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Jaspers on explaining and understanding in psychiatry 

Jaspers on explaining and understanding in psychiatry
Chapter:
Jaspers on explaining and understanding in psychiatry
Author(s):

Christoph Hoerl

DOI:
10.1093/med/9780199609253.003.0008
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date: 24 February 2020

This chapter offers an interpretation of Jaspers’ distinction between explaining and understanding, which relates this distinction to that between general and singular causal claims. Put briefly, I suggest that when Jaspers talks about (mere) explanation, what he has in mind are general causal claims linking types of events. Understanding, by contrast, is concerned with singular causation in the psychological domain. Furthermore, I also suggest that Jaspers thinks that only understanding makes manifest what causation between one element of a person’s mental life and another ultimately consists in – that is, the particular way in which one psychic event can emerge from or arise out of another. I contrast the resulting view both with a view on causation in psychiatry recently put forward by John Campbell, and also with another view that is the target of Campbell’s attack, which is due to Donald Davidson and Daniel Dennett.

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