Monday, January 24, 2011

Real and false reason

At the end of the integral global capitalism thread at IPS I explored how some historians interpreted Adam Smith and came up with an entirely different view than the corporate capitalists have of him. For example I said:

"And Chomsky, as always, is enlightening on the subject:

'He’s [Smith] a person who was from the Enlightenment. His driving motives were the assumption that people were guided by sympathy and feelings of solidarity and the need for control of their own work, much like other Enlightenment and early Romantic thinkers.

'This is true of classical liberalism in general. The founders of classical liberalism, people like Adam Smith and Wilhelm von Humboldt, who is one of the great exponents of classical liberalism, and who inspired John Stuart Mill — they were what we would call libertarian socialists.'

"Interestingly, Chomsky goes on to note that Dewey was part of this democratic socialist trend. Recall Dewey is also part of the American pragmatic tradition of which lineage the contemporary cogscipragos acknowledge and continue. Chomsky notes that the likes of Dewey were marginalized by the burgeoning corporate structures with their strangle-hold on education through government influence. Also note how the early pragmatists and contemporary cogscipragos are conspicuously absent from the capitalist forms of integral theory. Not surprisingly It seems there's a correlation between real and false reason, socialism and capitalism."

That thread began with a discussion I had with Micheal Commons and a few others in the Yahoo Adult Development forum. Therein I brought up Lakoff's work on the topic, so following are some excerpts from the IPS thread:

Lakoff distinguishes between real and false reason, the former being bodily based and the latter existing is some sort of objective, abstract realm. Here are some quotes from his article "Why `rational reason' doesn't work in contemporary politics":

"Real reason is embodied in two ways. It is physical, in our brain circuitry. And it is based on our bodies as the function in the everyday world, using thought that arises from embodied metaphors. And it is mostly unconscious. False reason sees reason as fully conscious, as literal, disembodied, yet somehow fitting the world directly, and working not via frame-based, metaphorical, narrative and emotional logic, but via the logic of logicians alone.

"Real reason is inexplicably tied up with emotion; you cannot be rational without being emotional. False reason thinks that emotion is the enemy of reason, that it is unscrupulous to call on emotion. Yet people with brain damage who cannot feel emotion cannot make rational decisions because they do not know what to want, since like and not like mean nothing. 'Rational' decisions are based on a long history of emotional responses by oneself and others. Real reason requires emotion."

[See the thread for our dialogue, which I'll skip here for brevity.]

I'm just wondering about the presuppositions in theories like the MHC. For example, recall in the same link about that Robinett said the difference between MHC and prior research was that it was "objective and mathematical." I asked some questions about these assumptions of mathematical objectivity. They seem to be the same assumptions inherent in the 17th century notions of reason. In fact logic is based on mathematical proofs, the latter taken as the ultimate in objectivity. It's almost as if math is some self-existent thing in the world that we came along and "discovered." And this objective math proves our objective modeling.

Lakoff has this to say about math, from Where Mathematics Comes From (Basic Books, 2000):

"But mathematics by itself does not and cannot empirically study human ideas; human cognition is simply not its subject matter. It is up to cognitive science and the neurosciences to do what mathematics itself cannot do—namely, apply the science of mind to human mathematical ideas" (xi)."

"In the course of our research we ran up against a mythology…a kind of `romance" of mathematics…that goes something like this:… mathematics has an objective existence… independent of and transcending the existence of human beings or any beings at all" (xv).

So this is where "false" reason comes from, from a philosophical system that holds a certain worldview about what reason is and means. And I'm just asking for us to take a look at our own perhaps unconscious assumptions underlying our logical, objective, mathematical proofs.

Tom Murray wonders about

"the limitations of models and relate that to hierarchically structured formal developmental models. Constructs such as reflective abstraction, hierarchical integration, subject-object transformations, and hierarchical complexity assume a particular... 'mathematics' of developmental growth" (343-4).

While he accepts that hierarchical complexity might suffice for certain measurements, he also wonders is things like wisdom and compassion might need a different type of modeling.

"We may need to rely more on human gestalt reasoning, which can recognize more complex or subtle patterns than current mathematical and computational tools can assess" (352).

Lakoff agrees that models such as HC assume a particular mathematics but seems to go even farther though in calling into question math as a valid basis for cognitive categories. For example David Mark in "Human Spatial Cognition" says the following:

"Lakoff (1987) argues that most cognitive categories are not well-modelled by mathematical sets, or even fuzzy sets. More often, a category has prototypical members, and other things are added to the category by resemblances of various sorts to things already in the category, which leads to an internal category structure that may have several distinct branches leading out from a core; things at the ends of different branches may have few if any objective properties in common."


Lakoff, G., (1987). Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things: What Categories Reveal about the Mind, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Mark, D. M. (1993)." Human spatial cognition." In Medyckyj-Scott, D., and Hearnshaw, H. M., editors, Human Factors in Geographical Information Systems, Belhaven Press, 51-60.

Murray, Tom (2009). "Intuiting the Cognitive Line in Developmental Assessment: Do Heart and Ego develop through hierarchical integration?" Integral Review, December 2009, Vol. 5, No. 2

To paraphrase Lakoff, where does mathematical measurement theory come from? It seems Lakoff suggests that any theory is derived from the way our "cognitive" processes are embodied. He references extensive neuroscientific research into how these processes develop in the ways we sense, move, feel, think. And in how we create philosophy, science and math via these processes. So in the sense even math is not something completely objective, existing in the world as something separate from how we cognitively process.

So Lakoff goes into how--sans an empircal, embodied understanding of math, science or philosophy construction (but not entirely or arbitrarily constructed)-- one might mistake something like logic and reason as something inherently self-referential based on formal operations alone. Math is a prime example of a methodology that appears to be a direct, objective example of how things actually are in the world, rather than a constructed modelling of how brains process the input they receive from the world.

All of which is cognitively understood by us in terms of metaphors and worldviews. Even the so-called objective sciences are part of this metaphorical worldview process. So this is what I mean when I say that the math used to model task analysis is not entirely objective (nor entirely subjective, for that matter). And each mathematical model has its own inherent and oftimes unconscious assumptions arising from the foregoing cognitive processes.

Murray mentioned that the higher human ideals like compassion might not involve hierarchical complexity but instead more of a going in the other direction. It might be more like a paring down of complexity, or returning to simplicity. I’m beginning to agree with Murray on this one and here’s why.

Wilber talks about the fulcrums of each level of development: fusion, differentiation and integration. And that dysfunction can happen at each fulcrum. With formal operations differentiation goes into dissociation with the kind of “false” reasoning we’ve been exploring above. Hence the prior levels are not adequately integrated and we get this sense of a separate and transcendent rational ego. Development can go on into postformal operations from here but it is tainted by this dissociation and infects all postformal operations with this same dissociation. This is what seems apparent in my discussions with Commons et al.

Another version of this is what we previously explored with Levin and Goddard. Goddard noted that the rise to egoic-rationality required a temporary dissociation from prior bodily and emotional levels into symbolic logic. In this case it wasn’t so much a dysfunction but rather a healthy but temporary and necessary dissociation. Levin seemed to agree. And both seemed to think that to continue development we had to take the next step in going back, regressing in service of ego (Washburn) in order to fully integrate body and emotions. As I surmised from their work (and others) this is where meditation practices come in as a methodology for this purpose. And in so doing we get back in touch with our humanity and our compassion etc. So like Murray this is a sort of unwinding of complexity back into simplicity.

And as I’ve said before, the rational ego is the pivot point between pre/post in hierarchical complexity “stage” and between pre/ heterarchical “state” integration. One can advance into postformal stages without integrating transrational states, just as one can integrate transrational states without going into postformal stages. In general terms I’m thinking the MHC folks are the former and the traditional meditation folks are the latter, with exceptions.

Commons (cited below) distinguishes between two kinds of hierarchical complexity, linear and nonlinear. The former is typical of formal operations while the latter is postformal. However, “whereas the Model’s unidimensional measure is linear, the tasks it measures are nonlinear performances” and its “purely quantitative principles makes it universally applicable in any context” (306).

What I find most revealing is Common’s discussion of Plato, Aristotle and Thales. The MHC “follows in the tradition,” being “a mathematical theory of the ideal. It is a perfect form as Plato would have described it” (315). I’m not only questioning whether a linear, unidimensional math can represent the nonlinear workings of postformal performance; I also question whether the MHC itself, assuming such formal characteristics as the above--even being a literal Platonic ideal--isn’t itself just an extension of formal operations. This follows from my previous post, thinking that perhaps dissociation in formal operations leads only to more complex dissociation with the same basic premises of this level.

Commons, M. (2008). “Introduction to the Model of Hierarchical Complexity," World Futures 64: 304-20.

Note in the Commons article above he goes into the transitional steps between stages. It is more extended that Wilber’s fusion-differentiation-integration scheme but follows the same trajectory. It is classical Hegelian dialectics, from thesis to antithesis to a newer, higher, more coordinated and integrated thesis (313). But is this notion itself postformal or just an extension of formal operations?

Because the MHC assumes that it is only an objective and quantitative model that purports to eliminate qualitative content and distinction, you find very different descriptions of the postformal levels than one might in the more domain-specific models like cognitive or ego development. For example Torbert’s (cited below) action-logics defines formal operations as being logic oriented whereas the first postformal stage a Strategist seeks “to construct an explicit and distinctive integrative theory of self and world that recognized development (e.g., theories such as Hegel)” (185). So far this sound more like an extension of formal logic I’ve been criticizing. However he also notes that the Strategist is “aware of paradox” and “relativistic” (186) so this is not quite in line with Hegalian dialectics.

The next stage though, Magician/Clown, has some interesting characteristics. For example: “ego identity disintegrates, creates mythical events that reframe situations, blends opposites, treats time and events as kairatic, symbolic, alalogical, metaphorical” (186-7). Here we get into the kind of postformal dialectics discussed at length in an Integral Review forum on Gary Hampson’s article (cited below), excerpts of which reside at Open Integral (see links below). The whole notion of a Hegelian dialectic is replaced by understanding that core dualities cannot be “resolved” into a higher integration but rather a Magician “blends opposites” dynamically according to context through analogical, metaphorical narrative. This is further reinterated in his last stage, Ironist, who “cultivates a quality of awareness and action that highlights dynamic tensions of the whole enterprise” (189).

Nothing of this sort is seen in the MHC. As Hampson’s article suggests, “the way out [of postmodernism] is through it.” I suggest Hegelian models like MHC have yet to sufficiently go through this “stage” and hence, much like Wilber, continue to conflate, exaggerate and project formal operations into postformal stages.

Works Cited

Hampson, G. “Integral reviews postmodernism: The way out is through.” Integral Review, 4: June 2007.

Torbert, W. "Cultivating postformal adult development" at this link.

Open Integral links to Postformal Dialectics:
Part one
Part two
Part three

I referenced Levin in the Gebser thread but he has his own thread from our prior Gaia discussions at this link. I noted that Levin’s evolution of bodies is a linear progression in stages 1 -3 but then the progression turns “inward” into depth integration of prior stages. Stages 4 & 5 seems to be nonlinear and analogical, replete with access to the collective unconscious through ceremony, ritual and myth. My intuition is that stages 4 & 5 cannot be adequately represented by a linear, hierarchical math and that if it is possible at all (?) it would be through some form of nonlinear, rhizome-like math of ambiguity and uncertainty.

See Levin’s The Opening of Vision pp, 47-9.

All of which connected to Wilber's notion of math as one of the a priori involutionary givens. See for example footnote 26 to Excerpt A, wherein he says: "These mathematical matrices therefore must have been present at or before the Big Bang (i.e., as involutionary givens)." Recall above that Lakoff discusses where math comes from and the false assumptions of it being just such a "given." And how the MHC assumes that math is an objective, ideal, Platonic form. There is a metaphysical "god" at the heart of this stuff, even if it is disguised as math.

I recall a recent thread linking to an Beams and Struts post that says Wilber, while trying to include a lot of different topics and fields, just gives a general overview of them and doesn't go into their details. And the devil (and god) is in the details and hence some of what Wilber "includes" is partial at best and often so incomplete as to challenge the very broad generalizations he makes. So let's return to the basis of thought in the body.

Wilber's infamous 4-quadrant graph shows the progression from prehension to irritibility, sensation, perception, impulse, emotions, symbols, concepts in the upper left quadrant. And indeed this is the hierarchy that L&J also recognize from their research. But unlike Wilber, in their detailed study of the specifics of this early development they uncover many things Wilber glosses over or ignores. (Or perhaps he just skimmed the material for a few choice quotes or ideas that fit his preconceived agenda and moved on?) For example, due to the structure of our brains perception requires that it reduce the multitude of sensations into smaller units for processing via categorization. And this inherent, biological, neural categorization is the very basis for all further developments into the more abstract kinds of thought like symbol and concept.

L&J get more refined that Wilber's general graph above as elucidated in this article. The basis of their hierarchy is the image schema involving sensori-motor and proprioceptive experience. These basic categories include part-whole realationships via gestalts and mental imagery. So here we have a physiological basis for the holon concept Wilber is so fond of. Holons aren't an apriori part of the structure of the universe apart from the brain that perceives them, just as math is not. Holons and math are not involutionary* but evolutionary givens firmly grounded in the body and its interactions with the environment. We can eliminate the metaphysical underpinnings of Wilber's edifice by simply going into the details of his own sources.

*You can also see from the footnote cited above how Wilber lists the 20 tenets as part of the involutionary givens, which are based the holon concept.

And another thing occurs to me. From above we can see how later concepts like math and holons arise from very primitive brain and consciousness structures. All of which supports my oft-repeated thesis that as we meditate we go backward into these previous evolutionary structures but mistake them for involutionary or ultimate/absolute structures of the universe itself. Naturally these early brain and consciousness structures made no such claims. It was only at the latter levels of abstraction that we confused this, not having the benefit of such neuroscientific research to which L&J refer. However the likes of Wilber did have such access and if he'd taken the time to go into the details instead of shaping the broad generalities to fit his metaphysical agenda this wrong track could have been avoided. But he is not alone in this; the general developmentalist path did so too, like Commons et al but instead through the metaphysical math route. But both false reasonings arise from the same deficient-rational, formal-operational level and they don't have to with a few minor tweaks.

Lakoff's challenge does not negate hierarchical complexity. Recall L&J also have a hierarchy based in image schemas up to symbols, with the higher progressively building on the lower. Hence our minds are grounded and "embodied." But L&J's hierarchies are 1) not ideal or transcendent based on false reason and/or math and subsequently 2) said higher levels do not completely subsume lower ones in the kind of mathematical set theory used by the MHC. The latter is challenged by L&J's empirical evidence that the kinds of lower functions represented by categories within any given mathematical set cannot be reduced to such "ideal" categories via nested hierarchies, since such physical functions are much more open ended. Only part of their functions can be represented by any given categorical, mathematical set. Hence they can fit into multiple categories and sets depending on the focus, and said alternative sets might well differ in results or even be contradictory to an ideal set. In fact, setting up such ideal sets with only one way to view them is what L&J criticize as hegemonic, and what Wilber might refer to as a dominator hierarchy (even though he is guilty of it too).

In my continuing inquiry into this topic, I was re-reading the "ladder, climber, view" thread, wherein I said the following on p. 2:

"Gidley talks about the difference between research that identifies postformal operations (PFO) from examples of those that enact PFO. And that much of the research identifying PFO has itself 'been framed and presented from a formal, mental-rational mode' (109). Plus those enacting PFO don’t 'necessarilty conceptualize it as such' (104), meaning the way those that identify it do, i.e., from a formal operational (FO) mode. Which is of course one of my key inquiries: Is the way PFO is identified through FO really just a FO worldview interpretation of what PFO might be? Especially since those enacting PFO disagree with the very premises of the FO worldview and its 'formally' dressed PFO?

"This is also part of the problem with a strictly mathematical model of hierarchical complexity based on set theory. Phenomenon, including human cognitive structures, do not fit nicely into one 'set' or category so that they can be completely included and subsumed into the next higher set or category. At best each phenomenon interacts with another more like a venn diagram, overlapping with some area in common, but other areas that are not included and subsumed in a higher synthesis. Which is why I wonder whether the formal study of postformal enactments in methods like the MHC is itself a formal or PF enactment. Or some venn combination between, sharing partial sets from both?"

[The Gidley article is at this link.]

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