Henk W. de Regt

Kinds and Degrees of Understanding
— The Interplay between Scientific Expertise and Everyday Understanding

Principal Investigator

Henk W. de Regt
Associate Professor of Philosophy
VU University Amsterdam


Understanding is highly valued in the sciences and in everyday life. This research project addresses the question: How to account for degrees of understanding? While it appears intuitively plausible that understanding comes in degrees, it is not clear how such differences in degree of understanding should be explicated. A related question is whether understanding can differ only in degree or also in kind. For example, do experts have a higher degree of understanding than laypeople, or is their understanding of a different kind? The project investigates degrees and kinds of understanding, focusing on the relations between scientific understanding and understanding in other domains. The central research questions will be applied to three concrete problem situations, exemplified by three concrete cases:

  1. Transdisciplinary problem contexts: scientific experts and the insanity defense.
  2. Historical development of science: from phlogiston to oxygen theory.
  3. Expertise and everyday understanding: the case of quantum physics.