuscript
Catherine Elgin has recently argued that a nonfactive conception of understanding is required to accommodate the epistemic successes of science that make essential use of idealizations and models. In this paper, I argue that the fact that our best scientific models and theories are pervasively inaccurate representations can be made compatible with a more nuanced form of scientific realism that I call Understanding Realism. According to this view, science aims at (and often achieves) factive scientific understanding of natural phenomena. I contend that this factive scientific understanding is provided by grasping a set of true modal information about the phenomenon of interest. Furthermore, contrary to Elgin’s view, I argue that the facticity of this kind of scientific understanding can be separated from the inaccuracy of the models and theories used to produce it.
Rice, C. 2021. "Understanding realism." Synthese 198: 4097–4121.
Available for download on Sunday, May 01, 2022