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Understanding, Truth, and Epistemic Goals

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 January 2022

Abstract

Several argue that truth cannot be science’s sole epistemic goal, for it would fail to do justice to several scientific practices that advance understanding. I challenge these arguments but only after making a small concession: science’s sole epistemic goal is not truth as such; rather, its goal is finding true answers to relevant questions. Using examples from the natural and social sciences, I then show that scientific understanding’s epistemically valuable features are either true answers to relevant questions or a means thereof.

Type
Understanding and Imagination
Copyright
Copyright © The Philosophy of Science Association

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Footnotes

I would like to thank audiences at the 2018 meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association and 2019 Scientific Understanding and Representation workshop. Angela Potochnik and Mark Risjord deserve special thanks for feedback on earlier drafts; Kate Elgin and Jared Millson, for several helpful conversations.

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