Philosophical Studies

, Volume 161, Issue 2, pp 185–205 | Cite as

Understanding and philosophical methodology

  • Magdalena Balcerak Jackson
  • Brendan Balcerak Jackson


According to Conceptualism, philosophy is an independent discipline that can be pursued from the armchair because philosophy seeks truths that can be discovered purely on the basis of our understanding of expressions and the concepts they express. In his recent book, The Philosophy of Philosophy, Timothy Williamson argues that while philosophy can indeed be pursued from the armchair, we should reject any form of Conceptualism. In this paper, we show that Williamson’s arguments against Conceptualism are not successful, and we sketch a way to understand understanding that shows that there is a clear sense in which we can indeed come to know the answers to (many) philosophical questions purely on the basis of understanding.


Understanding Metaphilosophy Williamson, Timothy Conceptual truth Conceptual analysis Analyticity 



Earlier versions of this material were given at the Thursday seminar of the Philosophy Program at the Research School of the Social Sciences, Australian National University and at a workshop at the University of Cologne, Germany. We are grateful to audiences at both events for much helpful discussion. Thanks especially to David Chalmers, Thomas Grundmann, Andrew McGonigal, Daniel Stoljar and Timothy Williamson. The research for this essay was supported by a grant from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Magdalena Balcerak Jackson
    • 1
  • Brendan Balcerak Jackson
    • 1
  1. 1.Emmy Noether Research Group, Philosophy DepartmentUniversity of CologneCologneGermany

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