What is the relationship between understanding and explanation?……Let start by explaining the dictionary meaning of understanding. Understanding:
- The ability to perceive and explain the meaning or the nature of somebody or
- The knowledge of a particular subject, area, or situation
- Somebody’s interpretation of something,or
- A belief or opinion based on an interpretation of or inference from something
A tolerant recognition of somebody else’s nature or situation.” This is one way of addressing the meaning of the concept of understanding.
The second is to see how we use the term in everyday conversation. The following statements reflect some of the manners in which we use the “understanding” in ordinary language:
- We don’t understand each other
- The behaviour of animals is a difficult thing to understand
- I’ve been trying to understand our presidents’ style of leadership
- The University authority does not seem to understand the plight of Distance Learners
- She seems to understand her husband
- He understands the Internet
These various usages of the concept of understanding touches on so many other ideas that may help us in coming to term with the meaning of understanding. First, the dictionary raises such concepts like knowledge, interpretation, empathy/sympathy, and explanation as possible synonyms for understanding. In other words, for instance, when we understand anything, we are attempting an explanation for it.
One understands the weather, say, if one can offer an explanation of its features. On the other hand, if I make a statement like “It was my understanding that the book is philosophical”, I am referring to my interpretation of the book. Understanding becomes empathy in a statement like for the above statements 1, 2 and 3 translate understanding as an insight into a situation. Statement 6 considers understanding as the possession of the skills necessary to do something.
|What is the relationship between understanding and explanation?|
Mason explains the concepts below in terms of models of understanding which grounds our understanding of understanding. Let’s consider each.
Understanding can be seen as a form of visual representation. This is what it means to say “I see that you mean about the guy”. This implies that to understand is to have a form of mental picture of the subject of understanding. The immediate problems:
- Does all understanding require a form of seeing?
- Isn’t it possible that one can see without achieving understanding atall?
Understanding is also perceived as capacity; to understand is to possess the ability to do something. This comes to mind in a statement like “I understand Igbo” or “I understand the computer”. Thus, if I say I understand Igbo but could respond intelligently to questions in that language or write intelligently in it, then we can’t say I really understand it.
However, is it enough that to understand language, for instance, all I must have are linguistic capacities? In a famous thought experiment John Searle, an American philosopher, proposes an argument that seeks to prove that the ability to stimulate an intelligent conversation in any language does not really prove that one understands that language.
Imagine that I am in a room with a computer programme which affords me the opportunity to Chinese characters in response to other people outside the room. Thus, when they ask me a question in Chinese, I’m able to manipulate the Chinese characters with the aid of the computer programme and respond intelligently.