I commence this essay with a quote about the use of a developmental view on political theorizing. Not going into politics (something I’m not doing before figuring out how to talk about socially dangerous topics), I build of that quote to talk about developmental views. I use those to touch upon ego development levels. The essay ends with speculations about the relationship between ego development, rationality, and postrationality.
Hanfeizi writes about a developmental view of politics:
“I think I know what you’re getting at, but it seems to me the real issue is that we need to break out of the right-left paradigm altogether and start looking at these issues developmentally.
Have you or Scott ever taken a look at the work of Don Beck (based on that of Clare Graves) and Spiral Dynamics? Or Ken Wilber’s Integral Philosophy (despite some of it’s troubles)? Here’s a good breakdown of the SDi Integral Model:
Wilber identifies that as clean as this model might look, each of the vMEMEs (levels) is capable of being distorted in various ways. He likes to talk about the “Mean Green Meme”- his name for what we would call SJWs and the politically correct establishment. Neoreaction seems to be a confused reaction against this- it’s groping towards a Yellow vMEME point of view, but tends to throw out everything Green rather than properly integrating it. The difference between the technocommercialists (Moldbug and Land, et al) and the ethnonationalists (Anissimov and Bayne, et al) is that the former are groping towards something higher, if not quite hitting the mark; whereas the latter are really full-on reactionaries who want to regress to the lower memes, embracing selfish power gods views (Red), ethnic tribal conformity (Blue), and to some extent Orange rationality- but wanting nothing to do with Green at all.”
“Developmental psychology is the scientific study of changes that occur in human beings over the course of their life. Originally concerned with infants and children, the field has expanded to include adolescence, adult development, aging, and the entire lifespan.”
Jean Piaget was one of the fields commencers, and he was studying the cognitive development of children. He broke it into 4 stages:
- Sensorimotor stage
- “From birth to age two. The children experience the world through movement and their five senses. During the sensorimotor stage children are extremely egocentric, meaning they cannot perceive the world from others’ viewpoints.”
- Preoperational stage
- “Piaget’s second stage, the pre-operational stage, starts when the child begins to learn to speak at age two and lasts up until the age of seven. During the Pre-operational Stage of cognitive development, Piaget noted that children do not yet understand concrete logic and cannot mentally manipulate information. Children’s increase in playing and pretending takes place in this stage. However, the child still has trouble seeing things from different points of view. The children’s play is mainly categorized by symbolic play and manipulating symbols. Such play is demonstrated by the idea of checkers being snacks, pieces of paper being plates, and a box being a table. Their observations of symbols exemplifies the idea of play with the absence of the actual objects involved. By observing sequences of play, Piaget was able to demonstrate that, towards the end of the second year, a qualitatively new kind of psychological functioning occurs, known as the Pre-operational Stage.”
- Concrete operational stage
- “From ages seven to eleven. Children can now conserve and think logically (they understand reversibility) but are limited to what they can physically manipulate. They are no longer egocentric. During this stage, children become more aware of logic and conservation, topic previously foreign to them. Children also improve drastically with their classification skills.”
- Formal operational stage
- “From age eleven to sixteen and onwards (development of abstract reasoning). Children develop abstract thought and can easily conserve and think logically in their mind. Abstract thought is newly present during this stage of development. Children are now able to think abstractly and utilize metacognition. Along with this, the children in the formal operational stage display more skills oriented towards problem solving, often in multiple steps.”
Jean piaget worked with children. The formal operation stage is “(…) widely considered the adult stage in much of Western culture; and society and institutions support and reward its achievement. A citizenry capable of rational deliberation and choice based on pertinent criteria (not external features, sameness or tradition) would seem to be a necessary precondition for democracy to work. Only such a perspective and rational assessment of choices can safeguard the whole and at the same time allow changes to be reflected in the laws.” (1)
You can imagine that at some point in time we started hitting this level. Certainly it was not achieved 100.000 years ago, and certainly it is today, so at some point, there was a transition.
You might wonder if maybe this is not the last level, maybe it doesn’t stop there. This wondering has led to various theories in the developmental psychology subfield of adult development.
This wondering leaves you open to consider the levels above yours. As Mark said “[A]ctually, I am a Southern Baptist. And so are you. There are many levels above your own. What level makes yours look like a Southern Baptist’s looks to you?“
Loevinger made the most well studied model of levels of ego development. In her model there are ten stages and stage 5 is the formal operations stage. Cook-greuter has since severely expanded Loevinger’s work.
A possible complication is that one needs to be at a certain level of development to be able to treat their level of development as an object: there is a bit of bootstrapping involved.
Now, I realize all this talk sounds spiritual as hell. Mark, again, comments on how to interact with this stuff, by implicitly operating in the following way:
“ “Based on the everything I know about everything, what does the content of this human artifact, and the fact that I’m reading it, tell me about the structure and state of reality, if anything? And, given all that, what do I do next?”
In other words, you look at the methods, you look at statistical power, you look at p-values, you look at effect sizes, and you decide whether or not some of this stuff has maybe nailed down a little patch of reality, a little isolated map that can make some accurate predictions of the territory. You have to do the extra work of finding the signal in the noise, and you have to do the extra work of translating the map into language and concepts that might or might not hook up with the rest of science. But empiricism is empiricism, if you take responsibility for interpreting it, and if you choose to make use of the thousands of hours that well-intentioned people have put in.”
Hanfeizi continues “Our host seems to have a view somewhere in the Turquoise band, OTOH- he seems to have been able to transcend and include everything worthwhile in both the Green (SJ, et al) and Yellow (NR, et al) vMEMEs and push on to something new- which, as we saw in “Meditations on Moloch”, borders on the spiritual.”
I feel that rationality (by which I mean LW-X-Rationality) can go wrong in several ways. Some ways are related to meaning and worldview and eternalism, other way – it seems to me – is that it anchors people in the formal operations stage. They get really good at playing that game and don’t want to stop playing.
Postrationality seems to be a reaction to that game. It might go beyond it. (Although I’m going to have to wait until the sequence comes out to make a judgement.)
I think LW-X-Rationality is an amazing scaffold because it is an in-depth, explicit, operationalization of what playing formal operations properly is like.
I think LW is a Wittgenstein Ladder. The Wittgenstein Ladder is the second-to-last proposition in the Tractatus: “My propositions serve as elucidations in the following way: anyone who understands me eventually recognizes them as nonsensical, when he has used them—as steps—to climb beyond them. (He must, so to speak, throw away the ladder after he has climbed up it.) He must transcend these propositions, and then he will see the world aright.” I don’t think it is by chance that Wittgenstein ideas in the Tractatus – logical atomism, logical positivism, being quiet about metaphysics – resemble those of Less Wrong. But, Wittgenstein did recognize that you needed to go beyond these. (Which he did, in his second book.)
The question is, what comes after rationality? Is it postrationality? What is post-formal operations like? What does transrationality look like?
- Gendlin: experiecing and meaning (wants to embrace both modern view – rationalism – and postmodern view -subjective)
- Sociology of Philosophies, Randal Collings
- How intellectuals only get attention by a) creating something new through reconfiguring the intellectual space, b) opposing it, and b) going meta and synthesizing
- (lw rationality, postrationality and various reactions, transrationality?)
- Relationship between psychology as spirituality