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Event: Conference: Explanation and Understanding in Philosophy and Science

Event date December 05, 2023 - December 07, 2023
Submission deadline October 15, 2023
Location University of Belgrade and Serbian Academy of Sciences, Serbia
Host(s) Department of Philosophy
Event website/information For more info, send an email to

Call for abstracts:


(Conference series Philosophy and Science)

5-7 December 2023, Belgrade

Department of Philosophy, University of Belgrade and Serbian Academy of Sciences


Keynote speakers: 

Prof. Theodore Arabatzis, Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Athens

Prof. Zdenka Brzović, Department of Philosophy, University of Rijeka


Paper submissions: Please send abstracts between 400 and 500 words to the email address by 15 October 2023.

Description of the conference topic: The difference between explanation and understanding, which dates back to the 19th century, is still at the center of consideration of the philosophical aspects of scientific knowledge. It is based on the assumption according to which the natural and social-humanistic sciences use two essentially different methodological approaches, as well as a viewpoint that natural and social phenomena are governed by different types of regularities. Explanations of natural phenomena rest on observational and experimental insights into the relevant phenomena themselves. Simultaneously, social phenomena and their regularities can only be understood by indirect observations because they are the result of inaccessible introspective mental states of social factors. The distinction between explanation and understanding also builds on the traditional division of “Aristotelian” and “Galilean” explanations—the distinction between teleological (“finalist”) and causal (“mechanistic”) explanations. Roughly speaking, the Aristotelian tradition relies on the question “Why?”, and the Galilean tradition on the question “How?”. These two approaches also determine the goal of studying the relevant phenomena differently: the former, based on explanations, aims at the regularities of cause-and-effect relationships and their prediction, while the goal of the latter is to make understandable the already observed facts and regularities about social subjects in the light of their essentially hidden introspective states. This division of explanations according to “traditions” is a suitable starting point for a discussion of how knowledge, philosophy and science really work. However, the key philosophical question is whether and to what extent both of these approaches are applicable to natural and social phenomena. It is possible that there are elements of both traditions across disciplines, but they and their connections are not explicit. Observing such connections belongs to the domain of philosophical analysis and this will be the central topic of the conference.


Thematic units and relevant questions:

  1. Explanation and understanding in the natural sciences
  1. Causal explanation as a model of scientific explanation and its limits
  2. Explanation and prediction in physics and understanding the role of natural laws
  3. Is there only one fundamental natural science?
  4. Nature and role of teleological explanation in modern natural sciences (biomedical sciences, biology, physics, etc.)
  5. Problems of interpretation of scientific theories
  6. What does mathematics explain and how should it be understood?
  7. The role of mathematics in physical theory


  1. Explanation and understanding in philosophy
  1. Are there metaphysical explanations (and what are they)?
  2. What would be a model of philosophical explanation?
  3. Is the analysis of concepts the basis of philosophy?
  4. The role of the history of philosophy in the understanding of philosophy
  5. Philosophical explanation of values and how to understand them (status of moral and aesthetic values)
  6. Are there any philosophical predictions?


  1. Explanation and understanding in the social sciences
  1. How to test theories in the social sciences?
  2. Is understanding the only role of the social sciences? Interweaving of methods in the natural and social sciences
  3. Problems of historicism as a “universal key” to understanding
  4. Psychology between the natural and social sciences


  1. Interdisciplinary topics
  1. The role of analogies in science and philosophy
  2. Utopian and fashionable explanations
  3. Explanations that explain non-existent problems
  4. “Bad science” and “bad philosophy” – bad explanations
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