Although we live well with our comfortable illusion that we understand the world, maybe not.
The idea of understanding is one of the possessing the world in the head, grabbing it in the realm of knowledge. Whatever is understood should be contained in the realm of the mind, and the thinker should have complete access to it’s properties and to the truth™ of it.
But actually to understand is merely a form of dealing with a circumstance . Understanding does not happen in another realm of existence. The matter of understanding is not different from the matter of experience.
Even if thought can have some form of ontological superiority over simple phenomena, this quality is not exclusive of generalizable, logic, formal thought. The phenomenon of conscience — of being aware, of seeing, of having an idea-of-self, of wanting and dreaming — shares all the qualities of non-euclidean geometries.
So, to understand is akin to replaying past experiences. That means that one can react to more than one circumstance at the same time. The reaction reaches further .
This is one way to explain it: when someone lives something (a circumstance) she reacts to it, she acts in ways appropriate to the situation lived. Her senses, her reflexes, her metabolism, her members help her “grab” the circumstance effectively. By understanding, she is reacting not only to the circumstance being lived directly, but also to others, which she lived previously. Therefore, understanding is another way to grab a circumstance — and not necessarily the best one. It is a form of expanding the depth of vision.
The idea that understanding could access the truth of things, and therefore be free from bias (and interest), beyond mere recipes for dealing with things, feeds a lot of current intellectuality, and also a certainty that we humans are different from anything else in the universe because we can think.
Some ideas, mainly mathematics, seem to indicate that there are ideas that are completely free from this action and reaction reality. The general idea is that a(b+c)=ab+ac remains true irrespective if the mathematician believes so or not. And it definitely remains true, but it is not independent of the mathematician.
The thing is, /+/ is only plus if someone taught you to read it like that. And the same goes to /a/, /b/, /(/ and so forth. Mathematics do not agree with the universal perfect truth of math forms, but instead to a form of rule-based behaviour (doing maths) that has the property of agreeing with itself.
a(b+c)=ab+ac remains true irrespective, but not because it was written on the very essence of the universe, but because the circumstance math-behaviors have to tackle is recursive rigid rule obeying. It is effective, but it is not ontologically superior to experience.
There goes Platonism. Ooops!