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Understanding Scientific Understanding$
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Henk W. de Regt

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780190652913

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2017

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190652913.001.0001

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The Many Faces of Understanding

8 Conclusion
Understanding Scientific Understanding

Henk W. de Regt

Oxford University Press

The contextual theory of scientific understanding developed and defended in this book serves as a basis for specific philosophical theories of explanation that start from the assumption that explanations should give us understanding, and as a general description and explanation of the historical variation of criteria for understanding employed by scientists in actual practice. This concluding chapter reflects on the results of the investigation by addressing three questions. First, what is the scope of the contextual theory of scientific understanding? Is it restricted to the natural sciences, or does it apply more broadly? In this context, the theory’s relation to the debate about explanation versus understanding in the humanities is discussed briefly. Second, does the theory imply a relativist philosophy of science? Third, can it serve as a basis for normative appraisal of scientific achievements?

Keywords:   normativity, relativism, Verstehen, human sciences, Michael Friedman, context of discovery, context of justification, constitutive a priori

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