A Serendip experience

Making Sense of Understanding:
Making Sense of Experiences

Door image from http://www.woodstone.com/photoalbum7.html
If you've been through each of the Three Doors of Serendip, then you've had experiences which suggest three things:

Given this, its no wonder that, as we noted at the outset, people sometimes can and sometimes can't explain their understandings to others, and that different people may have different understandings of (apparently) the same thing. Maybe we should all be more tolerant of each other. That wouldn't be a bad conclusion from an effort to make sense of understanding. But ... do we really have to reach that conclusion?. What about the relation among the three kinds of understanding? Isn't it still possible that one is "better" or more "advanced" than another? Certainly, in our culture, we tend to give least weight to intuitive understandings, and to accord progressively more respect to experimental/analytical and to rational/synthetic understandings. Indeed, we have a strong tendency to presume that "rational" understandings are the only ones that have any strong claim to being "true", with the others being at best weak approximations to truth based on observations made to date. If this is so, one can adjudicate between understandings by insisting that the "rational" one is superior, and shortcut the process of acquiring understandings by teaching only the "rational". Isn't that still a possibility ... even with our recognition of three kinds of understanding?

No, as we'll see if we look a little more closer at the relations among the three kinds of understanding. One problem with the hierarchical way of thinking about the relations between the three kinds of understandings was mentioned at the beginning of our discussion:

And a second problem is behind the third of Serendip's Three Doors:

What these problems suggest is that the relationships among the three kinds of understandings is actually a good deal more complex than is usually appreciated. In fact, what we seem to be saying is that we can't simply test intuitive and experimental understandings in terms of how well they fit "rational" understandings but must also test "rational understandings" (including some of our most fundamental beliefs, such as the existence of "truth out there") in terms of the kinds of observations and experiences which are summarized in intutive and experimental understandings. In short:

So ... maybe indeed we should all be more tolerant of each other. Maybe, in fact, the idea of tolerance as important is actually an intuitive understanding which we should take more seriously when we try and construct rational/logical understandings. Whether that is the case or not, what our experiences in exploring understanding, and our analysis of those experiences, clearly indicates is that respect for different understandings is actually a mandate coming from the nature of understanding itself: Like that idea? It certainly would help to reduce arguments and tensions among people, and that would be a good thing. But notice that the mandate is not just "warm and fuzzy", and in fact not even that "warm and fuzzy". It doesn't, for example, say that all understandings are equally good, but only that each understanding is valuable insofar as it can be used to rest other understandings. So, to conclude, let's lay out as completely as possible the understandings of understanding that emerge from the Three Doors of Serendip: