PSA2016: The 25th Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association

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Non-Factive Understanding: A Statement and Defense

Several authors have argued that falsehoods—paradigmatically in the form of idealizations—can provide understanding. Call them non-factivists about understanding. In discussions of non-factive understanding, the ideal gas law has occasioned a broad spectrum of positions about idealizations and understanding. In this paper, we use the ideal gas law—as well as its relation to other equations of state and to various statistical-mechanical models—to identify and rebut central challenges to non-factivism. We conclude by proposing a criterion by which to identify idealizations that provide understanding.

Author Information:

Yannick Doyle    
Philosophy
Middlebury College

Spencer Egan    
Physics
Middlebury College

Noah Graham    
Physics
Middlebury College

Kareem Khalifa    
Philosophy
Middlebury College

 

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