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“What”, “How” & “Why” Questions

Book cover for "Planet Earth: Insane Asylum for the Universe"


Move From Two-Valued to Four-Valued Thinking

“Don’t ask why the patient is the way he is, ask for what he would change.” —Milton Erickson

“It isn’t what you do, but how you do it.” —John Wooden


R. FOUR-VALUED

One of the greatest and most reliable truths in the world to test spirits with, to make judgments with, to guide your thinking with is that it is not ‘what’ but ‘how’ that matters, that counts in the end.

It does not matter what the act is, there is a time and place for it. It does not matter what the act is, it can be done by good for good, or by evil for evil. It does not matter what it is, but how it is done.

The means justify the ends. The ‘what’ can be good and the ‘how’ evil, and the result will be evil. The ‘what’ can be evil and the ‘how’ good, and the result will be good. Any instrument or tool can be used for evil, or used in error to cause damage or to make mistakes. But in the right hand, the same instrument or tool can be used for good or to produce art.

The ‘how’ is the process, the procedures that are used and thus the method and the result. The ‘what’ is just the thing used, and is neither the result nor the work done. Many fools mistake the thing for the process, and judge the work as evil if the thing used is evil. Hate, for example, is a thing that can be used, that can be processed well or badly.

We can have pure hate of evil, or we can have hate of our neighbor. In the first case there is no evil as we are hating evil in purity, just as one must hate to be in a car accident in order to avoid one. In the second instance, the hate is of our neighbor and is filled with lies, with unclean self-concepts, and is thus a sin against them, us, and God.

Principally, we need to use this concept to help us to stop judging our self, and to limit our judgments to our behavior. Just as a car is not the motion of driving or any of its potential or actual driving maneuvers or movements, we too are not the actions we perform, but, rather, that which performs them. We and the car are the ‘what’, and our and the car’s actions are the ‘how’. The car is the thing itself, while its behaviors are not even attributes, but only abilities and performances. It is the ‘how’, as always, that we need to judge and not the ‘what’.

Judge the behavior and stop there. But we don’t, we judge the self that did the behavior with the same judgment. Are we, is our being the same thing as our actions? When we wave our hands in the air, are we the motion of our arms? If when we walk and we take a left turn, are we that turn? Is the car its speed? Stop the judgment after and with the behavior, and you will stop sinning.

One example of our need of both the concepts ‘how’ and ‘opposites’ is the case of what we call cause and effect thinking. This is a dualistic process, and like all such knowledge is misunderstood as two distinct parts, that is, the cause is misunderstood as one completely separate thing, and the effect as another completely separate event. The fact is that they are both one. This misunderstanding has led to our thinking and judging that if we can eliminate a cause then the effect of that cause will disappear. The effects remain, of course, and even seek out and try to reinitiate the cause so as to sustain themselves.

The imagined separation of cause and effect allows us to ignore the context in which events occur, for example, our legal system does this and says that that is just. And to also ignore how the events occur, for example, our religious systems do this and condemn, for example, sex and call this moral. When we understand four-valued thinking, we know that the cause and effect are one because it is ‘how’ a thing is done that determines its effect.

Cause and effect thinking imagines a one-to-one correspondence between the cause and the effect, not realizing that there is the possibility for different effects with the same cause based solely on how the cause is executed. For example, neither sex nor punishment are wrong, but how they are executed can be.

Cause and effect are a duality, and we can work on one half of the duality at a time. But changing one half will not necessarily change the other half. In some rare cases, we have proceeded to work on only one half of the duality and have also managed, unknowingly, to also work on the other half. These are our experiences of success when working with cause and effect analysis. If we do change just one half then either half can change the other. And what is most likely is that the unchanged half will change the changed half back into the way it was before it was changed.

It has appeared to some that will, belief, desire, ambition, pursuing, wanting, reaching, striving, becoming, control, achievement, thought, the mind, passion, and/or other inner activities are ‘the’ problem. But, they are only the problem when they are self-concept based. Even right belief in the mouth of self-concepts is evil. How are these things done? Are they done by self-concepts? Then the answer is they are wrong. Are they done by and with a pure heart? Then the answer is they are right and good. To judge a thing, ask not just what the thing is, but also how it is done.

Emotionally ‘how’ is certainly primary to ‘what’, but ‘why’ is primary to ‘how’. That is, as Nietzsche said, if we have a ‘why’ then we can put up with any ‘how’. If God is our ‘why’ then the ‘what’ of death and the ‘how’ of torture are bearable. But, intellectually, verbally, mentally the order is completely reversed. First, we need to know “what” before we can know “how,” and we need to know “how” before we can know or determine “why”.

As was discussed in “Self-Concept: The Enemy Within,” the basic unit of thought is a judgment which leads to one of two choices. We can call this nature of thought an either/or process, a yes/no process, a simple two-valued system, or compare it to a computer program decision or testing point before a branch. Most of our thinking is limited to beginning and ending with one either/or test.

When we incorporate the ‘how’ question into all of our reasoning, we develop our thinking up and down to a four-valued system. This is so because for every answer to an either/or question, we then ask how it was, is done before classifying it. Thus, every either/or response leads to another either/or response about itself, forcing us always to evaluate to the fourth level, rather than to only the second level as with normal simplistic thinking.

Honestly examine your thinking, and you will find that you have basically two possibilities for outcomes whenever you are questioning, analyzing, testing etc. (Of course, you can then quickly use another either/or to create more possibilities, but the point is that at each step along the way, of even infinite choices, we use a two-valued system instead of the more accurate four-valued system.)

Our simplistic two-valued system asks ‘what’, which includes who, where, when, etc. It is based on the duality of knowledge, and must follow that structure. The little-used four-valued system asks ‘how’ after ‘what’ has been fully answered. So the four-valued system asks both ‘what’ and ‘how’, and in the proper order while the two-valued asks only ‘what’. Thus, the four-valued system finds out the relationship data that the two-valued system leaves out. The question ‘why’ adds no new knowledge, but is useful only to interpret accumulated data. ‘Why’ will have a far greater chance of being answered accurately if we have asked both ‘what’ and ‘how’ first. ‘Why’ is a much-maligned question, because people ask it first rather than last, and so prevent proper inquiry.

If you train yourself to always add the ‘how’ factor then you will always have four possible outcomes instead of the usual two. A simplistic two-valued system will examine only the referents (things) and their operations (actions), whereas our four-valued system will examine our system of evaluation as well. We then move from focusing only on the ‘what’ of correct thinking to also include the ‘how’ of correct thinking.

Unfortunately, the ‘how’ of thinking is virtually both untaught and unknown. We have become fairly expert in determining the things and actions that we are talking or thinking about, but we have no concomitant awareness of the process of our examination, of our ‘how’, of our method, of our believing, or of our interpreting. The two-valued system leaves out the person who is doing the thinking, while the four-valued system incorporates the human part as a real and significant part of correct thinking.

Never ask ‘what’ unless you intend to and do ask ‘how’ once you have your ‘what’. These two questions should always go hand in hand, with ‘what’ occurring and being answered fully first. After ‘how’ has also been satisfied, then and only then is it appropriate to also ask ‘why’. Of course, since we are not perfect thinkers, the answers to the new questions will often impact and change the answers to the previous questions. Be open to this, but don’t let it stop you from answering in the first place. Correction is good and ennobling, but what can be corrected and how can it be corrected if we fail to proceed for fear of error?

The two-valued method goes from ‘what’ to ‘what’. The four-valued method goes from ‘what’ to ‘how’, and then on to the next ‘what’ and the next ‘how’.

Our four-valued method of thinking leads to possibilities, options, openness, examination of the facts, concern for the empirical reality, consideration for the situation, examination of the context, awareness of the extenuating circumstances, and thereby to an infinite-valued system as no two situations are ever alike. It deals head-on with the fact that sensation is dynamic and thought is static.

The means don’t justify the ends, they are the ends. Thus how we do a thing is far more important than the thing we do. If you want to know the end of a thing then know its beginning.

A true four-valued thinker is not rigid like a two-valued thinker. Hence, they can accept that there are some two-valued and even some one-valued realities, for example, evil is evil is evil.”

Ecclesiastes 3:1 “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:”

Reprinted from The Seventh Way: How to Live Beyond Self-Concepts by Kevin Everett FitzMaurice. Copyright 1990 by Kevin Everett FitzMaurice. Reprinted by permission of PalmTree Publishers (now out of print).


Following is a rewritten Zen story about being stuck on the question “why.”

Once there was a general sitting on top of a hill surrounded by an elite guard. As he observed the progress of the battle, a stray arrow struck him in the chest. When his physician came to pull out the arrow and tend to his wounds, the general said, “First let me find out who shot me, then you can take out the arrow.”

So the general sent out some of his elite guards to find the archer. Surprisingly, they were able to find out who shot the arrow. Rushing back to the general, they informed him of who the archer was. The surgeon then once again began preparations to remove the arrow, however, the general objected and said, “First let me find out who made the arrow, then you can take out the arrow.”

So once again the general sent out some of his elite guards. This time to find the maker of the arrow. Surprisingly, they were able to find out who made the arrow. Rushing back to the general, they informed him of who the maker was. The surgeon then once again began preparations to remove the arrow, however, the general objected and said, “First let me find out what tree the arrow came from, then you can take out the arrow.”

So once again the general sent out some of his elite guards. This time to find the tree that the arrow was made from. Surprisingly, they were able to find out what tree the arrow was cut from. Rushing back to the general, they informed him of which tree was used to make the arrow. The surgeon then once again began preparations to remove the arrow, however, the general objected and said, “First let me find out who planted the tree that the arrow came from, then you can take out the arrow.”

So once again the general sent out some of his elite guards. This time to find the planter of the tree that the arrow was made from. Surprisingly, they were able to find out who planted the tree that the arrow was cut from. Rushing back to the general, they found that he had bled to death while waiting for answers to all of his questions.


Following is a rewritten parable circulating in 12-step groups about the consequences of asking “why.”

There once was a man who was on a sinking ship. When the others were safely in the lifeboat, they asked him to join them. But he refused. He said he could not leave the sinking ship until he knew “why” it was sinking. The others watched in horror as he went down with the ship.


Following is Kevin Everett FitzMaurice’s analogy about asking “why.”

To insist on knowing “why” before you accept help is like falling in the ocean and refusing to swim to shore until you know “why” you fell in.


Related Pages


QUOTATIONS KEVIN

Organized Alphabetically

“Answers to ‘why’ are often just an escape from the whirlpool effect of ‘why.'”–Kevin Everett FitzMaurice

“If we waited until we knew why the universe existed, there would be no astronomy.”–Kevin Everett FitzMaurice

“If we waited until we knew why matter existed, there would be no physics.”–Kevin Everett FitzMaurice

“If we waited until we knew why the exchange of electrons gave off energy, there would be no electricity.”–Kevin Everett FitzMaurice

“If you know ‘what’ you can look for ‘how’, and if you know ‘how’ you can look for ‘why.'”–Kevin Everett FitzMaurice

“Knowing ‘what’ allows you to define the problem. Knowing ‘how’ allows you to solve the problem. Knowing ‘why’ allows you to prevent the problem.”–Kevin Everett FitzMaurice

“‘What’ is for data collection and ‘how’ is for analysis of the patterns of the data collected. But ‘why’ is for dreaming.”–Kevin Everett FitzMaurice

“‘Why’ is a witch hunt.”–Kevin Everett FitzMaurice

“‘Why’ is the luxury of leisure but ‘what’ and ‘how’ are the tools of work.”–Kevin Everett FitzMaurice

“‘Why’ is the merry-go-round of procrastinators.”–Kevin Everett FitzMaurice

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