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A Contextual Approach to Scientific Understanding

de Regt, Henk and Dieks, Dennis (2003) A Contextual Approach to Scientific Understanding. [Preprint]

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Achieving understanding of nature is one of the aims of science. In this paper we offer an analysis of the nature of scientific understanding that accords with actual scientific practice and accommodates the historical diversity of conceptions of understanding. Its core idea is a general criterion for the intelligibility of scientific theories that is essentially contextual: which theories conform to this criterion depends on contextual factors, and can change in the course of time. Our analysis provides a general account of how understanding is provided by scientific explanations of diverse types. In this way, it reconciles seemingly conflicting views of explanatory understanding, such as the causal-mechanical and the unificationist conceptions.

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Item Type: Preprint
de Regt, Henk
Dieks, Dennis
Keywords: Understanding, explanation, causation, causality, unification, realism
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Physics > Classical Physics
General Issues > Causation
Specific Sciences > Physics > Cosmology
General Issues > Explanation
General Issues > History of Science Case Studies
General Issues > Realism/Anti-realism
General Issues > Reductionism/Holism
Specific Sciences > Physics > Relativity Theory
Specific Sciences > Physics > Quantum Mechanics
Depositing User: Dennis Dieks
Date Deposited: 22 Aug 2003
Last Modified: 07 Oct 2010 15:12
Item ID: 1354

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