Knowledge and Understanding

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by A Cup Of Tea, Jun 20, 2013.

  1. Aupmanyav

    Aupmanyav Search, be your own guru.

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  2. radarmark

    radarmark Quaker-in-the-Making

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    Pretty much as I understand the vedic terms. However, as used in current philosophy (in my understanding;)), "knowledge" is strictly empirical (based on sense datum), whereas "understanding" is both empirical and rational (νοῦς in the Greek I think is related.).
     
  3. A Cup Of Tea

    A Cup Of Tea Well-Known Member

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    I wonder if this might help.

    Say I'm a white male. I KNOW of the injustice done to those who are not white males because they aren't white males. But since I am a white male I will probably never UNDERSTAND the injustice the way non-white males do. In this way, understanding is different from knowing since it can include the feeling.

    I really wonder if I'm the only person in the world who make these distinctions. I'm comforted by the fact that Radar seems pretty close to my definitions.
     
  4. Aupmanyav

    Aupmanyav Search, be your own guru.

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    Radar, can there be knowledge of 'quantum mechanics' without understanding? :D
     
  5. radarmark

    radarmark Quaker-in-the-Making

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    Hmm... I think you are mistaking the ultimate cause for the proximate cause. Yes, we cannot directly perceive the entire realm of the quantum (there are polarization and cryogenic "macroworld" quantum effects, but they are special cases). However, we can use instruments to count events (think Geiger counter) and make other effects (think bubble or cloud chambers or the particle representations in the Large Hadron Collider output, usually pictures).

    Do doing quantum mechanics is simply empirical. I do not think anyone understands it (Heisenberg and Wheeler and Feynman and Wigner all made comments to that effect).
    "It is not just stranger than you think, it is stranger than you can imagine" -- Finkelstein.
     
  6. Thomas

    Thomas Administrator Admin

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    I think that's a good, and flexible, analogy.

    In this instance, can we say 'knowing' is objective, 'understanding' subjective? I think so. I'm thinking of the kid's complaint to the parent, "But you don't understand!"

    Philosophically, I wonder if we can equate knowing to a function of the will, understanding to a function of the intellect?

    I would suggest the intellect is unhappy with saying "I know..." about something it knows it doesn't understand, whereas the will can say, with certainty, "I know..." but not understand the thing it knows?

    I think I'm right in saying that, in Antiquity, there was the notion that the understanding of a thing belongs to the thing itself, and transmits itself to the knower ... so I know something is there/happening, but I don't understand it, and won't, until it surrenders its understanding to me?

    In which case, I could play the wordgame and suggest that to know something is to be aware of something, however dark or ill-informed that knowing is, whereas to understand something is to stand under (geddit?) that thing's self-knowing.

    So I can know something objectively, but can never understand it until I put myself in its place. I know so-and-so is in love, but not until I fall in love will I begin to understand what it's like.

    I think (no matter how much you think my analogy garbles them) I make the same kind of distinction.

    Radar's a good benchmark.
     
  7. Paladin

    Paladin Purchased Bewilderment

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    I think the best comparison for me would be the difference between being aware of something and attempting to imagine other roles, besides our own. Because we have what is called "mirror neurons" in our brain, we can actually sense what it is like to be in another persons place.
    Theory of Mind suggests that we can even be aware that another person is likely to see things differently, and with this knowledge we can imagine what it is like for another person. Coincidentally, we can also imagine that another person is likely to think along certain lines, for example: "you don't know what it's like to be me" or "you have no idea what I'm going through" and this reflects a certain truth that must become part of our communication.
    The Sci Fi author Heinlein postulated that it is indeed possible to understand on a very deep level, so much so that a new word was added to the American lexicon: Grok.
    To "grok" something, according to Heinlein was to be so deeply engaged with the idea as to become temporarily one with it. To this day, many of us continue to use (and practice) this term, indeed with some of my generation it is used quite often.
     
  8. radarmark

    radarmark Quaker-in-the-Making

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    I do so love all those references to objective knowledge and subjective understanding... I grok the notion completely (just now).

    I have met individuals (people and others) who are quite empathetic and can easily put themselves in another's place. That, perhaps, is the closest we mortals can get to understanding (including ourselves).

    That entire cycle (understanding ourselves and empathizing with others) is kinda-sorta the role of philosophy and psychology. I believe that the former is required for the latter (self-understanding precedes empathy and psychology requires a solid philosophy).

    An issue now days is to substitute pseudo-sympathy for empathy and an ideology for philosophy.
     
  9. A Cup Of Tea

    A Cup Of Tea Well-Known Member

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    Yes! I understand you and I agree completely.

    I understand most of it, and I think I agree with what I understand! Understanding hard....
     
  10. A Cup Of Tea

    A Cup Of Tea Well-Known Member

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    Thomas, Paladin and Radar, you all focused on social interaction, very interesting!
    I remember reading 'Grok' for the first time, that was you Radar, probably your first post.
     
  11. radarmark

    radarmark Quaker-in-the-Making

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    I do not think I focus on the social interaction... but you may be right. I try to adopt a balanced approach... however one that is based on a consistent metaphysics.
     
  12. A Cup Of Tea

    A Cup Of Tea Well-Known Member

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    No I just meant your last post here, your earlier post was more general of course.

     
  13. Gordian Knot

    Gordian Knot Being Deviant IS My Art.

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    Fascinating discussion. Try this on for size. In broad strokes knowledge is impersonal, whereas understanding is personal. Or in Wil's philosophy, knowledge is learning while understanding is Learning.
     
  14. radarmark

    radarmark Quaker-in-the-Making

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    GN, quite. The difference in terms goes back to Plato I believe. His "belief" (one of the criteria for knowledge) is really "understanding". The source of the difference is really irrelevant, as long as we have a function to cross between "learning", "knowledge", and "understanding". As you have pointed out quite well.
     
  15. A Cup Of Tea

    A Cup Of Tea Well-Known Member

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    G-Knot, that works very well for me.
    This is a good example of why I think that words can have huge depth and can be intended and understood in many ways. That's why I always argue (sometimes fanatically) for people to clearly define a word when they use it in cases such as interfaith discussion. If two people don't understand exactly what they are both talking about they are basically having to different discussions. Miscommunication is such a common problem in these places, start by finding common ground! /rant
     
  16. Thomas

    Thomas Administrator Admin

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    G-Knot — good for me!
     
  17. A Cup Of Tea

    A Cup Of Tea Well-Known Member

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    I just found this, so I'm just going to put it here with the rest of our musings.

     
  18. RJM Corbet

    RJM Corbet God Feeds the Ravens Admin

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    Feynman is brilliant
     
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