You, Me & Helen Keller (Part 5)1These excerpts, abridged and edited, are taken from Chapter 5, “The Grounding Language Universals,” Shaping the Future of Language Studies, pp. 41-61. 


Building on data and facts gleaned from the syllabus and Aquinas’ descriptions, we return to our re-enactment of what happened to Helen Keller moments after she had reached consent.2Op. cit., Summa Theologiae. A further shift remained. It “involves a special relationship to that which is preferred to something else, and accordingly a choice still remains open after consent.”3Op. cit., Summa Theologiae. Her wonder probed its practical value with the question: is it to be done?4We would suggest that the supporting passages in this article, written in retrospect by a more mature and articulate Helen, accurately express the strength of resolve in the young Helen at the time of these events. Image 1, below, provides a preliminary framework for is-to-do-wonder, the fifth of five core attitudes.5Is-to-do wonder is the fifth of five basic attitudes, the occurrence of which we associate with the final cause.

The Fifth Core Attitude 

Recall that Helen consented to at least one formulated possibility that met with her approval. The arrow below Image 1 denotes the upward direction in which the what-to-do attitude rapidly progresses to the is-to-do attitude. 

 She recalls, 

I did nothing but explore with my hands and learn the name of every object that I touched.6op. cit., 21.

Is-to-do Wonder 

Image 1 


Helen recollects her glee at the discovery of language and its possibilities: 

I learned a great many new words that day. I do not remember what they all were; but I do know that motherfathersisterteacher were among them – words that were to make the world blossom for me, ‘like Aaron’s rod, with flowers.’ It would have been difficult to find a happier child than I was as I lay in my crib at the close of that eventful day and lived over the joys it had brought me, and for the first time longed for a new day to come.7Op. cit., Helen Keller, The Story of My Life, 20.

Is-to-do Questions 

Sometime during “the close of that eventful day,” then, Helen’s ‘longing’ bubbles up with a different kind of wonder that evaluates her formulated plan and its conditions for success and happiness. 

Her memories reflect the result of having deliberated over such questions as: is it worthwhileDoes it inspire hope and confidence? 

As my knowledge of things grew I felt more and more the delight of the world I was in.8Op. cit., Helen Keller, The Story of My Life, 20.

There was a growing sense of self-worth and belonging: 

… the more I handled things and learned their names and uses, the more joyous and confident grew my sense of kinship with the rest of the world.9Ibid., 20.


Helen arrived at an is-insight with a 

prophetic vision of the good that would come of the undertaking.10Op. cit., The Story of My Life, 59.

Her insight forged a new reality in which her formulated plan alone met with approval, wherein her consent and choice coincided. 

Judgment of Value 

With this convergence, she expressed her preference and arrived a judgment of value. She recalls her great leap forward: 

With the dropping of a little word from another’s hand into mine, a slight flutter of the fingers, began the intelligence, the joy, the fullness of my life. Like Job, I feel as if a hand had made me, fashioned me together round about and molded my very soul.11Ibid., 10.

Thus, Helen’s judgment of value consisted of two simultaneous, complementary judgments. First, the good-to-be-achieved by her choice 

To what is good I open the doors of my being …12Op. cit., The World I Live In, 130-1.

Secondly, the satisfaction that came from having made her choice 

… the force of this beautiful and willful conviction, it carries itself in the face of all opposition.13Ibid., 131.


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