Understanding (in) Newton’s Argument for Universal Gravitation.

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Ducheyne, Steffen
preprint description
In this essay, I attempt to assess Henk De Regt and Dennis Dieks recent pragmatic and contextual account of scientific understanding on the basis of an important historical case-study: understanding in Newton’s theory of universal gravitation and Huygens’ reception of universal gravitation. It will be shown that de Regt and Dieks’ CIT-criterion, which stipulates that the appropriate combination of scientists’ skills and intelligibility-enhancing theoretical virtues is a condition for scientific understanding, is too strong. On the basis of this case-study, it will be shown that scientists can understand each others’ positions qualitatively and quantitatively, despite their endorsement of different worldviews and despite their convictions as what counts as a proper explanation.