International Book Symposium with Catherine Z. Elgin (Harvard University)  

  Poster "True Enough?"



22-23 March 2018
Location: Dekanatssitzungssaal, Karl-Rahner-Platz 1, 1st floor


[S]cience unabashedly relies on models, idealizations, and thought experiments that are known not to be true. I suggest that their divergence from truth or representational accuracy fosters their epistemic functioning. When effective, models and idealizations are, I contend, felicitous falsehoods.
Elgin, True Enough, ch. 1

I will develop an epistemological position that shows how felicitous falsehoods function in understanding, what they contribute, and why they are epistemically valuable.
Elgin, True Enough, ch. 2


Catherine Z. Elgin’s new book True Enough (MIT Press, 2017) defends the provocative claim that epistemology should shift its focus from "the knowledge of individual facts to the understanding of a broader range of phenomena", and that truth should not constitute the primary topic of epistemology. She grounds this claim on the fact that so-called “felicitous falsehoods” play a crucial role in scientific reasoning and understanding. The inaccuracy of idealizations, models and thought experiments, Elgin argues, should not be understood as an inadequacy. To the contrary, their divergence from truth fosters their epistemic functioning. An international spectrum of philosophers has addressed such questions as:

  • What does it mean to understand something (a phenomenon, a theory, a work of art, ...)?
  • How much truth is enough for understanding? Is understanding factive?
  • Does understanding imply belief?
  • How do we understand through models and idealizations in science?
  • When is a falsehood “felicitous”?
  • When is a web of cognitive attitudes in “reflective equilibrium”? What role does epistemic authority play in this context?
  • Is art epistemically valuable?
  • Which role does exemplification play in understanding through science and art?


Federica Isabella Malfatti, Katherine Dormandy, Christoph Jäger 


Christoph Baumberger, ETH Zurich

Jochen Briesen, FU Berlin

Henk de Regt, VU Amsterdam

Finnur Dellsén, Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences

Catherine Z. Elgin, Harvard University

Roman Frigg, London School of Economics

Emma Gordon, University of Edinburgh

Christoph Jäger, University of Innsbruck

Insa Lawler, University of Duisburg–Essen

Federica Isabella Malfatti, University of Innsbruck


Attendance is free, but since space is limited please indicate your interest in attending with an
email to


  Conference program

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