Bigsley the Oaf

On Understanding

Posted in Uncategorized by bigsleytheoaf on June 1, 2011

It’s very easy to forget that, speaking colloquially, understanding an assertion does not necessarily correspond to a faithful representation of its underlying beliefs in one’s own brain.

The model I have in mind is the following:

Mind1 -> Formulation -> Statement (transmission) -> Interpretation -> Mind2

If one person’s interpretation scheme is the inverse of the other’s system of formulation, then there has been a connection of minds – that is to say that the idea/thought which appeared in Mind1 can be said to have appeared in Mind2.

For those of us who try to think rigorously, the fact that most people are terrible at BOTH formulation and interpretation makes interaction with other people very difficult. What this means is that only very simple/repetitive information can be transmitted to/gleaned from such a person.

As a man who holds his own abilities in these domains in high regard, to meet a person great at Formulation and Interpretation is a divine joy. To be able to hear what they’re actually thinking and to have them recognize the profundity of your thoughts rather than quibble with details is pure heaven. It’s the fusion of souls. It is, perhaps, equivalent to divinity.


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  1. Graham said, on June 5, 2011 at 8:06 pm

    What’s additionally fascinating about this model is that the structural details of the Statement are irrelevant. Raju and I had a discussion years ago about what it is like to “know” someone. We ultimately decided that what’s most essential is the development of a language map (map in the sense of the 6.001 function, I think) that takes a speaker’s words, converts them into the listener’s words, and then applies meaning. To apply meaning before what you’re calling interpretation does the speaker’s words a disservice. The other implication here is that language is fundamentally idiolectic. Even you and I, who have similar backgrounds of family and education, need to spend some time defining and explaining our vocabulary in a given argument before understanding can be properly transmitted. So then to “know” someone demands a certain length of time spent with them in order to design an appropriate language map. Do you then think it’s possible to meet someone and have Map At First Sight? Raju and I decided that, much like selfless love (in the sense of giving or unconditional service), the design of the map itself is also person-specific and time-intensive.

    I also want to approach this model in terms of group musical improvisation. Improvisation is much like a conversation with a person in that points can be made, disproved, or elucidated upon. But a proper improvisation that upholds true communication can only happen between two musicians who have a map that matches a literal musical phrase to a deeper sort of musical intent. Likewise this map is person-specific and generated only after a sufficient amount of musical conversation. But the rewards are plentiful and without boundary. The concept of being “in the zone”, when a band’s collective ego falls away and a pure sense of beauty or divinity or glory is experienced, I feel is at one with your Formulation/Interpretation standard of divine understanding. This seems to be where frustration and the maddening Ouroboros of semantic argumentation at last cease and some great union is achieved.

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