The Dynamics of Doing: The Last Three Boxes

This installment picks up where we left off with our exercise in the dynamics of doing (the practical mode of thinking by which we desire to make decisions). You have been invited to 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. At this point you’ve expressed your approval or consent with a formulation for a possible choice or choices of entrée from the menu. Now we focus on the complex sequence of events in the last three (of seven) boxes in our diagram.1No doubt, you will probably notice we use a variety of expressions interchangeably throughout to describe the orientation of our desire in the act of doing. To avoid confusion, we line up these interchangeable expressions for you here: We decide or choose or plan, with a desire to do that which is good or responsible, or worthwhile, or of value, or best, or practical.

Box 5: Is-to-do?

Spontaneously, your wonder is focused on what questions in an is-to-do? stance. Of the possible plan(s) to which you have consented, which2The word ‘which’ emphasizes choice, even though ‘which’ and ‘what’ are often interchangeable in every day usage. plan is worthwhile putting into action? What are the implications and consequences of each possibility? What possibility inspires the most confidence? In short, which plan do you prefer?

This sequence is extremely complex. There are many variables at play involving your mood, temperament and background that condition how you weigh and evaluate one or more of your formulated plans. Do you play it safe? Do you take a leap into the unknown?

You are a desire to grasp which of the approved entrées is the best dinner plan. And so during these deliberations, all relevant is-to-do questions continue to surface until they have been exhausted. There is a rapid back and forth movement, as you sift through each plan in a continuous interaction of known facts, creative imagination and memories of tastes, scents, textures and after-effects all of which establish the conditions for goodness that need to be met. This is your reflective ‘weighing of evidence.’ You aren’t satisfied with just any plan; you want your plan to be good. You want to make the best possible choice, the most responsible choice. In other words, you are a desire for goodness.3In a brief aside, we would also note that what is good means what is good here and now. (“What is good, always is concrete.” Bernard Lonergan, Method in Theology, 27.) Many students have confused this by mistakenly including the consequence of their choice, good or bad, happy or sad, in their reflections on the decision-making process. What is true is that every decision we make intends a good and happy consequence. It is also true of the human condition, and evident in our personal experience, that we often don’t get the good and happy result we anticipated. We’ve all heard the expression, “It seemed like a good idea at the time,” or the frequently quoted, “The best laid plans…oft go awry.” (The saying is adapted from a line of “To a Mouse” by Robert Burns.) However, only prior results of good deeds or misdeeds are embedded in your complex background at the time leading up to a decision. And whether or not your prior deliberations are lengthy or brief, the fact is, it is in our nature always to choose that which is good and practicalin the moment. As for the consequences? Que serà, serà! When a decision results in a bad or unhappy consequence, often we learn (or fail to learn) ‘the hard way’ (sometimes at great cost) from those misdeeds, disappointments and regrets, the effect of which is recycled back into the our personal store of known facts and memories on the way to future decisions.

Which plan will fulfill all the conditions of your desire for goodness?

Box 6: Is-Insight

Rapidly or slowly, there comes a leap to a practical insight that fulfills all the conditions of your desire for goodness. Thus, your preference for, or choice of, one entrée is settled.

Box 7: Judgment of Value

You express a judgment of value.4Again, to avoid confusion, we ask you to pause here, supported we hope by reflection on your initial experience of each dynamic process in our knowing and doing, to note the distinction between a judgment of fact and a judgment of value. The orientation of the former is a desire to reach correct understanding, while the orientation of the latter is a desire to do that which is good. Aquinas makes the same distinction with the expressions, ‘reason’ and ‘will’ respectively: “…choice is substantially not an act of the reason but of the will: for choice is accomplished in a certain movement…towards the good which is chosen.” ST, I – II, Q13, A1

Yes! I am happy to proceed with my preferred plan!”

A judgment of value combines two distinct judgments:

A first judgment expresses the good-to-be-achieved:

“I have made the best choice, here and now!”

A second judgment expresses your satisfaction at having made the best choice:

“I am happy with my decision!”

From receiving the menu, to ordering with a good end in sight, you have now concluded your elementary journey into the dynamics of doing.5We would add here this also concludes both introductory exercises to our hidden decency, our thinking selves: the Dynamics of Knowing (Journeyism 10 and Journeyism 11) and the Dynamics of Doing (Journeyism 16 and Journeyism 17). We encourage you to repeat this exercise often to deepen your appreciation of the layers of complexity that make you what you are: a desire to do that which is good.

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