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Leiden Theoretical Philosophy Colloquium with Henk de Regt, Understanding Scientific Understanding

16 October 2018
P.J. Veth Building
Nonnensteeg 1-3
2311 VJ Leiden

The Leiden Theoretical Philosophy Colloquium Series is pleased to announce a lecture by

Henk de Regt

Photo of H.W. de Regt

Understanding Scientific Understanding


It is widely acknowledged that a central aim of science is to achieve understanding of the world around us, and that possessing such understanding is highly important in our present-day society. But what precisely is scientific understanding, and when is it achieved? In my book Understanding Scientific Understanding (OUP, 2017) I present a philosophical theory of scientific understanding that answers these questions. In contrast to most existing studies in this area, my approach takes into account scientists’ views on understanding and their role in scientific debate and development. The result is a contextual theory that can describe and explain the historical variation of criteria for understanding actually employed by scientists. In my talk I will outline the contextual theory of scientific understanding and illustrate it with a historical case study of a well-known episode in the history of physics: the debates about the intelligibility of gravitation in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. These debates were concerned with the relation between science and metaphysics, and an analysis of them sheds new light on the question of limits of scientific understanding.


Henk de Regt is Professor of Philosophy of Science at the Department of Philosophy, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. His main research interest is scientific understanding and explanation. He has published on these topics in journals such as Philosophy of Science, Synthese, and Studies in History and Philosophy of Science. In 2017 his monograph Understanding Scientific Understanding was published by Oxford University Press.


Leiden Theoretical Philosophy Series

The aim of the series is to present lectures expressing non-standard views on philosophical questions relating to knowledge, truth, science, logic, metaphysics, and the mind, including their history.

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