This is one of my favorite passages from Leslie Dewart’s E&C, pp. 136-137:
To experience reality with understanding is not, therefore, to repeat to oneself the explanation of reality that the latter hides within itself; it is to assert originally, for the first time, an explanation of it composed by means of speech out of information supplied by reality.
It follows that, undergraduate excuses for bad papers to the contrary, it is not true that anyone ever understands anything but remains unable to explain it; but if one understands only a little, and at the same time misunderstands the nature of understanding, one may mistake one’s paucity of understanding for difficulty in communicating it. The exact measure of one’s understanding of anything is rather the extent to which one can couch one’s understanding of it in words; and the measure of one’s understanding of someone else’s explanation is one’s ability to explain his explanation in one’s own terms. Accordingly, one of the most efficacious ways to develop one’s understanding of anything is to try to explain it to someone else; teaching does return a reward. For explaining one’s experience forces one to give narrative form to it; and as the words come and the sentences flow, the information is organized and systematized: the facts “fall into place.” The soft sound they make as they mesh and click is somehow pleasant and soothing; it yields the easy breathing, the comfort, the delight — and withal the excitement, if the matter is important — with which one experiences one’s experiencing of a reality that is being understood all the better because one is facilitating others’ understanding of it.
One of my principal purposes in developing this blog is to increase my understanding of E&C, precisely by explaining it. It is most humbling to reflect on my understanding of the book in light of the passage quoted above, for there are still substantial tracts of the argument that I am unable to articulate in my own words. With practice, I am improving; or so I would like to hope. I certainly do find comfort, delight, and indeed excitement in grappling with the meaning of meaning and the understanding of understanding from the syntactic perspective.