|A Subtle Shift in Thinking|
In an article entitled "Embracing the Higher Why," writer Danielle Poitras interviews Lyndsay Farrant, who holds an MA in Transpersonal Counseling Psychology and is the Executive Director of Strategic Projects at Naropa University. Farrant introduces the idea that when we ask "why," we often follow our response with a "because." As an alternative, we may sometimes want to practice contemplating "why" followed by "in order to." When we ask "'why in order to,'" we are embracing "'the higher why,'" the "'why that embraces curiosity and meaning and involves questioning and looking at fresh perspectives'" (Poitras 25).
When writers ask "why in order to" instead of "why because," they think more divergently about their topics during the prewriting step of the writing process, which elevates and strengthens their argumentative essays.
Enthymemes: Reason or Purpose
One common way to formulate a thesis statement in an argumentative essay is to construct an enthymeme, a statement of the writer's position and the word "because" followed by a reason why the writer has come to that conclusion. The following is a simple enthymeme: "The campus should institute a recycling program because it will help the environment." As an alternative, the writer might formulate an enthymeme with a "higher why," such as "The campus should institute a recycling program in order to help the environment."
How are these different?
Using the subordinating conjunction "because" indicates the writer is about to present a reason why they have come to adopt a particular position. It indicates the writer has looked at evidence that had already been written and documented. There is a sense the writer is looking to the past to come to a conclusion and is asking the reader to do the same.
Using the subordinating conjunction "in order to" indicates the writer is about to present a purpose for their position. It indicates the writer is looking into the future and anticipating outcomes that align with their position and purpose. The writer in this scenario is asking the reader to do the same.
Although the language itself is only subtly different, the way the writer is asking readers to think about a topic are quite different: It's the difference between looking at what has happened, unchangeable, and that which has yet to happen, a future with an abundance of possibility.
Shifting Thoughts from Past to Future
When faculty or mentors ask students why they are interested in a specific major or career path, students may respond with, "I want to be a psychologist because it sounds interesting," or "I want to be a nurse because I want to help people." While a connection to the future is implied in these responses, it becomes a direct connection when students apply the "higher why." "I want to be a psychologist in order to lead an interesting life," or "I want to be a nurse in order to continue helping people." Whereas the initial statements indicate the student has looked back at their lives or have read evidence about being a psychologist or being a nurse, the revised statements clearly indicate the students have shifted their thinking to the future.
Even in more scholarly essays or research papers, the shift can be profound. A poorly articulated thesis such as "Research shows working outdoors is beneficial for students," might be shifted using the "higher why" to "Working outdoors is a beneficial pedagogical method teachers use in order to incorporate experiential learning." The experiment in thinking of the "higher why" yields results both in the writer's ability to develop an idea and to articulate it as a well-written thesis.
To return to the words of Lyndsay Farrant used to open this post, there is a "higher why," we can access when we explore not only the "because" but the "in order to." Shifting the use of language, even ever so slightly, allows writers to embrace curiosity, explore meaning, and "involves questioning and looking at fresh perspectives'" (Poitras 25).
Poitras, Danielle. "Embracing the Higher Why: The Entrepreneurial Mindset of Naropa Students." Naropa Magazine 2021-22, pp. 23-25.