Meta-Understanding

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“What is the essence of understanding?”

Mental models.

“What do you mean?”

“To understand something means to form a mental model of a pattern.

Every instance of understanding is an approximation.

The quality of understanding is given by the extent to which the model approximates the pattern.

Let’s take as an example three people who know what an elephant is.

One knows by having read the definition of the animal.
One knows by having seen a picture of the animal.
One knows by having experienced the animal first-hand. (experiential-model)

All of them understand what an elephant is. But their mental model of the animal is different.

The first one hasn’t seen an elephant, but they have from experience a mental model of what a quadrupedal animal is, so they approximate the elephant based on the animal model in that category that is most salient for them.

The more information one learns about the animal – like anatomical details –, the more complex their model of it.”

“This means your understanding of understanding is also a model.”

“Precisely. A functional-model… a mental tool. A tool which enhances my capacity to understand.”

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About Dani Trusca

Life-Artist, Thinker, Mover (Traceur)

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