Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Real and false reason and models of complexity

I've referenced the "real and false reason" IPS thread several times. It started with a discussion at Michael Commons' Yahoo adult development forum. I'll provide a few selected and edited excerpts below but see the thread for the full discussion, which started in 2010 and is still ongoing today. It has a lot more than the below.

Lakoff's embodied reason seems to call into question the type of abstract reasoning usually found at the formal operational level. This appears to be false reasoning based on the idea that reason is abstract, literal, conscious, can fit the world directly and works by logic (also see for example this article ). If formal reasoning is false wouldn't this call into question some of the assumptions of the MHC? That perhaps this "stage" is a dysfunction instead of a step toward post-formal reasoning? So I'm wondering how the MHC takes into account Lakoff's work here and how it answers his charge of false reason?

I'm just wondering about the presuppositions in theories like the MHC. For example, recall in the same link above 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 objectivitiy. 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 modelling.

So this is were "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.

"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."

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.

So if there is no completely objective universal reason then is reason just relative? Are there no universal aspects to it? Lakoff and Johnson say the following in Philosophy of the Flesh:

"Reason is not 'universal' in the transcendent sense; that is, it is not part of the structure of the universe. It is universal, however, in that it is a capacity shared universally by all human beings. What allows it to be shared are the commonalities that exist in the way our minds are embodied" (4-6).

Tying together some of the prior posts in this thread, 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. Ross doesn't go along with this and is convinced that compassion, or anything for that matter, can be explained by MHC. 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.

What I find most revealing is Common’s (2008) 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 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 and its relat... 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? As Hampson’s (2007) 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.

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

I’m reminded of Jean Gebser’s integral-aperspectival level here. Recall Gidley (2007) saying the following:

“For Gebser, IA consciousness is not experienced through expanded consciousness, more systematic conceptualization or greater quantities of perspectives. In his view such approaches largely represent over-extended, rational characteristics. Rather it involves an actual re-experiencing, re-embodying and conscious reintegration of the living vitality of magic-interweaving, the imagination at the heart of the mythic-feeling and the purposefulness of mental conception thinking, their presence raised to a higher resonance, in order for the integral transparency to shine through” (111).

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?

Gidley, J. (2007). "The evolution of consciousness as a planetary imperative." In Integral Review 5.

Here's an interesting description of the classical view of a nested hierarchy from this link.

 "The classical concept is defined 'by necessary and sufficient conditions' -that is, by set theoretic definitions on properties. It is an elementary theorem of logic that the whole of the operations of sentential logic, for instance, may be grounded solely in the primitive operations of intersection and complement. More generally, logical sets and categories are defined on presumed 'atomic properties' and are commensurable wholly based on the set-theoretic possibilities of those sets –i.e. union, intersection, complement, etc....

"This classical categorization therefore expresses an absolute, rigid and nested hierarchy of levels and containment. In Lakoff’s terms it expresses a hierarchical 'container schema.' Ultimately, (because they are nested), at the limits these processes specify (1) a largest concept: 'something,' (defined by no atomic properties), whose extension is 'everything,' and (2) a smallest concept: a particular 'object' in reality, (or possible reality), defined by all its atomic properties. Given the classical paradigm then, reason necessarily begins with 'something,' (the most general concept), and points, inexorably, to some 'thing,' i.e. a specific object."

Lakoff and Johnson use a lot of research by Rosch on prototype theory, which challenges classical category theory. For example this from the wikipedia article of prototype theory:

"Prototype theory was a radical departure from traditional necessary and sufficient conditions as in Aristotelian logic, which led to set-theoretic approaches."

Per the above we still have categorical hierarchies but not the the classical Aristotelian way (and its extensions in the MHC). The basic-level, embodied categories are not first in the hierarchy but in the middle! So we begin in media res, in the middle of things and then "reason" both up and down the classical hierarchy, not realizing that the basis of that hierarchy is not the classical foundation. Our basic categories are embodied in image schemas that arise from our interactions with the world. Recall that one characteristic of these basic categories is the part-whole gestalt, aka hierarchy. Since image schemas and basic categories operate below conscious attention we’ve come to assume that they are inherent to the world themselves and thus project this notion of “natural hierarchy,” with its most developed forms in Aristotelian nested, categorical hierarchies. All of which assumes a basic, particular and inherent “constituent” as foundation at the bottom and/or a general and inherent “being” as foundation at the top. Meanwhile the process actually begins in the middle of the classical taxonomy and we get more specific “downward” and more general “upward” from there on a useful but constructed hierarchy. This doesn’t necessarily eliminate hierarchy per se, just contextualizes it is a more naturalistic, nondual way and only eliminates its dualistic and metaphysical elements, elements which have some form of inclusivism and hegemony at its core. The notion of holons as involutionary givens is one of those metaphysical elements, and as we’ve seen this is much better explained by the part-whole gestalt properties of basic image schemas.

Some quotes from Lakoff's Women, Fire and Dangerous Things (U of Chicago, 1987) highlight the above points:

"The psychologically most basic level was in the middle of the taxonomic hierarchies....[and] is the only level at which categorization is determined by overall gestalt perception....[which is] perception of overall part-whole configuration" (46-7).

"The ability to categorize at the basic level comes first....basic level categories develop prior to classical taxonomic categories....classical taxonomic categories are 'later achievements of the imagination" (49).

"It is important to realize that these [basic categories] are not purely objective and 'in the world,' rather they have to do with the world as we interact with it.... 'It should be emphasized that we are talking about a perceived world and not a metaphysical world without a knower (Rosch 1978, p.29)" (50).

"The classical theory of categories provides a link between objectivist metaphysics and and set-theoretical models.... Objectivist metaphysics goes beyond the metaphysics of basic realism...[which] merely assumes that there is a reality of some sort.... It additionally assumes that reality is correctly and completely structured in a way that can be modeled by set-theoretic models" (159).

"In objectivist cognition, concepts by definition exclude all nonobjective influences.... For example, the properties of basic level concepts [their embodiment]...cannot be true properties of concepts in an objectivist theory" (165). 

"The classical theory comes with two general principles of organization for categories: hierarchical categorization and cross-categorizaton. [In the former] a partition of a category into sub-categories such that all members are in one, and only one, subcategory.... [In the latter] a number of hierarchical categories at the same level.... [these] are the only organizations of categories that exist" (166-7).

Hence the complete avoidance of Lakoff's (and company) work within the MHC; it is not "objective" and proven (i.e., circle-jerked) with so-called objective, mathematical, set-theorectical axioms. A key reason Lakoff is ignored by hierarchical complexifiers:

"It is the classical concept of a category, the concept that contemporary research on prototype theory claims is untenable as a fully general approach. If that concept changes in an essential way, then most, if not all, of objectivist metaphysics and epistemology goes. What is at stake is a world view" (174).

Yep, a formop worldview dressed up as postop and integral, with the math to prove it. Never mind that the math is also formop based on classical category theory. Lakoff challenges the  unconscious presuppositions and premises upon which such theory is based and taken as given.

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