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Abstract

Knowledge seems to be a good thing, or at least better than epistemic states that fall short of it, such as true belief. Understanding too seems to be a good thing, perhaps better even than knowledge. In a number of recent publications, Duncan Pritchard tries to account for the value of understanding by claiming that understanding is a cognitive achievement and that achievements in general are valuable. In this paper, I argue that coming to understand something need not be an achievement, and so Pritchard's explanation of understanding's value fails. Next, I point out that Pritchard's is just one of many attempts to account for the value of an epistemic state – whether it be understanding, knowledge, or whatever – by appeal to the notion of achievement or, more generally, the notion of success because of ability. Tentatively, I offer reasons to be sceptical about the prospects of any such account.