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 defends the provocative claim that knowledge and truth should not constitute the primary aims 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 will address 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?
  • 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”?
  • Is art epistemically valuable?


Federica Malfatti
Katherine Dormandy
Christoph Jäger 


Christoph Baumberger, University of Zurich
Jochen Briesen, University of Konstanz
Henk De Regt, University of Amsterdam
Finnur Déllsen, 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 Malfatti, University of Innsbruck


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