How Does Intellectual Labour Proceed? (Part 4) 

Human Decision-making 

With the introduction of the dynamics of knowing, we have established the first three levels in the cumulative series of five core attitudes. The following six chapters establish the remaining two levels that we associate with the mode of practical thinking: the dynamics of doing. All men and women, by nature, desire to make the best possible decisions.  

Like the desire to know, our everyday performance of decision making occurs so rapidly we pay little or no attention to the process.1We anticipate this segment will inevitably draw attention to the topic of ‘morality.’ Immediately we note that, ‘morality,’ and its applied values and principles of conduct held by individuals, societies and cultures, is not our focus. Our concern is a branch of ‘ethics,’ devoted to discovering a verifiable process of human decision-making.

According to multiple sources on the Internet, the average amount of remotely conscious decisions an adult makes each day equals about 35,000.2 It is important to point out the original source for this statistic at this and other websites is unreferenced. On the other hand, Popular Psychology quotes “According to a survey by Columbia University decision researcher, Sheena Iyengar (link is external), the average American makes approximately 70 conscious decisions every day.” Unfortunately, our search to locate credible scholarly sources to support this or any other estimation from the established fields of psychology and neuroscience has come up empty. There is, however, a vast literature from contemporary psychology on “decision theory”, and evidence of some progress in neuroscience. At all events, we anticipate that the vast amount of data yielded from these zones will, in the future, be grist for the mill to be “sifted and lifted” by a restructured academy.

Despite the range of variables that would factor into any estimation of frequency in human decision-making, for better or worse, making choices dominates our lives individually, collectively and cumulatively. Some are known to have significant impact on the direction and quality of one’s life. Might we, light-heartedly, include as an example the potential impact on your life of having made the choice to work through these chapters? 

Exercise: Back to the Syllabus 

As with the dynamics of knowing, an empirical approach to discerning how the dynamics of doing works would likewise prove enlightening. The process can made visible by drawing from personal experience and by observing expressions in writing. This is true of observations drawn from any source. We are presented with data to be understood in sensible and human meaning. When wonder takes over, our effort to understand always begins with description.3See Journeyism 24.

So, we take the path initiated in Journeyism 3 and 4and return to a key source of data: Year Four in the university syllabus. Embedded in the description is a series of linguistic expressions and signs we would be accustomed to seeing in any university syllabus. Again, we have abridged and edited this passage and highlighted expressions for the purpose of emphasis.


Year Four 

In their fourth year, honours students explore the breadth and depth of anthropological…practice. As a discipline focused on society and culture, anthropology aims to…evaluate shifting relations between individuals and society…. The course focuses on critical anthropological practice….In the fall semester we examine…how modern anthropologies of the twentieth century were created, and out of what historical, social, political and cultural conditions, tensions, and ambiguities they were fashioned. In the winter semester we examine…the kinds of anthropologies…that can deal with the global conditions for public life in the world today. How can thinking anthropologically reconnect social and cultural theory with acts of changeHow is this possible today within the contexts of globalization, new forms of public culture and new ways of conceptualizing life itself?


For ease of reference, we reproduce the highlighted expressions in order of appearance: 

practice, evaluate, critical…practice, (how) created, (how) fashioned, deal with, how…reconnect?, acts of change, how…possible?, new ways 

We recast the expressions in order to draw out their dynamic potential in Image 1 below: 

Image 1

how to do? to practice
to evaluate to critically practice
to deal with to reconnect
to act to change
what possibilities? to find new ways
how created how fashioned


Some observations … 

Approximate Parallels to the Dynamics of Knowing 

Significantly, there are approximate parallels to be found between “anthropological practice” in Image 1 and the dynamics of knowing. The focus of wonder shifts from the acquisition of knowledge (the empirical mode) to what is to be done as a result of that knowledge (the practical mode). 

Diagram 1 

Diagram 1. The plan is created and fashioned partly from known facts (of knowledge established in Years 1-3), and partly from sense and images (oriented toward the future). 

Diagram 2 

Diagram 2. Year Four goes on to formulate possible planspossiblepracticedeal withreconnect…acts of changenew ways. A practical insight yields a what-to-do list. 

Diagram 3 

Diagram 3. Practical wonder does not end there. Further deliberation asks: are these plans worthwhile? Possible courses of action are evaluatedevaluatecritical…practiceA second practical insight yields an is-to-do” evaluation for a best possible plan to guide the student through Year Four. 

These approximate parallels, although preliminary, suggest the desire to know and the desire to do are symmetrical in structure. We will draw this out further, in Chapter 13, based on descriptions obtained by Thomas Aquinas.


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