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TESTIFYING UNDERSTANDING

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 November 2015

Abstract

While it is widely acknowledged that knowledge can be acquired via testimony, it has been argued that understanding cannot. While there is no consensus about what the epistemic relationship of understanding consists in, I argue here that regardless of how understanding is conceived there are kinds of understanding that can be acquired through testimony: easy understanding (e.g. understanding simple and mundane information) and easysunderstanding (e.g. understanding information that might be complex, but is nevertheless easy for an expert S). I address a number of aspects of understanding that might stand in the way of being able to acquire understanding through testimony, focusing on understanding's paradigmatic form and what it means to say that in order to understand something you need to “grasp” some information or the relationship between bits of information. I argue that in cases of both easy and easys understanding, no aspect of understanding stands in the way of it being able to acquire it through testimony. As a result, while not all understanding can be acquired through testimony in all instances and for all subjects, this failure of acquisition is only a product of the complexity of the relevant information or one's unfamiliarity with it, and not a product of the epistemic relationship of understanding.

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Articles
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Episteme , Volume 14 , Issue 1 , March 2017 , pp. 103 - 127
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Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2015 

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