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Understanding (also called understanding ) is the understanding of the content of a fact that does not only consist in the mere knowledge, but also and above all in the intellectual grasp of the context in which the facts are.

Understanding, according to Wilhelm Dilthey , means recognizing an "inner", psychological aspect from externally given, sensually perceptible signs. The term “understanding” is often contrasted with the term “ explaining ”, although the exact relationship between the two terms (and processes) is mostly unclear. Understanding is based on comprehensibility .

Interpretation frame

Often, understanding is only possible through an interpretation frame . Interpretive frames are socially widespread and individually acquired knowledge structures on which processes of understanding are based. Interpretation framework for the understanding of - - especially linguistic communication important: The recipient of information accumulates in the most inaccurate / incomplete everyday communication that heard or read with context information to and supplemented it; only then does it get its full or unambiguous meaning. He assigns sensory impressions and experiences to a meaningful structure .

Interpretive frames are spiritual representations of the world in the individual's brain. They shape his perception of the social environment and the meaning, meaningfulness and classification of social actions of other people, and his reactions (for example empathy ) to it.

One can also construct frames of interpretation for groups, social groups or societies.

Understanding and knowledge

Understanding in the above sense (section interpretation frame) and as interpretation presupposes intelligence or mind . According to Werner Sombart , understanding is based on the identity of the human spirit . It is therefore only possible on the basis of the fundamental identity of the subject of knowledge and the object of knowledge . Only people can therefore be understood in the real sense - by people.

The concept of understanding in the spiritual or interpretative sense plays a major role in philosophy and hermeneutics . An example of this is Philip's question ( Acts of the Apostles ): "Do you understand what you are reading?" (Philip asks the Ethiopian, Acts 8:30)

Understanding in text analysis

The following are the working principles of understanding in text analysis :

  • Text-relatedness : Express reference is to be made to the analyzed text.
  • Written form : The most important thoughts and results must be put in writing.
  • Discursiveness : A text analysis must be comprehensible and justified.
  • Principle of the hermeneutic circle : a text has to be read several times "in order to mutually check and revise the understanding of parts and wholes."
  • Principle of charity (principle of charity) : as long and as far as possible to assume that the author argues truthful, rational and consistent.

Other meanings

The term understanding also means:

Acoustically correct recording of what is being said
Understanding a spoken message can be made difficult by various types of interference, for example noise or hearing loss. Understanding can be made easier through redundancy . Linguistic ambiguities and different world knowledge can lead to misunderstandings. With sufficient redundancy, understanding is still possible even if the information is severely incorrect.
Understand the language, especially a foreign one
At the understanding of a language it involves both a learning and Experience process, on the other hand, the difficult interpretation of the recorded facts.
Interpretation or interpretation (hermeneutics)
When deciphering messages are always mixed with one's own experiences and worldviews. So the result is different from what the sender meant.
Expertise (understand something)
Experts often develop their own language with which they differentiate themselves from third parties by understanding one another but not being understood by others. One also speaks colloquially of technical Latin . In addition, experts sometimes use (indistinctly defined) slang terms in a narrow, sharply defined meaning (e.g. energy ).
Understand each other (e.g. between people, in the agreement on prices)
When people understand each other, it can mean several things:
In addition to volitional and mental processes, the last two aspects also require emotional intelligence .

Whether animals can understand something is controversial. However, experiments with monkeys showed that they can learn a three-digit number of words and use them correctly.

See also

Web links

Wiktionary: understand  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations


  • Andreas Mauz, Christiane Tietz (Ed.): Understanding and interpreting. On the basic vocabulary of hermeneutics and interpretation theory (hermeneutics and interpretation theory, vol. 1). Paderborn: Ferdinand Schöningh 2020.

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Georg Brun, Gertrude Hirsch Hadorn: Text analysis in the sciences. - Zurich: vdf (UTB No. 3139), p. 9. - ISBN 978-3-8252-3139-2 .
  2. ^ Georg Brun, Gertrude Hirsch Hadorn: Text analysis in the sciences. - Zurich: vdf (UTB No. 3139), p. 9. - ISBN 978-3-8252-3139-2 .
  3. ^ Klaus F. Röhl, Hans Christian Röhl : General legal theory. 3. Edition. C. Heymanns, Cologne a. a. 2008, § 5 III, p. 53.