Being and doing

While working on two papers based on the blog thus far - one on philosophical foundations and a second on practical use of DAGs for graphical causal models to represent the knowledge of practice - I am going to take on something not yet addressed on the blog that has been weighing my mind recently. Perhaps it is an inner tension, perhaps it is a realization, perhaps it is Monday of spring break or perhaps it is just the morning after Taco Sunday.

The Vision Statement for the Physical Therapy Profession set forth by the APTA is quite well written and offers a refreshing focus for the profession and therefore hopefully the professionals it represents. It is: “Transforming society by optimizing movement to improve the human experience.”

A vision statement is essentially a statement of what (or who) an organization (or perhaps a person, maybe even you) is - it is a statement of being. The evidence of being is in the doing. Being entails doing. If I am honest, then it entails honesty. If I am transparent, then it entails transparency. It is not just that being entails doing, it is that being something in particular, entails doing a particular set of things given a certain set of conditions. For the profession to be what it hopes to be, it must do what such being would entail.

The statement as written is a statement of action - so it is a statement of doing. That is perfectly acceptable as there is a connection between being and doing and it is often much more clear to state the doing. If I want to state that I will be honest, I say that I will tell the truth. If I want to state that I will be transparent, I can state that I will provide opportunities for people to see what, why and how I am making decisions. These are relatively easier being - doing relationships to make than for an entire profession or for a professional.

For a profession or professional the statement of being is so intertwined with the doing that we have a very difficult time of defining the profession or professional without an emphasis on the doing. In essence, we are saying that it is to “be” a physical therapist by pointing to what a physical therapist “does.” We say what the profession is (being) by pointing to what the profession does.

My interests regarding being and doing, particularly related to physical therapy, has to do with at least three questions.

First, universal vs. existential qualifiers: Can an honest person lie? Can a dishonesty person tell the truth? Are there actions that can contradict being? Are there non professionals that can do what the professional does? Are there professionals that can do what is contrary to being a professional? What then becomes the essence of the being and doing for the profession and professional?

Second, what is the role of knowledge, is it in the being or doing? Or does it connect being to doing? How does knowledge as being entail doing? How does doing lead to knowledge? We all know things that entail certain actions that we avoid or partake in when knowledge tells us otherwise - or do we?

Third, what is the role of being and doing on transformation? Transformation entails change. The profession that wants to transform society must itself transform, and the profession that wants to transform must be made of professionals that must also transform. Does transformation perpetuates upward, downward, outward, in all directions at different times in different ways? When you want to transform do you suddenly “be” who you want to be which allows you to do what is entailed by that being? Or do you start to do what you should do if you were to be what you want to be?

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