Tim and All,
Tim raises a very interesting and not solved pussle - are thinking and
doing two animals or one? He wrote:
"For there to be a relationship between thinking and acting
they must be different things. Are they? I think not."
Essentially this question goes into the heart of our research tradition.
Our analytic tradition is based on dividing up nature into component parts,
understand the parts, and then understanding how the parts interact to make
the integrated whole that we try to understand. We believe that we
understand better the whole through decomposition and integration rather
than only studying the whole as a whole. In that greek tradition Descartes
thought it productive to make a distinction between mental processes and
bodily acts. That distinction may or may not make sense given what you want
In learning theory most scientists have found the separation of the mental
and the behavioral fruitful. What is purely mental at the individual level
and not communicated through some bodily act (including body language and
verbal language or the use of artifacts that can communicate is referred to
as tacit, what is visible and interpretable for others is at some level
explicit and transferable between individuals. It has implications for
understanding organizational and societal learning and other processes
involving more than one person.
I believe it quite possible for somebody to go through mental processes not
visible or only partly visible for others. That does not imply that traces
of those mental processes cannot be measured and recorded by others, as it
is likely, given our knowledge of different parts of mental processes that
bodily actions always happen in connections with mental processes and vice
versa. At least some chemical/electrical processes occur when thinking, and
the result of those processes can be stimulated in the brain to call back
the thought to the person against that person's will. The knowledge is also
used to help seriously bodily handicapped persons to communicate by
amplifying neural currents from thoughts via sensors to computers, etc. It
can also help doctors diagnose many illnesses - including mental disorders
- through studying our shit.
In a sense I feel Tim is both right and wrong at the same time. Bodily
processes are probably totally intertwined with thought processes. It is
hard to imagine any act not being a consequence of some
mental/neural/chemical process - the act has to be energized by something.
But the driving forces behind that act does not have to be concious. Nor
does the act itself have to be concious for the person performing it (see
my earlier e-mails to the list). The meaning of the mental process to the
individual cannot be understood by outsiders without some help from the
individual having the thought - unless the act has been investigated
earlier and is repetitive, or the act already has a socially constructed
meaning. (Raising one finger from an inverted fist has an explicit meaning
in some societies but not in all, and certainly not the same meaning in all
On the other hand, overtly acting to reinforce, stimulate, record and
memorize thoughts is quite well recognized and used extensively by pedagogs
as a learning tool. How many times does a pro tennis player have to hit
that ball before the judgement of the ball's and own movement becomes
automatic, so that the pro hits the target with the right spin without
really being concious of what s/he is doing? When coacing my students I
often state that until you have made your thoughts (theories, hypotheses or
whatever) understandable for others through objects, pictures and/or
language, you have no complete test of whether you actually have thought
thoroughly through and understand whatever you are thinking about.
So we get back to the truth Tim believes in, the whole is whole and not the
sum of its parts. If you try to dissicate the human beeing into his/her
integral parts - physically speaking s/he dies from it.......but it this
line of thought too restrictive? Even if our blood system cannot be
understood except in the context of our total body and our environment, can
it fruitfully be investigated also as a bodily sub-system or can it not?
Does every blood cell also contain the whole? Genetic knowledge seems to
suggest it is so.....
Norwegian School of Management, Oslo
Tim Smithers <[log in to unmask]>@mailbase.ac.uk on 07.11.2000 10:12:40
Please respond to Tim Smithers <[log in to unmask]>
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Subject: Thinking and acting ...
In his message [Sun, 5 Nov 2000 12:08:34, Subject: design
knowledge & phd] Alain Findeli wrote:
"I believe our current Western, i.e. dualistic, agnostic,
materialistic, thinking patterns are not "creative" enough
to figure out, indeed to design, what I and others
consider to be one of the key issue in this matter: the
exact nature and quality of the relationship between
thinking and acting ..."
Doesn't this suffer from the dualism that it complains of?
For there to be a relationship between thinking and acting
they must be different things. Are they? Are thinking and
acting really of different categories, as you seem to
suggest? I think they are not.
Descart would, of course, want us to believe thinking and
acting are different things. Acting and actions change
the (physical) world, the 'world out there', whereas
thinking is what minds do, and whatever minds do they
don't change the world out there, though thoughts can lead
to actions that do, by some means that Descart neglected to
make clear for us.
Sketching, for example, is commonly thought of, and quite
widely accepted as, an important kind of thinking in
various kinds of designing. Separating out what is
supposed to be the thinking from the acting in sketching,
as is done in many protocol studies of sketching in
designing, misses the fact that it is the motions of the
hand and arm that draws the thinking along. Literally!
This thinking, and the perceptions of the drawn marks, in
turn, form the further sketching motions. The thinking
would not happen here without the actions, or, at least,
would not happen in the same way. And nor would the
actions happen, or, again, at least not in the same way.
Even walking along the street is a kind of thinking for
me. I only think about certain things and only think in
certain ways when I am walking. This is probably only a
matter of habit, and not something necessary, but it's
true all the same.
So, trying to understand designing in terms of what
designers think, where think here means what minds do,
makes little or no sense to me. Just as trying to
understand designing only in terms of the movements of the
hand over the drawing board would not make any sense
CEIT, Donostia / San Sebastián