Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Gibb's SDi perspective on The Righteous Mind

I provided Hedges' review of this book, which supported my intuition that the values Haidt supported were what one might call an ethnocentric moral level. So now here's a review from the Spirial Dynamics Integral (SDi) perspective of Bruce Gibb in the current issue of the Integral Leadership review. An excerpt:

“Republicans are guided in their political intuitions by the traditional moral matrix of Stage 4.... The conservatives are concerned with the issues that need their version (and that of the researchers) of law and order, family values, authority, patriotism, and sanctity.”

Where I disagree with Gibb is that post-liberal (integral) stages “can distinguish those policies which are healthy for each level and those which are unhealthy and decide what is best for the whole social system.” I discussed this in the thread “ladder, climber, view.” This is Wilber's terms for how we differentiate transitional from enduring structures; the former are transcended and replaced while the latter are transcended and included. Moral views are transitional structures so previous moral levels, healthy or otherwise, are not included. And this aspect is not addressed by Gibb's limited SDI model.

Wilber said:

"The Graves/Beck system does not clearly distinguish between transitional and enduring structures, nor between basic and self-related structures. In my own system, the basic structures are enduring and remain fully active capacities available at all later stages, but most of the self-related streams (such as morals, values, and self-identity) consist of transitional stages which tend to be replaced by subsequent stages."

He also said this and with which I agree:

“A yellow society, in short, would have laws that basically stem from that second-tier level of consciousness. And the basic defining characteristic of yellow is that it accepts all previous values without letting any of them repress or dominate others.... A second-tier, integral, World Federation—in my Utopian view—would therefore prevent any first-tier memes from dominating, attacking, or exploiting any other populations.”

He goes on that while we accept previous level values in personal life we do not allow them into societal law, i.e., former moral values are not included in acceptable societal behavior. An integral moral worldview does not accept ethnocentric prejudice into its laws of the land. Or even rational worldcentric morality that imposes unconsciously certain blind metaphysical principles divorced from more bodily-based knowledge. A postformal, postmetaphysical ethic transcends and replaces this for a more just and equitable societal matrix, while simultaneously including those bodily-based enduring structures.

In the referenced ladder thread I go into a lot of detail on this issue and show that Wilber himself is also caught up in the contradiction about the 'integral' stage transcending and including, that it can integrate the healthy aspects of former stages. Therein he too seems to conflate enduring and transitional structures as to what is included. And there is a legitimate debate as to what constitutes an integral worldview and how it must challenge and replace the limited ongoing debate between Republicans and Democrats. I've made the case that the likes of Lakoff and Rifkin, for example, are moving in this direction.


  1. Also see the "ladder, climber, view" thread linked above, as this post has re-opened that inquiry.

  2. As I have discussed in detail elsewhere, Wilber’s distinction between permanent and transitional structures is flawed. As you note, he views moral values as transitional, because earlier ones are replaced as we mature. But in fact they are not really replaced so much as overgrown. Every moral value or behavior is associated with certain permanent structures, so they never disappear.

    For example, the self-centeredness of children gives way to a more empathic view in which we understand and take into account the perspectives of others. But this self-centered view is still present in all adults, and it comes to the fore in certain situations. Many if not most adults revert to a self-centered perspective when under significant stress, such as anger or fear. Almost all adults do so when the stress becomes so great as to constitute a life-and-death emergency. And in fact this is an evolutionary important strategy, as our ancestors would not have survived certain situations without behaving in a profoundly selfish manner. Compassion is an admirable quality when living with others. It doesn’t help much when confronted by a savage beast, or for that matter, a savage human who lacks reciprocal compassion.

    Stressful situations simply deactivate the higher structures or centers that normally repress or inhibit this form of moral behavior. So this behavior is not transitional in the sense that it is no longer possible to occur. It remains latent, appearing only in certain contexts.

    One might argue that a latent existence is still a kind of transitional form. The problem is that the forms of behavior that are considered permanent by comparison are every bit as transitional as moral values. Consider such basic forms of behavior we share with other animals such as sensation, movement and emotion. Wilber would presumably view these as examples of permanent structures or behavior, because the centers in the brain that elaborate them are permanent, and because we engage in these forms of behavior throughout our lives. But in fact these structures, too, are overgrown by later structures, and their behavior to a large degree repressed or constrained. Adults do not sense, feel or experience the world in the way children do, because their much more developed cerebral cortex prevents the uninhibited expression of these lower forms of behavior. And as with moral values, certain situations of high stress can deactivate this inhibition.

    So the burden is very much on anyone who claims there are transitional structures or behaviors. It’s certainly the case that as we develop, new structures and behaviors appear, and older ones tend to be used less, or used in a different way. But this is true for all aspects of development. There is no way to contrast some developmental changes as permanent versus others that are transitional.

  3. So Andy, would you agree with Wilber that an integral legal code should be from the highest cultural level available? His example that we might feel like murdering someone when a personal, lower level is activated, but in a rational society we cannot tolerate that lower-level feeling becoming an actual behavior? Granted this is overridden by societal wars, when we are given legal license to kill the enemy (however defined). But when soldiers come home they cannot commit murder outside of this environment. Unless of course you're in Florida, and white, under the Stand Your Ground law.

    1. Not from the highest level available, no. It has to be from some average or mode level. We expect more from individuals at the highest level than we could reasonably expect from the great majority of people. An individual at a very high level might be expected to turn the other cheek in certain situations, that doesn't mean that the legal code should require that everyone behave in that manner. By definition, most people can't.

      Outlawing murder can be rationalized on several grounds, but in terms of this discussion we can just say that most people are capable of controlling their murderous impulses, so society codifies this requirement. But that's an easy one. How about: should people be expected to sacrifice, if necessary, to ensure that everyone has a minimum amount of health care? Has the mean or mode of society reached the point where most people can understand this? It seems that it hasn't yet.

  4. Also see the ladder, climber, view revisited post dated today, as Wilber goes into how through sub-personalities one can and does manifest different levels in different contexts.

  5. I'd agree that perhaps not the highest stage, which might require sainthood. But I have to disagree with your specific example on healthcare, for example. I don't know whether the average societal center of gravity has reached a point where they'd agree with some self-sacrifice in terms of the mandate to ensure coverage for the most needy. Regardless, we should require of them more than their average, a more humane behavior than perhaps they are capable. Which in turn will likely lift them up morally by enacting a level beyond their capacity. Kind of like Vygotsky's zone of proximaal development, where when placed in a better environment people perform more than they would have otherwise.

    1. Oh, I don't disagree that we should require more. I was just observing that the majority in the U.S. do not seem to be at that point yet. I was surprised to learn that a poll found almost 70% against Obama Care. I understand that a lot of people who have coverage now through their employer are afraid they will lose it (which indeed they may), and that what replaces it will neither be as cheap or as comprehensive. Even so, I'm a little shocked that so many people are willing to consign a large minority to no guaranteed health care.

  6. That's because they're being fed lies about it from the well-funded conservative spin machine, since money now equals speech. And they're spending HUGE amounts of money on this ad campaign. Interestingly, when people are polled on the individual aspects of the Bill, like not refusal for pre-existing conditions, they overwhelmingly support it.

    But one of my broader points is that we must hold all people accountable to higher standards (moral, legal or otherwise) than their current center of gravity. Democracy itself is one of those higher standards, which of course has yet to enter into BUSINESS (for the most part; there are successful, competitive co-ops etc.).

    I'd also agree that the distinct dividing line between transitional and enduring structures seems strained. And yet per the above examples when we require of ourselves a higher value system like democracy it is not consistent to say that this can also include aristocracy or slavery. Granted democracy as it stands indeed has various components of such in one form or another, but actually owning people as property is no longer acceptable. And as I said, democracy has yet to enter the business world, where people are functionally chattel owned by the company. In co-ops though they are not, and the latter is indeed a higher developmental form than corporate business.


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