The Dynamics of Doing: The First Four Boxes

Previously, we introduced a first exercise in the dynamics of knowing (the mode of thinking by which we desire to solve problems1See Journeyism 10 and 11.). Now we introduce a second exercise in the dynamics of doing (the practical mode of thinking by which we desire to make decisions) starting with the first four (of seven) boxes.2Note the parallel structure of seven boxes between the Dynamics of Doing and the Dynamics of Knowing. The Dynamics of Knowing diagram showing the seven boxes is introduced at the beginning of Journeyism 10. Again, we point to the fact that each mode of thinking coalesces to form the core3Both modes of thinking underpin the implementation of 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.) of, ultimately, “new standards of competence” in the future academy: what we call our hidden decency, a luminous and practical grasp of our native wonder.

If you made some headway in our first exercise, then you will have begun to discover for yourself that the hiddeness of your thinking process can be made sensible4All five senses can be involved. Sight is the most dominant for most. However, recall Helen Keller’s discoveries, for example, are the result of her sense of touch. by noticing certain linguistic patterns in your description.5Please recall our first footnote in Journeyism 12. Our point in this note applies equally to our treatment of the dynamics of doing: At this stage, our illustrations and exercises in the dynamics of knowing have been drawn from elementary, descriptive illustrations and examples accessible to common sense. As far as it goes, these instances, while precise, empirically verifiable, and sufficient to our purpose, are incomplete. To appreciate the full control of data required for sensible and human meanings we will need to draw on further elementary illustrations and examples from the world of theory in Journeyism 25. Also, see our series, Economics for the Positive Anthropocene, Parts 1 and 2. Our examples there will serve to help you distinguish between descriptive (commonsense) reflection and explanatory (theoretical) reflection on data. At the same time, your basic “decency” is brought to light to reveal you at your best, in your capacity not only to create, but also to implement, the best available solutions to meet our most pressing needs.6See Journeyism 1.

Below, we invite you to discover your decision-making process with an enjoyable exercise7This exercise, created by Philip McShane, has been tried by students successfully in both university and high school philosophy courses. Portions of the exercise are adapted from Chapters 20-21 of Introducing Critical Thinking., the execution of which follows the same approach: consideration of the first four boxes in this installment and of the last three boxes in the next.

Like the first exercise, it’s important to be aware that it is not easy. For one thing, just as the process of our desire to know moves at lightening speed, this is likewise the case in our decision-making process.8Nor is this surprising. Remember the common, albeit unsubstantiated, statistic of an average of 35,000 decisions made per person per day that has been popularly bandied about? See Journeyism 12. Doing this exercise on the spot can make it difficult. On the other hand, you may wish to include the company of one or more friends to enhance the fun. Perhaps this exercise about dining will change your dining-out experiences permanently, but in a good way that becomes part of your spontaneity. That, after all, is the function of our journey together to discover our thinking selves.

Task A.  Choosing a main course

Choose a favorite restaurant that operates at a leisurely pace, and offers its meals from a menu “à la carte”.9From 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.

Task B. Puzzling about how your thinking works when choosing a main course

It’s a safe bet that prior to this occasion your pre-meal thought process virtually flew by without you having given it second thought. Giving it a second thought, however, is exactly what we are inviting you to do here with Task B. As best you can, describe the sequence of thinking activities that occur between receiving the menu from the server and handing the menu back after your choice of entrée is made.

In order to avoid complicating the exercise any further, it would be best not to include the beverage, appetizer or dessert in your reflections.10As a reminder, we have crossed out these items on the sample menu below.

Try to track and highlight the data of wonder in your description:

  •  Identify and highlight your use of different types of question marks:
    • what-to-do-questions: what items do you find appealing? what factors do you take into consideration?
    • why questions: what makes some items more appealing than others?
  • Highlight the language and details you used to describe the process LEADING UP TO reaching consent.
  • Highlight the language and punctuation you used to describe the process AT THE MOMENT OF reaching consent.
  • Highlight the language and punctuation you used to describe the process IMMEDIATELY AFTER reaching consent.

Boxes 2, 3, 4

Box 1

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.

The ‘What-to-do’ Process

Box 1 – Senses, Images + Known Facts

Senses, images 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 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 senses, imagination 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 (!). You approve of, or consent to, one or more possible plans as front-runners.

Box 4 – Formulated Possibilities

You express your approval or consent – it is a formulation of a possible choice or possible choices.

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