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Understanding Physics: ‘What?’, ‘Why?’, and ‘How?’

Hubert, Mario (2021) Understanding Physics: ‘What?’, ‘Why?’, and ‘How?’. [Preprint]

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Abstract

I want to combine two hitherto largely independent research projects, scientific understanding and mechanistic explanations. Understanding is not only achieved by answering why-questions, that is, by providing scientific explanations, but also by answering what-questions, that is, by providing what I call scientific descriptions. Based on this distinction, I develop three forms of understanding: understanding-what, understanding-why, and understanding-how. I argue that understanding-how is a particularly deep form of understanding, because it is based on mechanistic explanations, which answer why something happens in virtue of what it is made of. I apply the three forms of understanding to two case studies: first, to the historical development of thermodynamics and, second, to the differences between the Clausius and the Boltzmann entropy in explaining thermodynamic processes.


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Item Type: Preprint
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Hubert, Mariomhubert@caltech.edu0000-0002-1170-6020
Keywords: understanding, what-questions, why-questions, explanation, mechanism, mechanistic explanation, realism, anti-realism, thermodynamics, statistical mechanics, relativity, Aristotle, four causes
Subjects: General Issues > Scientific Metaphysics
General Issues > Explanation
General Issues > History of Philosophy of Science
General Issues > Realism/Anti-realism
General Issues > Structure of Theories
General Issues > Values In Science
Depositing User: Dr. Mario Hubert
Date Deposited: 07 Jul 2021 14:05
Last Modified: 07 Jul 2021 14:05
Item ID: 19283
Subjects: General Issues > Scientific Metaphysics
General Issues > Explanation
General Issues > History of Philosophy of Science
General Issues > Realism/Anti-realism
General Issues > Structure of Theories
General Issues > Values In Science
Date: 6 July 2021
URI: https://philsci-archive-dev.library.pitt.edu/id/eprint/19283

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