Minds, brains, and the concept of personal understanding


Research output: Contribution to conferencePapers


If education is to make a difference, it is widely acknowledged that we must aim to educate for understanding, but this means being clear about what we mean by the concept of understanding. This paper will argue for a concept of personal understanding, recognising both the commonality and individuality of each pupil’s understandings, and the relationship between understanding and interpretation, analysis and synopsis, in their quest for meaning. The paper will consider the philosophical and neurophysiological reasons for asserting the individuality of human minds, brains, and the creation of personal meanings. This last move, however, would seem to run counter to the post-modern denial of the autonomous self, and the tradition in philosophy, most recently stemming from Wittgenstein, that insists that meanings and understandings are essentially social, and not personal. Moreover, my notion of personhood will bring me into conflict with John White’s recent book, The Child’s Mind. I will argue that meanings and understandings are both social (interpersonal) and personal, and that the term personal marks out our individuality and applies to all humanity. Once we reinstate the notion of personal minds and personal understandings, alongside the social, we may see more clearly what it means to educate for understanding, and why this might begin to make a difference.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2003


Sankey, D. (2003, November). Minds, brains, and the concept of personal understanding. Paper presented at the International Conference of Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia 2003: Education and Difference, Auckland, New Zealand.


  • Theory and Practice of Teaching and Learning


Dive into the research topics of 'Minds, brains, and the concept of personal understanding'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.