Where is the understanding?
Recent work in epistemology and philosophy of science has argued that understanding is an important cognitive state that philosophers should seek to analyse. This paper offers a new perspective on understanding by looking to work in philosophy of mind and cognitive science. Understanding is normally taken to be inside the head. I argue that this view is mistaken. Often, understanding is a state that criss-crosses brain, body and world. To support this claim, I draw on extended cognition, a burgeoning framework in cognitive science that stresses the crucial role played by tools, material representations and the wider environment in our cognitive processes. I defend an extended view of understanding against likely objections and argue that it has important consequences for questions concerning the nature of understanding and its relationship to explanation.
Published online 27 February 2015