John Greco. Education and the Transmission of Understanding

Abstract: This paper sets out a problem for the traditional account of understanding as a systematic knowledge of causes. The problem is this: On the one hand, we have a strong intuition that understanding cannot be transmitted by mere testimony, even in an educational setting, where the testimony is in the context of teaching. On the other hand, it is widely assumed that knowledge can be transmitted by mere testimony. So how can this be, if understanding is just systematic knowledge? This paper tries to resolve the puzzle for the traditional account of understanding, and to some extent argues in favor of that account over some recent alternatives. The central claim is that, in principle, understanding can indeed be transmitted by teaching in an educational setting. However, good teaching strives to go beyond mere knowledge transmission, to include teaching students how to generate knowledge themselves.

Keywords: knowledge, understanding, generation, transmission, causes, epistemic.