Ph.D. Lilian O'Brien: Struggle and Success in Understanding Others

Alkaa kello
Päättyy kello

Pinni B4141, Kanslerinrinne 1


Faculty of Social Sciences/Philosophy

Ph.D. Lilian O'Brien (University of Helsinki/Discipline of Practical Philosophy):

Struggle and Success in Understanding Others

If you have ever attempted to assimilate to a foreign culture, you will know the challenges and discomfort of not understanding why those around you do what they do. This kind of understanding is a key ingredient in being at ease in the social world. It also plays a starring role in successfully holding people responsible for their actions, in the acquisition of knowledge-how, and in something that is particularly pressing at the moment, the healing of social and political division.

Important as this kind of understanding is, it is not well understood by philosophers, historians, or scientists. Decades of debate about how it is acquired, about its social function and epistemic value, have yielded ongoing and lively disagreements. In my talk I will discuss the long-held idea that a distinguishing feature of this kind of understanding is that through it, one comes to see an action as rationally intelligible. I will argue against what I will call Conservative accounts of rational intelligibility, and for a novel account that I call the Liberal account. According to this account, phenomenal states, knowledge-how, and the ability to accept a task as authoritative for one, all play roles in arriving at such understanding.




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