A Theory of Understanding

This book explains the way in which I think we understand the world. It is based on my PhD dissertation, and is mainly aimed at academic philosophers. However, a number of intelligent lay people have assured me that they could follow it.

My basic idea is that understanding is the ability to simulate part of the world; to predict how it will behave under a wide range of conditions. The wider the range of conditions and the more accurate the simulation, the better the understanding. An explanation, then, is something that offers to improve understanding. I think this theory neatly explains a lot of the features of explanations, including the fact that attempts to provide a unified theory based on features of explanations themselves have all failed dismally.

I also think that the theory has potentially important consequences for understanding reference, the problem of how our thoughts can be about things in the world. However, I’ve not had the opportunity to put in the time needed to work those thoughts out in detail. I just have a short sketch sitting on my hard drive.