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On Understanding: Parrots, Quizzots and Heidegger

Tuesday, January 25, 2022, 3:40 pm – 5:20 pm

This colloquium talk is planned as an in-person event. Registration by email is only required for non-CEU members. Please check the COVID safety rules here to enter the building.


I’ll begin by sketching why some philosophers think that propositional knowledge should not be the central way to identify our cognitive achievements, and thus should not be the dominant focus of epistemology. I’ll then sketch why some of these philosophers turn to understanding and what they mean by it. In order to support the argument that understanding is not reducible to propositional knowledge, I’ll distinguish quizzots (my invention) from parrots. Quizzots, unlike parrots, know lots and lots of things; however, they understand very little. I’ll then bring in Heidegger’s concept of understanding, from Being and Time, which gives us a deeper account of the specialness of understanding. I’ll suggest that at one level, we’re much more quizzotic than we typically assume, yet at a deeper level, we’re thankfully very far from a state of true moronic quizzotude