How Does Intellectual Labour Proceed? (Part 3)

Human Knowing

Our sample subject area has yielded some dynamic expressions. The task now is to investigate the role some of them play in the structure of human knowing, in expressing what actually occurs when you, or we, or anyone is thinking. 

We display a selection of these dynamic expressions (previously highlighted in Table 2) in a preliminary diagram below: to experience, to wonder, to question, to understand, to wonder, to question, to know. “” represents a movement between two stages of wonder. “” represents the occurrence of a significant event at the two stages of wonder.1The occurrence of this “event” was conspicuously omitted in the subject description. Recall the example of getting the punch line to a joke in Journeyism 3. We describe a moment when you experience “a creative ‘flash’ of understanding” when “tension is released.” 

Preliminary Diagram

To question To know
To question To understand
To experience

The diagram displays words and signs arranged in a pattern. They describe a series of stages by which we ascend to correctly understand or to possess knowledge. On this point, then, we agree with Aristotle: 

All men [and women] by nature desire to know.2ibid. Aristotle, Ross (Trans.), Metaphysics, Book A, (I).

There you have it. Or do you? It would be encouraging if you suspect that merely being told the “answer,” or having been spoon-fed this description, regardless of the source, does not do the trick. The point is, where understanding sensible data or data of human meaning is concerned, we cannot tell you the answer to anything. You will need to discover the answer for yourself. In the words of Thomas Aquinas: 

Inform students of a bundle of opinions and they depart empty-headedly.3Nihil scientiae vel intellectus acquiret, sed vacuus adscdet.” Quodl., IV, a. 18.

To avoid that fate, we will continue to encourage, guide and support you in your search, or in this case, your self-search for how you think. 


The challenge is, can you accurately describe your thinking process? This preliminary exercise will help get you started. 

How do you think? First, think of the question, how, as an acronym for “home owonder”. Our wonder, then, begins by fixing attention on our experience of sensible data — in this case, what we have named our Preliminary Diagram. The trick is to focus on what you are “taking in” through your sense of sight (as opposed to merely gaping). It is most likely you have never before seen, that is, experienced these expressions presented in this way. So, if you are paying careful attention to that experience in the moment, you simply see a series of words and signs arranged in a pattern.

To question To know
To question To understand
To experience

Notice that the individual words and signs in the diagram are familiar and easy to memorize and repeat. It is likely you have uttered and written these words many times for various reasons. However, your reading of the words and signs presented in this way should have little or no meaning for you. Your initial reading of the diagram should likely make no more sense than a missed punch line to a joke. But your curiosity might well be aroused by what you see: a puzzle you would desire to understand. 

It would be helpful to pause here to compare your initial experience of reading this diagram to the initial experience of reading unfamiliar written signs or symbols in, say, one bar of Chopin’s music, or a Maxwell-Faraday equation, or a Japanese haiku.4, Wikipedia, 07-06-2020 For example: 

What happens when you do this? Chances are, you would not progress much further than seeing the marks on the page. The prospect of making sense of these marks would be remote and you would probably struggle merely to repeat what it is you see. However, your curiosity might well be aroused by what you see: a puzzle you would desire to understand. 

Some observations … 

This exercise is but a modest first attempt to read the preliminary diagram properly. You can make a little progress by generating personal datadata from which to accurately describe how you think; to describe what is actually occurring when you are in a state of wonder.5We suggest it would be worthwhile to get into the habit of observing your curiosity in your written products for hard evidence of being curious at various times in your life, in which you desired to make sense of something, to solve a puzzle, a problem or a situation, etc. In equal measure, it would be worthwhile to do likewise in your reflections on each attempt to properly read the diagrams presented in this series. We respectfully urge you to, 1) Identify and highlight your use of different types of question marks: what-questions: what is it?why questionswhat is the cause?is-questions: is it so?is it a fact?, 2) Highlight the language and punctuation you used to describe when you experienced a breakthrough, hard evidence of your experience of “getting it”: the excitement of experiencing a “flash”, a “eureka” moment, an insight, an instance in which you “got to the bottom of a problem or an issue” and expressed your excitement, 3) Highlight the language you used to describe those difficult and frustrating “in between” moments when the prospect of reaching a solution seemed to be such a remote, even impossible task, until your breakthrough moment when the solution suddenly became all too obvious. Moreover, success at solving any puzzle or problem, simple or complex, let alone unveiling the process by which you undertook to solve it, occurs neither as the result of being told the answer, nor by the act of merely repeating the expressions. 

Might it also be fair to say that the initial experience of reading unfamiliar signs or symbols or diagrams usually involves struggle with other questions, that can often be uncomfortably slow and tedious to solve, and require perseverance and patience? 

[A]nswers to many questions depend on answers to still other questions, that often enough advertence to these other questions arises only from the insight that to meet interesting questions one has to begin from quite uninteresting ones.6CWL 3, 197.

Suffice it to say, then, to reach a correct understanding of our experience, the process of which includes sensible data and thinking, naturally portends a lengthy and challenging climb to mastery. 

Your personal struggle to take possession of these facts can prove to be illuminating. Not only will you become increasingly liberated from reliance on authority or guesswork about your wonder (your desire to understand correctly), but also your hard-won view will be irrefutable. You will be able to distinguish and describe, accurately, core attitudes that you initially experienced represented in a diagram – hidden attitudes, it will soon be revealed, that describe anyone’s core desire to correctly understand or to know any aspect of human experience. Ultimately, this discovery will be the basis for “new standards of competence” in the future academy.7The performance of this task was coined “Generalized Empirical Method” by Bernard Lonergan: “Generalized empirical method envisages all data. … Generalized empirical method operates on a combination of both the data of sense and the data of consciousness: it does not treat of objects without taking into account the corresponding operations of the subject; it does not treat of the subject’s operations without taking into account the corresponding objects.” (Bernard Lonergan, “Second Lecture” in A Third Collection, vol. 16 of Collected Works of Bernard Lonergan, eds. Robert M. Doran and John D. Dadosky (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2017), 136. 


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