Abstract

It is plausible to think that the epistemic benefit of having an explanation is understanding. My focus in this article is on the extent to which explanatory understanding, perhaps unlike knowledge, is compatible with certain forms of luck—the extent to which one can understand why something is the case when one is lucky to truly believe an explanatorily relevant proposition. I argue, contra Stephen Grimm ([2006]) and Duncan Pritchard ([2008], [2009]), that understanding quite generally is compatible with luckily believing a true, explanatorily relevant proposition. My strategy is to argue that various intuitions that seem to rule against lucky understanding can be explained away, and thus do not compel us to reject the thesis that, in general, understanding tolerates luck. In arriving at this conclusion, I address some salient issues regarding the testimony of others, and also draw out the consequences of my discussions for the status of understanding as a cognitive achievement.

  • 1Introduction

  • 2Lucky Understanding

  • 3Two Alleged Cases of Luck Undermining Understanding

  • 4Luck and the Transmission of Explanatory Understanding

  • 5Conclusion

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