The Dynamics of Knowing: The First Four Boxes

We begin this installment with an odd little story. A hunter heads out on safari. The objective is to hunt the ugaga. IS the ugaga brown or grey? The question makes no sense, nor does the entire hunt, unless someone knows the answer to the question, WHAT is an ugaga?1See op. cit., Introducing Critical Thinking, 6.

The point of the story is that there are what-questions lurking within the is-question posed about the ugaga. In other words, there is an order or structure to how our wonder works.

However, the structure to our thinking process is invisible and extremely complex. Still, its complexity can made visible by observing its expressions in your writing.

Now we invite you to discover something of the process for yourself.

The following exercise, over the next two installments, represents a first step toward, ultimately, “new standards of competence” in the future academy: a luminous and practical grasp of your native wonder.2We introduce an exercise in the Dynamics of Knowing (Journeyism 10 and Journeyism 11) and an exercise in the Dynamics of Doing (Journeyism 16 and Journeyism 17). What we mean by “luminous” will be part of that progress. For now, notice that our inquiry here is about inquiry. So why not try to catch yourself in the act of inquiry? Indeed, there is no way to get to grips with your wonder except by puzzling about something (Task A) AND by wondering about your puzzling (Task B). We begin by taking a crack at the first four boxes in this installment and the final three boxes in the next.

Task A. Puzzling about the alphabet problem

  • On your own, solve the alphabet puzzle below. Note the ellipsis after the letter F means “and so on”. In other words, what is the rule, the law governing the placement of letters above and below the line?

In your own words formulate what you think the unknown rule is and why your formulation for the rule works.

Task B. Wondering about my puzzling about the alphabet problem

Boxes 2, 3, 4

Box 1

Track and highlight the data of wonder that you generate while you are struggling to discover a formulation for the unknown rule. The question is: how did my thinking work?

  • Identify and highlight  your use of different types of question marks:
  • what-questions: what is it?, why questions: what makes this pattern what it is?
  • Highlight the language you used to describe those difficult and frustrating “in between” moments when the prospect of reaching a solution seemed to be such a remote, even impossible task, until your breakthrough moment when the solution suddenly became all too obvious.
  • Highlight the language and punctuation you used to describe when you experienced a breakthrough, hard evidence of your experience of “getting it”: the excitement of experiencing a “flash”, a “eureka” moment, an insight, an instance in which you “got to the bottom of a problem or an issue” and expressed your excitement.3Please see Journeyism 5.

Does your writing reflect some of the following activities during the process of ‘what-ting’?

  • You are sensitively alert to the data.

  • Your what-wonder, together with the seen-image of the puzzle, creates in you an inner tension, a desire to understand.
  • You are in the empirical mood.
  • Wonder spontaneously results in a What-attitude.


  • What is the rule governing how the data makes sense? Why is the data arranged in a certain way?
  • A series of further what-questions bubble up!
    • What is going on here?
    • What is the thing I desire to grasp?
    • What is the pattern?
    • What is the relationship?
  • You are in the playground of your intellect, playing around (messing) with various different arrangements of the data.
  • In other words, your wonder spontaneously engages in forming phantasms.
  • You are seeking an inward grasp of the pattern governing the arrangement of data in a way that makes sense. Your intellect searches for, or is nudged by clues, so that inwardly, the stars become aligned in a suitable constellation.

  • What relieves this tension? A discovery!
  • Aha!
  • You enjoy a direct insight.


  • After you have a direct insight into the why in which data is arranged, you find that spontaneously you pull together the relevant bits and pieces of data along with the why-rule that you think governs its intelligent arrangement.
  • You spontaneously move on to formulating what is happening and why.
  • This pulling together activity is your activity of formulating, a personal intellectual achievement that gives birth to your own clearly understood definition or hypothesis or idea or concept of the ‘what’ and ‘why’ solution to the puzzle.
  • The definition, hypothesis, idea, formulation, formula or concept are names for what it is that you have reached through understanding. In other words, expressions (expressed by language, either verbal or written) of your understanding of data.

So far, so good. You’re on the right track! You have a plausible formulation.

Still, you continue to wonder: am I correct?


We omit working out the solution here. We urge you NOT to move on to Journeyism 11 until you have spent as much time as you need to complete both Task A and Task B. Does our appeal in Journeyism 5 bear repeating? “It would be encouraging if you suspect that merely being told the ‘answer’ … does not do the trick. The point is, where understanding sensible data or data of human meaning is concerned, we cannot tell you the answer to anything. You will need to discover the answer for yourself” … and gradually discover the complexity of your thinking process by observing its expressions in your writing.


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