Why Understanding-why is Contrastive

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


    Contrastivism about interrogative understanding is the view that ‘S understands why p’ posits a three-place epistemic relation between a subject S, a fact p, and an alternative to p, q. This thesis stands in stark opposition to the natural idea that a subject S can be said to understand why p simpliciter. I argue that contrastivism offers the best explanation for the fact that evaluations of the form ‘S understands why p’ vary depending on the alternatives to p under consideration. I also show that contrastivism offers valuable resources with which to explain the gradability of interrogative understanding attributions, as well as the sensitivity of these attributions to the perceived degree of epistemic demandingness of different contexts.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)6061-6083
    Number of pages23
    Issue number3-4
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021


    • Understanding
    • Understanding-why
    • Contrastivism
    • Gradability
    • Context-sensitivity


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