Armond Duwell - Scientific Understanding: Possibilities for Purposes
Armond Duwell (University of Montana)

February 20, 2024, 12:00pm - 1:30pm

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University of Pittsburgh

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The Center for Philosophy of Science invites you to our Featured Former Fellow Lecture presented by:   

 Armond Duwell

February 20 @ 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm EST

Title: Scientific Understanding: Possibilities for Purposes

Abstract: In this talk I will discuss joint work with Soazig Le Bihan on a novel theory of scientific understanding.   Extant theories of scientific understanding fail to be suitably comprehensive. Either they fail to countenance relevant kinds of scientific understanding, e.g.~non-explanatory understanding or practical understanding, or they fail to accommodate relevant targets of understanding, e.g.~scientific theories or how to generate data about a phenomenon.  Our “possibilities for purpose” (P4P) view surmounts these problems by providing a unifying analysis of different kinds of understanding.  Our view is that scientific understanding is fundamentally pragmatic. Scientific practice consists in scientific activities that are pursued for various purposes.   The very same purpose can be achieved in a variety of ways.  Taking the actions required to achieve our purposes is constitutive of practical understanding.  Comparing the various possibly ways of achieving our purposes to themselves or other things can afford inferences about the target of understanding, which, when made, constitute understanding of the target.  The variety of possible means for achieving our purposes often support incompatible inferences about a target of understanding, hence our P4P view of understanding.

This talk will also be available live streamed on YouTube at

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