Notes and Thoughts

An experiment to spark conversation


The why of understanding — A weird alternative

Note: This articles deals only with the voluntary act of understanding. For perception, awareness, curiosity and other similar processes readers are advised to look elsewhere. Also to be noted is that this article does not explain the psychological/neuroscientific mechanism behind understanding. This article only deals with the abstract notion of understanding and the possible reason behind our want to pursue it.

Understanding is usually seen as an activity of navigating through the abstractions that are normally inaccessible to someone consuming information passively, it is also seen by many as a pursuit of the highest value(think scientists trying to understand the universe), but I want to posit today that understanding is first and foremost an activity of creating a reserve for something much greater and should not be treated as a pursuit in itself.

The purpose that understanding serves in the larger scheme of life cannot be deciphered readily, but one can always observe how the process acts itself out on a smaller scale and try to extrapolate the observation. As for ignoring the scale dynamics, I want to put out a disclaimer saying that we are not working towards an error-free theory, we are only looking for an alternate philosophy to tinker with.

Start with treating understanding as a black box. The before(input belief) and after(output belief, also updated input belief for the next box) is a good indicator of why the recursion might confuse us(See phenomenology) and also how it might not be central to our lives. The recursive nature of understanding i.e., understanding begets more reasons for pursuing understanding goes away immediately when you look at the central thesis of this article i.e., intractable instantiations. The idea here is that any attempt at pursuing understanding is primarily a pursuit of hope. The hope of knowing enough to say that you do not want to know anymore. The hope of convincing yourself into reconciling the dissolution of will with the intractability of the instantiation. It becomes instinctively clear as to whether this drive to understand can stand a chance when we take the time average of entire humanity's will to continue over its lifetime(See Ergodicty). It is just not possible. The reason is that sometime in the future, there is going to be a point of convergence from where things will start to make sense in a fashion where this entire pursuit will feel completely devoid of its certainty/curiosity ensuring components. And not because there are no more problems to solve, but because of the blurring line of your own chosen problem that forces you to throw the ever-blending instantiation(See notes below) into the shared pool of uncertainty. To put it in simple terms, the instantiation of an intractable problem that you thought you could tackle will go back to looking more like the problem itself when extended and worked on for long enough; and the uncertainty and intractability will serve anachronistically towards this issue, all while making you believe that the phenomenological nature of understanding can be solved simply through curiosity and survival.


[1] Reserves here are the memory modules for the phenomenological process to restore the problems to their previous state(intractability).

[2] Intractable Instantiations: Manifestations of ideas that can be reasoned about to an extent, but never completely.

Hypothesis: The idea is that every instantiation of an idea when pursued long enough will eventually reach a point where it is indistinguishable from the idea itself. Thus defeating the purpose of creating an instantiation to work within the first place.

[3] We are strictly talking about epistemic beliefs here.

[4] This is just an alternate theory of epistemic belief about understanding and should not be given any weight over other well-established theories on understanding.