Saturday, August 9, 2014

Postmetaphysical ruminations

Kennilingus and the model of hierarchical complexity (MHC) assume a teleology. For the Lingam it is a morphogenetic gradient from involution that pulls evolution up toward it, like a strange attractor. For the MHC it is both Platonic ideal forms and Aristotelian universal categories. Both require that the lower be subsumed in the higher, and both assume that this higher is the real goal to which evolution is moving. Both require essences.

Note how the referenced system dynamicists still have a virtual dimension where strange attractors create paths which guide actual occasions. (Note the plural, attractors, so that depending on conditions different paths can be taken.) They seem like essences in that way but their attractors are entirely immanent, i.e., there is no essential or ideal dimension already in existence guiding this process with a goal 'in mind' (or in spirit, if you must). And this virtual dimension is intimately entangled with the actual domain, which provides the environmental conditions whereby the virtual can express. Under different environmental conditions a suobject will manifest in different ways. Any particular manifestation is not the way it is supposed to be according to a divine plan, or even some rational notion of ideal categories.

So how does this relate to psychological levels of development? Yes, the human form as evolved does indeed inherent certain capacities, our virtual attractors so to speak. But the actual occasions to date, the levels so to speak, are from these virtual capacities responding to environmental conditions, which include socio-cultural conditions. Of the latter capitalism is a huge one, which co-evolved with the egoic-rational mode, and both are gravity sinks within which we are caught. This wasn't inevitable according to an ideal plan, and both can be changed given our virtual capacities can actualize differently. Still, within this gravity sink we are still strongly 'attracted' to certain views, one of which is this notion of teleos to where we are moving based on where we have been and ideal notions of First Causes (like the Causal domain).

Recall in this post that the original spiral dynamics included both our internal capacities and how they related to environmental conditions, aka endo- and exo-relations. It too recognizes that our endo-structure, or 'level', can change based on its relationships with the environment or exo-relations. And yet it too seems guided by the gravity sink of formal operations in that what came before must set the parameters for what is to come, i.e., the past actual limits the future actual, a very formop metaphysical assumption on this trajectory of past to pre-planned future. It also assumes that formop was necessary and inevitable, whereas it was contingent and occurred given particular environmental and socio-cultural conditions in certain places. It was not universally predestined, one way or the other.

Nonetheless it's here and forms a strong gravity sink that pre-determines how we move forward. If we look at current psychological, environmental and socio-cultural conditions we see an emerging P2P paradigm that is breaking with metaphysical formop. It is following another gravity sink or attractor within our virtual capacities. It too is not the inevitable outcome of what came before but it is here now. And it is perhaps not a continuation that transcends and includes what came before a la the 'deficient rational' mode but more like a Gebserian or Luhmannian discrete and autonomous system that structurally couples with the other systems via exo-relations, its own endo-structural relations emerging from new virtual capacities, themselves constructed and responsive to environments.

Not because it too was an inevitable teleos but a response to the gravity of the material structure of the internet (for one), which has indeed changed everything. And can lead us to a new promised land of distributed knowledge, wealth and health, if we but choose to progress (create teleos) in this direction, not just the next generation as in Star Trek but in Homeland Earth trek. It will not necessarily be so from some inevitable teleos, as the internet's structure is continually being manipulated by capitalism's gravity sink, most recently in the court ruling to banish net neutrality and turn it into a market's wet dream. But many more of us have had our consciousness shifted by its structure to the emerging P2P meme and can change that course if we but take action, creating a stronger gravity sink to overcome it, one more in alignment with the internet's own structure, an emerging postmetaphysical socio-cultural structure of equality and justice for all. A universal wet dream, but one of our own design. (Recall Latour's Compositionist Manifesto here.)

On a practical level, the evolution of language is relevant to the above. If we have universal, neurolinguistic human structures then we might be able to correlate this with universal human cognitive structures of the type we all go through, the usual developmental hierarchy. But there are over 5,000 languages in the world, quite a diversity, so what is universal about language and what is particular to cultures, regions, dialects? And given the ontocartographical bent, even different climates and geographies? And does that say something about English language prejudices about cognitive structures?

This recent paper suggests that "language seems to have evolved along varied, complicated paths, guided less by neurological settings than cultural circumstance." It mentions Chomsky's universal grammar, and that there may be a limited repertoire of universals but contra Chomsky they are minimal and diversity is the rule.

Recall Lakoff challenged Chomsky's universal grammar for cognitive (embodied) linguistics, of which I've made much hay. Lakoff also claims universals like image schema that he claims cross all cultures. But in this post and following there have been challenges to this view, noting that some cultural factors indeed enact different image schema. And not only that, but cultural development can via downward causation actually create new image schema that were not there originally, given brain plasticity and growth.

This article by Sinha and de Lopez, for example [also cited in the last post], lauds Lakoff et al for going beyond Piaget's logico-mathematical modeling in formulating invariant cognitive structures, but still criticizes the former for engaging in the same "epistemic individualism" (29). And while Lakoff refuted the logico-mathematical basis of cognitive structure with an embodied structure, he also  retained the notion of universal, invariant structure in individuals. The authors notes that while embodiment theories might resolve the mind-body half of the Cartesian dualism it still needs work on the individual-social half (30).

In a later section of the paper he discusses Vygotsky, who includes material functionality into the mix of image schema. And that different cultures apply this functionality differently with the consequent difference in image schema, language and cognitive structure.

Given that containment is a significant schema in forming mereological relations and extended in how we formulate levels of development, this could point to a different cognitive structure for said levels. He also notes that Vygotsky applied this to material linguistic mediators, and given the different languages that developed from different schema this also involved different semantic content (36).

The above is just one example of how the Piagetian and Wilberian (and even Lakoffian) notions of universal structure are not eliminated but certainly adjusted when we take account of the above.

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