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Title: Hope and understanding : aspects of a theory of rational inquiry
Author: Gibbions, Nigel
Awarding Body: University of Sheffield
Current Institution: University of Sheffield
Date of Award: 2001
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The thesis aims to establish two claims that have a role to play in any theory of rational inquiry : • The aim of rational inquiry is understanding; this is achieved to the extent that we end up with an adequate model of the object of our inquiry. • Rational inquiry presupposes fundamental hopes in the orderliness of the universe, and in our ability to discern that order, which it is legitimate for us to entertain. Chapter I sets the scene by describing how the two main themes of the thesis - hope and understanding - are treated in Plato's Meno dialogue , and in Peirce 's more diffuse writings on the nature of scientific inquiry . Chapter 2 is a detailed analysis of the nature of hope and its role in our inquiries. The chapter aims to answer two questions - what is hope; and when is hope legitimate - and to apply those answers to the specific hopes that underlie the possibility of rational inquiry. Chapters 3, 4 and 5 are concerned with understanding , the goa l of inquiry. Chapter 3 makes some important initial distinctions, and presents an analysis of dynamic understanding (which occurs at a particular moment in time). The chapter also introduces the concept of a model , and shows how it may be used to shed light on the nature of static understanding (which persists over a period of time). Chapter 4 presents an argument from analogy: understanding and spatial orientation have many features in common; the best way of accounting for this is to assume that understanding a domain involves having a map-like representation - a model, in other words - of it. Finally, chapter 5 argues that current work on the nature of scientific theories and scientific explanation provides further evidence for the claim that understanding a given domain is a matter of having a model of it.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available