The Dynamics of Doing: The First Four Boxes 

The diagram above is an assembly of the fourth and fifth core attitudes gradually brought to the surface in the previous four chapters. Called the Dynamics of Doing, it is the recurring pattern of how we, by nature, desire to do that which is responsible and good.1The Dynamics of Knowing and the Dynamics of Doing underpin an 8-fold strategy to be introduced in Journeyism 19. Combined, we term these modes critical method. “What, then, is critical method? It is method with respect to the ultimate, method applied to the most basic issues.” (Bernard Lonergan, CWL 2, 1992, 708.) Ultimately, critical method will be the foundation of “new standards of competence” in the future academy: our hidden decency, a luminous and practical grasp of our native wonder.

The exercise in the Dynamics of Knowing, you’ll recall, was very challenging because our thinking process is invisible and operates at lightning speed. But it can be made sensible when we begin with description. So, we invite you to describe your decision-making process with an enjoyable exercise in dining out. 

Since doing this exercise on your own is just as challenging, we suggest including the company of one or more friends to enhance the fun. Perhaps this exercise will change your dining-out experience in a good way that becomes part of your spontaneity, and of course, a cumulative way to generate valuable data.  

So, we follow the same approach as the Dynamics of Knowing by focusing on the first four boxes in this chapter, and the last three boxes in the next.2The exercise, created by Philip McShane, has been implemented successfully in both university and high school philosophy courses. Portions of the exercise are adapted from Chapters 20-21 of Introducing Critical Thinking. Each exercise will consist of two tasks: Task A and Task B. 

 Task A.  Choosing a main course 

Visit a favorite restaurant that operates at a leisurely pace, and offers its meals from a menu “à la carte”.3From a practical standpoint of pacing and of working from a menu at a table, the hustle and bustle of fast-food restaurants, as a rule, is probably less than ideal for this exercise. Your task is to choose one entrée from the menu. In order to avoid complicating the exercise further, it is best to omit the beverage, the appetizer and the dessert in your reflections. We have crossed out these items on the sample menu below as a reminder. 

Task B. Puzzling about your decision making 

It’s a safe bet that your pre-meal thought process routinely flies by without a second thought. Only now, your “second thought” is exactly what we are inviting you to do for Task B. As soon as it is convenient after the meal, while your memory of the experience is still fresh, describe as best you can, in writing, the sequence of thinking activities that occurred between receiving the menu from the server and handing the menu back after your choice of entrée is made. The more you do this exercise, the more you’ll notice that specific details, similar to those exhibited below, will appear in your description.

The ‘What-to-do’ Process 

You are in a concrete situation (at a particular time and place) to make a decision that demands an ‘on-the-spot’ response from you. 

Box 1 – Senses, Images + Known Facts 

Sensesimages and known facts are already present in you as a sort of ‘given.’ 

How are you focused as you peruse the list of main courses? 

It may depend on your previous experiences and your confidence. Are you confident enough to call the server over and ask for an evaluation of, or details about, specific dishes? Are you preoccupied, distracted or influenced by price or by memories of how certain dishes tasted that were either poorly prepared or well-prepared? Are you health-conscious when it comes to considering a type of dish? Are you vegan or vegetarian? Do you have any food allergies? 

Box 2 – What-to-do Questions 

 

Your practical wonder is in control. Your spontaneous questions revolve around the basic question what am I to do? You are thinking creatively about a possible plan. You are wondering what might be, what possible plans will be practical / best / good. 

 

Depending on the circumstances, a flood of specific What-to-do questions is ‘prompted’ by your sensesimagination and known facts, as well as by giving consideration to believe in the advice given by others. 

For example, you have perhaps had some of them before, or certain dishes may have unfamiliar names. The appeal of certain dishes may depend on with whom you are having the meal. 

You have memories, “intellectually-digested” memories so-to-speak: thoughts about the textures, tastes, the heats, the after effects (and the price of course). 

Slowly or quickly, with or without advice, you are actively formulating and pulling together your prior knowledge as well as your images of possibilities. 

Box 3 – Direct Insight 

  

Your formulating precedes a direct insight (!). 

Box 4 – Formulated Possibilities 

 

You approve of, or consent to, one or more possible plans as front-runners. You express your approval or consent – it is a formulation of a possible choice or possible choices.

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