Andrei Marasoiu defended his dissertation, titled “What is it to understand?”, in April 2019, and received a PhD in Philosophy from the University of Virginia. He has recently published several articles in academic journals, and, in August, will attend the Congress for Logic, Methodology, and Philosophy of Science and Technology held in Prague, where Andrei will give a talk titled “The truth in understanding”. While now returned to Bucharest, Romania (his hometown), Andrei keeps fond memories of the University, the academic village, and the vibrant JSF community.
What is it to understand?
We understand many things: positions on chessboards, how a theorem is proven, or what makes a painting appealing. But what is it to understand something, in general? We may identify two kinds of relevant features. Often we undergo conscious experiences of understanding that have a specific feel to them. “Aha”, we may say to ourselves, “now I’ve got it!” And, typically, when we understand something, we reap new knowledge about it, or come to be able to explain better what we knew beforehand. My dissertation addresses this question: How does conscious experience connect with reaching a better-grounded knowledge of what we understand? I answer that experiences of understanding help gain more or better knowledge because, in them, we attend to the right aspects of phenomena we inquire into.