Dimensions of Objectual Understanding

Baumberger, Christoph; Brun, Georg (2016). Dimensions of Objectual Understanding. In: Grimm, Stephen R.; Baumberger, Christoph; Ammon, Sabine (eds.) Explaining Understanding. New Perspectives from Epistemology and Philosophy of Science (pp. 165-189). New York: Routledge

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In science and philosophy, a relatively demanding notion of understanding is of central interest: an epistemic subject understands a subject matter by means of a theory. This notion can be explicated in a way which resembles JTB analyses of knowledge. The explication requires that the theory answers to the facts, that the subject grasps the theory, that she is committed to the theory and that the theory is justified for her. In this paper, we focus on the justification condition and argue that it can be analyzed with reference to the idea of a reflective equilibrium. This approach acknowledges that the epistemic evaluation of theories is related to a plurality of epistemic goals which can be subject to trade-offs. Three conditions are suggested: the subject’s commitments, the theory, and the relevant background assumptions must agree with one another; the theory must do justice to epistemic goals, which ensures its credibility and systematicity; and the resulting position must respect the subject’s antecedent commitments about the subject matter at hand, which ensures that the theory is in fact a theory about this subject matter. In the context of objectual understanding, justification requires that the epistemic subject can make it sufficiently plausible that her position is in fact in reflective equilibrium.

Item Type:

Book Section (Book Chapter)


06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of Art and Cultural Studies > Institute of Philosophy
06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of Art and Cultural Studies > Institute of Philosophy > Theoretical Philosophy

UniBE Contributor:

Brun, Georg


100 Philosophy
100 Philosophy > 120 Epistemology






[4] Swiss National Science Foundation




Georg Brun

Date Deposited:

05 Jan 2017 15:42

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 15:01

Uncontrolled Keywords:

understanding; justification; reflective equilibrium



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