Is There Understanding Without Sensitivity? (Part Three)

If you missed part one, read it Here.

A Touch of Context

As I mentioned in part one of this essay, a friend of mine once told me that if you could build something, you could design it. 

When he made his claim, I felt we were on the path to understanding the limitations of knowledge.

If you can build something, can you design it?

In Part One of this essay, we examined the differences between building and designing, knowing and understanding.

Which led us to the question we examined in Part Two: Does knowledge define or deny truth?

We determined that by defining and denying truth, knowledge opens certain paths to understanding while obfuscating others.

What, then, is the role of emotion in understanding?

Sensitivity Determines Relationships

In much the same way that the acceptance of certain terms and conditions determines the form knowledge will take and limits possibility, that to which we are sensitive determines the fabric of our relationships.

If I notice when my dog is hungry or needs to step outside for a pit-stop, I’m able to respond to those needs and satisfy them when appropriate. If I ignore those needs, I might end up with a mess or an estranged and erratic animal living in my house. 

When a motorist’s car breaks down, they call an auto-mechanic. The auto-mechanic pops the hood, rolls up their sleeves, and begins taking things apart. They don’t hesitate because they understand how a car works. They’re sensitive to the situation, by that I mean they know what this sound or those symptoms mean. They’re capable of diagnosing through the establishment of a relationship with the vehicle.

Or, perhaps, they plug the vehicle into a computer and charge you what the computer says in order to do the work the computer suggests, which may or may not fix the problem. This example, as I understand it, highlights the difference between knowledge and understanding.

A computer can provide and determine knowledge according to specific terms and conditions. The knowledge may or may not be accurate, but it was given according to the program’s protocols. In this way, a computer can’t be wrong, and it can’t understand.

Automation denies sensitivity.

An external voice or device cannot provide you with a relationship. Relationships can only be done, and the relationship itself defines the quality of the relationship.

When a human speaks to another human, emotions arise. Those emotions provide information for both speaker and listener. The emotions don’t determine the accuracy of the speech, the ideas represented, or the accuracy of the listener’s response. They indicate the feelers’ quality of mind and may set a tone for the conversation.

Emotions always indicate something about the feeler; emotions don’t necessarily indicate anything about what is being felt.

Perhaps the emphasis contemporary culture places on an individual’s emotion serves as a response to the sterility and alienation that permeates an existence insulated by technology. Perhaps. 

Building and designing are disparate modes of knowledge, and one who can build may or may not be able to design. One who can design may or may not be able to build. Ability depends on understanding.

After Thoughts

Again, I’m left with more questions than answers. Here are a few of those questions in the hopes that you can help me think through these issues.

Do you disagree or agree with my conclusions? Tell us more:

Do you ever find technology insulating you from certain experiences or connections?

How has sensitivity functioned in your relationships?

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