The Myth of ‘Just do it’: Thought and Effort in Expert Action preface



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Descriptive just-do-it: For experts, when all is going well, optimal or near-optimal performance proceeds without thought.
I imagine that the idea of performance being optimal or near-optimal, though vague, is clear enough. Proponents of just-do-it don’t maintain that experts never think. On their view, an expert may start thinking about what should be automatic, and this precisely is when they start to perform poorly. However, they also hold that when they are performing well (optimally or near-optimally), thought does not occur. I shall discuss what I mean by “expert” in the next chapter, but let me here say a bit about the qualification “when all is going well.” “When all is going well” in this context means in circumstances that do not involve unusual problems or errors. For example, if during a performance of Giselle, the ballerina’s partner limps off stage with a torn Achilles tendon, this would be an unusual circumstance, and on anyone’s view, she will need to figure out what to do. Circumstances that involve unusual problems thus are not covered by just-do-it. However, some (if not many) expert actions normally proceed at a certain level of disaster. For example, during a chess game one player might be in a worse position than her opponent, which is a disaster for her, yet it is in no way unusual: this is just how games typically proceed. Or in the emergency room, a patient may arrive on the verge of death, and while in a sense things are definitely not going well, this is, again, not unusual. The qualification “when all is going well” is not meant to exclude such situations.

Advocates of just-do-it will, of course, also hold that in certain situations when things are going drastically wrong, thinking interferes with performance. As they see it, however, this is precisely when things are going wrong because it is the thinking itself that is causing the disaster.


The second part of the (extreme) principle is what I refer to as the principle of interference:




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