Next Workshop: Explanation and Understanding


Date: 23-25 May 2018

Organization: the Centre for Logic and Philosophy of Science (Ghent University) and the Research Group Philosophy of Science and Technology (VU University Amsterdam).

Workshop chairs: Henk de Regt (Amsterdam), Dingmar van Eck (Ghent) & Erik Weber (Ghent).

Local organising team: Roxan Degeyter, Stef Frijters, Julie Mennes, Dingmar van Eck, Erik Weber & Dietlinde Wouters.


Science aims, inter alia, for explanation and one of the aims of explanation is to provide understanding. But how to account for this link between explanation and understanding? Most earlier accounts of explanation either took understanding to be of little philosophical interest – just a psychological phenomenon without epistemic import – or considered the notion redundant – everything philosophically interesting could be captured with explanatory concepts, making ideas on understanding superfluous. Either way, for a long time the philosophy of science by and large ignored understanding, focusing on explanation instead. Things are very different now: the last two decades have seen a flourishing philosophical literature on the relation between explanation and understanding. And perspectives diverge greatly: while some argue that current ideas about understanding offer nothing distinctively new and relevant over and above explanatory concepts, others stress the distinctive role of understanding vis-à-vis explanation, and yet others make the case that one can have understanding without explanation.

Most of this recent literature appears to focus on full-fledged theories and explanations, neglecting other aspects of the explanatory enterprise. For instance, how does the idea of understanding play out in the context of explorative phases preceding scientific discovery, or in (the early phases of) discovery? What is the (epistemic) role of understanding in the usage of how-possibly models or hypothetical models to explain aspects of real systems? How does understanding relate to abstraction and idealization practices?

For this workshop we invite submissions that address questions regarding the relation between explanation and understanding. Topics include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Relations between types of understanding and specific accounts of explanation
  • Comparisons between accounts of scientific understanding
  • The role of understanding in scientific exploration and discovery
  • The role of understanding in modeling practices
  • Discipline-related differences in scientific explanation and understanding
  • The possibility of understanding without explanation.
  • Explanations in practical contexts (e.g. diagnosis, failure analysis, redesign, …)

Keynote speakers

Matteo Colombo (Tilburg)

Caterina Marchionni (Helsinki)

Alexander Reutlinger  (München)

Abstract submission

We welcome submissions on any topic that fits into the scope as described above. Send your abstract of 300 to 500 words to:  before 15 March 2018. Notification of acceptance: 31 March 2018.


Royal Academy of Dutch Language and Literature (KANTL), Koningstraat 18, Ghent, Belgium.


Registration will be possible from 1 April 2018. The registration fee will be 50€. Coffee, lunches and the workshop dinner are included in this fee.