Nature of Human Understanding
Humans possess a unique ability to understand. Philosophers may debate exactly
what "understand" means, but at a common sense level, humans understand
things. We understand small things like what a pencil is, and more complex things
like what a tree is, and even things that are conceptual, like what friendship is.
We understand thousand of things, tens of thousands of things.
We would admit we might not understand every aspect of each thing. For
example we personally might not understand exactly how a tree grows.
Nonetheless we understand what a tree is, and can describe it, and picture it in
our mind, and list its parts, and distinguish it from similar objects (like a bush),
and group it with similar objects (like bushes), and explain a tree's relation to
other things (like shade), and contemplate an experience of a tree (like the sound
of wind rustling the leaves), and know that certain trees have cycles where the
And if asked, we would say our dog, or our laptop, or our Smartphone does not
understand. Our dog may have snippets of understanding, but we can not
conceive of having a conversation with it. Our laptop, with a clever program, may
hold the semblance of a conversation, but we would never conceive the laptop
understands a word of it.
We would even say that Watson, the computer which trounced the best Jeopardy
players in the world in an impressive and amazing performance, that Watson in
no way understood or understands anything. Watson can provide innumerable
facts on WWII, but has no concept of the horror of the conflict.
So what allows humans to understand? What gives us this unique ability every
other object, animate or inanimate, human-made or not, distinctly lacks.
Main Points to keep in mind:-
Relation to Objects and Events.
Interaction with Others.