On the epistemological potential of Worrall’s structural realism


  • Federica Malfatti Leopold-Franzens-Universität Innsbruck




understanding, science, structural realism, structure


There are two main things I want to do in this paper. The first is to defend the idea that understanding, and not knowledge, is to be recognized as the aim of science, and to show how this idea can be strengthened and sharpened in light of structural realism. The second is to investigate the connection between understanding and structures, in order to give some tentative insight concerning what is involved in an act of understanding and what is to be recognized as a plausible necessary condition for understanding. In the first section [I] I recall and emphasize the gap between knowledge and understanding, highlighting the differences concerning the epistemic object involved. In the second section [II] I present the main idea behind structural realism in philosophy of science and examine its direct consequences concerning epistemology. In the third section [III] I try to connect the results of these two lines of inquiries, in order to show how understanding, better than knowledge, can do justice to both the practice and the history of science – especially in light of structural realism. In the last section [IV] I sketch some concluding remarks concerning how, appealing to structures, it seems to be possible to explain the cognitive value of models in scientific inquiries.