Intuitively, there is a clear difference between knowing something and understanding something. We speak of someone 'getting' or 'internalizing' a concept, of developing a 'gut feeling' for something, etc...
- When I was an undergrad, for a time I knew the exact definition of a Fourier transform, but I didn't understand what it meant or how it worked, even though I understood all of the F.T's components (sine functions, sums, etc..) perfectly. Similarly, for a while, I knew what object oriented programming was, but I didn't get it, and wasn't able to write true OOP code even though I was using C++.
- Similarly most math students will tell you that they need to go beyond the definition of a mathematical concept and work on a few problem sets before they truly understand it.
- More cynically, we've all run into people who are very good at talking about all sorts of technical, philosophical and scientific concepts, but whom we know don't really get what they're talking about (I'm talking to you project managers and directors).
And yet those who subscribe to the computational theory of mind and those who support strong AI don't seem to draw a difference between knowing and understanding (Fodor's LOTH, the Turing test and more recent variations - such as having a computer being able to verbally relate the content of a video that it has just recorded). From such theories of the mind, it seems sufficient for there to be a proper mapping between propositions and facts from the outside world.
Similarly, in logical atomism and logical positivism, there seems to be no difference between knowing and understanding. It is enough to map sensory data, facts about the world to proper logical (and hence linguistic) structures. There's no way to differentiate between understanding a concept and simply being able to state its definition (along with its components) correctly.
- From an epistemology point of view, is there a difference between "knowing" and "understanding"?
- How would one represent the ability to internalize a concept? How does reality have to be mirrored in the mind, beyond a simple linguistic correspondence for a concept to be internalized, for a person to get it?
- Does this "understanding" vs "knowing" difference strengthen John Searle's Chinese room argument against strong A.I.?
- Have any philosophers worked on this issue?