Objectual understanding, factivity and belief

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Carter, J. Adam ; Gordon, Emma C. (2016)

Should we regard Jennifer Lackey’s (2007) ‘Creationist Teacher’ as understanding evolution, even though she does not, given her religious convictions, believe its central claims? We think this question raises a range of important and unexplored questions about the relationship between understanding, factivity and belief. Our aim will be to diagnose this case in a principled way, and in doing so, to make some progress toward appreciating what objectual understanding—i.e., understanding a subject matter or body of information—demands of us. Here is the plan. After some ground clearing in §1, §2 outlines and motivates a plausible working model—moderate factivity—for characterising the sense in which objectual understanding should be regarded as factive. §3 shows how the datum that we can understand false theories can, despite initial suggestions to the contrary, be assimilated straightforwardly within the moderate factivity model. §4 highlights how the inverse kind of case to that explored in §3—viz., a variant of Lackey’s creationist teacher case—poses special problems for moderate factivity. With reference to recent work on moral understanding by Hills (2009), §5 proposes a solution to the problem, and §6 attempts to diagnose why it is that we might originally have been led to draw the wrong conclusion.
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