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Rational Understanding: Toward a Probabilistic Epistemology of Acceptability

Dellsén, Finnur (2019) Rational Understanding: Toward a Probabilistic Epistemology of Acceptability. [Preprint]

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Abstract

To understand something involves some sort of commitment to a set of propositions
comprising an account of the understood phenomenon. Some take this
commitment to be a species of belief; others, such as Elgin and I, take it to be
a kind of cognitive policy. This paper takes a step back from debates about
the nature of understanding and asks when this commitment involved in understanding
is epistemically appropriate, or ‘acceptable’ in Elgin’s terminology.
In particular, appealing to lessons from the lottery and preface paradoxes, it
is argued that this type of commitment is sometimes acceptable even when it
would be rational to assign arbitrarily low probabilities to the relevant propositions.
This strongly suggests that the relevant type of commitment is sometimes
acceptable in the absence of epistemic justification for belief, which in turn implies
that understanding does not require justification in the traditional sense.
The paper goes on to develop a new probabilistic model of acceptability, based
on the idea that the maximally informative accounts of the understood phenomenon
should be optimally probable. Interestingly, this probabilistic model
ends up being similar in important ways to Elgin’s proposal to analyze the
acceptability of such commitments in terms of ‘reflective equilibrium’.


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Item Type: Preprint
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Dellsén, Finnurfinnurd@gmail.com0000-0003-4989-4204
Additional Information: Forthcoming in Synthese.
Subjects: General Issues > Evidence
General Issues > Models and Idealization
General Issues > Realism/Anti-realism
Depositing User: Dr. Finnur Dellsén
Date Deposited: 06 Jul 2019 11:06
Last Modified: 06 Jul 2019 11:06
Item ID: 16183
DOI or Unique Handle: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11229-019-02224-7
Subjects: General Issues > Evidence
General Issues > Models and Idealization
General Issues > Realism/Anti-realism
Date: 2019
URI: https://philsci-archive-dev.library.pitt.edu/id/eprint/16183

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