Saturday, April 9, 2016

What Does It Mean to Understand?

We make a community by working with individuals. A philosophy professor in a Catholic University Theology Department begins his article in View from the Ark with these words, reminding us how important the individual was in Scholastic Philosophy.

He brings to our attention the principle of individuation a term which most of the readers would not be familiar, and wonders, whether he lost the interest of most of the readers by mentioning it. Most of the discussions we have deal with productivity, which makes this mode of talking unfamiliar and strange.  

Recently, a very popular TV program had three words  which they used in the title, and he had no idea what they meant, nor did the program interest him. Frequently, he hears words the young are using, original words; he doesn't understand, and admits  he is a member of the old school.

Ludwig Wittgenstein, English philosopher, mentions that women from a village, when he heard them talking, he didn't understand them even though they spoke his native language. Necessary is to know the rules they are following in speaking: accents, way of speaking, gestures, etc.. To understand another's words, knowing what the words mean is not all that is necessary. One has to understand the non-verbal, if we want communication.  

Presently, the word communication  is continually on our lips. However, if we don't understand the other person's life, and the word games used we will not understand what is being said. When we trust the words from our mouth and believe only that is necessary, we are bullies and talking down to the other.

When this is done even in the family, we are nurturing hatred, anger and even violence. Dealing with others in a different culture and with different patterns of life are we not making the same mistakes? In Korea when we use the word unification but use ridicule and threats, are we conscious of the harm that is being done to understanding? We are forgetting North Korea's history, for over seventy years is different from the South. We ignore the principle of individualization.  We need a language they understand. They are like another country.  

Even in the family when one justifies themselves, and nurses their hurts, there is little hope of a resolution, dialogue is impossible. Dialogue begins when we acknowledge the pain and scars of the other, and show understanding. Mutual understanding  does not take place with words but with sympathy for the other. He hopes that our leaders inscribe this on their hearts.

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