Unification as a Measure of Natural Classification

Victor Gijsbers


Recent interest in the idea that there can be scientific understanding without explanation lends new relevance to Duhem's notion of natural classification. According to Duhem, a classification that is natural teaches us something about nature without being explanatory. However, Duhem's conception of naturalness leaves much to be desired. In this paper, I argue that we can measure the naturalness of classification by using an amended version of the notion of unification as defined by Schurz and Lambert. If this thesis is correct, it both leads to a better conceptual understanding of scientific understanding, and also gives the nascent literature on this topic some much-needed precision.


unification, understanding, explanation, natural classification, Pierre Duhem

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.1387/theoria.7235