Author: Collin Rice
Source: Synthese, Volume: 198, Issue: 5, Pages: 4097-4121, DOI: 10.1007/s11229-019-02331-5
Publication Type: Journal Article
Abstract: Catherine Elgin has recently argued that a nonfactive conception of understanding is required to accommodate the epistemic successes of science that make essential use of idealizations and models. In this paper, I argue that the fact that our best scientific models and theories are pervasively inaccurate representations can be made compatible with a more nuanced form of scientific realism that I call Understanding Realism. According to this view, science aims at (and often achieves) factive scientific understanding of natural phenomena. I contend that this factive scientific understanding is provided by grasping a set of true modal information about the phenomenon of interest. Furthermore, contrary to Elgin's view, I argue that the facticity of this kind of scientific understanding can be separated from the inaccuracy of the models and theories used to produce it.