Kareem Khalifa Abstracts

28 March 2018

Understanding, Explanation, and Scientific Knowledge

Kareem Khalifa, Middlebury College

Until the end of the twentieth century, philosophical discussions of understanding remained undeveloped, guided by a 'received view' that takes understanding to be nothing more than knowledge of an explanation. More recently, however, the received view has been criticized, and bold new philosophical proposals about understanding have emerged in its place. In my book, Understanding, Explanation, and Scientific Knowledge, I argue that the received view should be revised but not abandoned. In doing so, I clarify and answer the most central questions in this burgeoning field of philosophical research: what kinds of cognitive abilities are involved in understanding? What is the relationship between the understanding that explanations provide and the understanding that experts have of broader subject matters? Can there be understanding without explanation? How can one understand something on the basis of falsehoods? Is understanding a species of knowledge? What is the value of understanding? In this talk, I provide an overview of the book's main arguments.

29 March 2018

Idealizations and Understanding: Much Ado About Nothing?

Kareem Khalifa, Middlebury College

(co-authored with Emily Sullivan, Delft University of Technology)

Idealizations frequently advance scientific understanding. Because of this, many have argued that understanding is non-factive or that falsehoods play a distinct epistemic role. In this paper, we argue that these positions greatly overstate idealizations’ epistemic import. We bring work on epistemic value to bear on the debate surrounding idealizations and understanding, arguing that idealizations qua falsehoods only have non-epistemic value. We argue for this claim by criticizing the four leading approaches that give epistemic importance to idealizations. For each of these approaches, we show that: (a) idealizations’ false components only promote convenience instead of the epistemic good of understanding, and (b) only the true components of idealizations have epistemic value.