- Knowing and Un-knowing Reality: A Beginner’s and Expert’s Developmental Guide to Post-Metaphysical Thinking by Tom Murray
Referring to the section on Lakoff, our basic categories are embodied with image schemas that arise from our interactions with the world. Recall that one of the image schemas is the part-whole gestalt, aka mereology. 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 abstract, 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 abstractly specific ‘downward’ and more general ‘upward’ from there with a useful but constructed hierarchy. This doesn’t necessarily eliminate hierarchy per se, just contextualizes it is a more naturalistic 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 the container schema.
I was just re-reading some of Lakoff & Nunez, Where Mathematics Comes From. Even in math there is no one correct or universal math. There are equally valid but mutually inconsistent maths depending on one’s premised axioms (354-55). This is because math is also founded on embodied, basic categories and metaphors, from which particular axioms are unconsciously based (and biased), and can go in a multitude of valid inferential directions depending on which metaphor (or blend) is used in a particular contextual preference. Hence they dispel the myth of a transcendent, Platonic math while validating a plurality of useful and accurate maths.
However Lakoff & Nunez do not see the above as relativistic postmodernism (pomo) because of empirically demonstrated, convergent scientific evidence of universal, embodied grounding of knowledge via image schema, basic categories and extended in metaphor. They see both transcendent math and pomo as a priori investments.
From Lakoff & Johnson, Philosophy in the Flesh, Chapter 1:
“For the sake of imposing sharp distinctions, we develop what might be called essence prototypes, which conceptualize categories as if they were sharply defined and minimally distinguished from one another. When we conceptualize categories in this way, we often envision them using a spatial metaphor, as if they were containers, with an interior, an exterior, and a boundary. When we conceptualize categories as containers, we also impose complex hierarchical systems on them, with some category-containers inside other category-containers. Conceptualizing categories as containers hides a great deal of category structure. It hides conceptual prototypes, the graded structures of categories, and the fuzziness of category boundaries.”
This is the crux of the AQAL developmental holarchy lens/metaphor, itself only one of a multitude of lenses/metaphors. Its inference structure indeed hides a great deal of other categorical structures discussed in the book. While this lens is useful and consistent within its own limited inferential structure, it is inconsistent with other equally valuable metaphorical inference structures. L&J make clear there is no one structure that is the foundation for the others. Hence the problem is that we take the holarchy lens to be THE defining context within which all others must be contextualized, often based on some metaphysical premise that it’s the way reality itself is organized.
These are great L&J quotes Edward, thanks. As is obvious I am also a big fan of Philosophy in the flesh. But it also strikes me that the developmental lens never made its way into their work. Lakoff’s later work on political themes (Don’t think of an elephant) was even more hobbled by this lack. I understand why it happens and is hard to change, but its such a shame how academia operates in such tight sub-disciplinary silos. I had the same concern about Haidt’s work, excellent but noticeably could benefit from the developmental lens. I hear that Haidt has recently been turned on to developmental theories though, so we will see. Not that adult development is the end-all of theories, but its unfortunate how little of academia is even familiar with it.
There could be a number of reasons for that. One is that the developmental metaphor (lens) is just one of a multitude. And as they note, each primary metaphor has its own valid and coherent inference structure. However they are not valid and coherent with other base metaphors. And typically philosophies are a hybrid mix of basic metaphors, revealing those internal inconsistencies that either get glossed over or require some rather twisted logic to get them to cohere. There is no dominant lens to rule them all, so to speak.
Another reason is as noted above that the hierarchical lens, key to developmental models, uses the container schema as one of its guiding metaphors. But that “hides conceptual prototypes, the graded structure of categories and the fuzziness of category boundaries.” Using the latter challenges the very structure of the developmental model. We can also conceptualize container schema differently, i.e., where a so-called smaller holon is not subsumed in a larger one but in which they share a space-between as Edwards calls it. It offers an entirely different approach to hierarchy because the interacting holons retain their autonomy. They structurally couple and create another holon altogether instead of one being subsumed or nested in the other.
This is especially significant when you take into account basic categories, which are in the middle of typical taxonomic hierarchies. That is, a hierarchy does not start with the most particular type which is subsumed into the most general type. Those two abstract ends of the spectrum are literally tied together by the basic category in the middle, the most concrete and thus the most closely interactive with the world. Hence this hierarchy is in effect from the middle up and down so that the very nature of hierarchy is entirely different than the typical one. Hence hier(an)archical synplexity.
I’m also thinking of the following from Chapter 7 of PITF, challenging the set theory aspect of developmental premises.
“Spatial relations concepts (image schemas), which fit visual scenes, are not characterizable in terms of set-theoretical structures. Motor concepts (verbs of bodily movement), which fit the body’s motor schemas, cannot be characterized by set-theoretical models. Set-theoretical models simply do not have the kind of structure needed to fit visual scenes or motor schemas, since all they have in them are abstract entities, sets of those entities, and sets of those sets. These models have no structure appropriate to embodied meaning-no motor schemas, no visual or imagistic mechanisms, and no metaphor.”
Hence that variety of set theory used to justify developmental hierarchy is not based on embodied premises. I explore this in great detail in the Ning IPS thread “real and false reason.”
As noted above, prototypes are not based on necessary and sufficient conditions, the latter being a requirement for hierarchical complexity. Commons admits as much in this article. Note the axioms which satisfy the requisite necessary and sufficient conditions in terms of set theory. Prototype theory challenges the very edifice upon which developmental models depend. No wonder Lakoff et al. don’t go there. I’d even suggest that the sort of necessary and sufficient logic of set theory, not being embodied, is quite literally metaphysical and hence not what is considered postmetaphysical.
I’m not sure I would take it quite that far Edward. What prototype theory does is not so much invalidate hierarchies, as show that, assuming they do roughly approximately capture some aspect of reality (which I think they do), they are imperfect maps. In the same way that simple concepts (as categories) are partial truths but err in forcing clean boundaries (and clean hierarchical relationships). I do think that prototype theory and the theory of “natural kinds” in concept formation is incredibly important for all theory makers and users to know about.
Lakoff also noted in Women, Fire and Dangerous Things :
“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).
He argues that this arises from the correspondence-representation model, a metaphysical system.
And this one is significant, which was made apparent in my discussions with Commons:
“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).
Hence the complete avoidance of Lakoff’s (and company) work; it is not “objective” and proven (i.e., circle-jerked) with so-called objective, mathematical, set-theorectical axioms.
And this one that nails the MHC’s categorization structure:
“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).
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.
Now I am not saying that this negates development per se, just that it challenges how it is modeled based on set theory. It does answer though your question as to why Lakoff hasn’t written about development, and vice versa why developmentalists have tended to ignore or brush off Lakoff. Some exceptions to the later are you, Edwards et al. and me.
Edwards & company do though challenge via Lakoff some of the more metaphysical premises in their “inter-bridging” piece in this IR issue. E.g. their approach has a virtual center and is not centered around a “metaphysical harmony, nor an underlying unity-oriented ideal(ism). Rather, it embraces demands of diversity, complexities, intricacies and ambiguities of bounded organizational realities.” This is given their multi-lens approach, of which the holarchical is but one, and challenges the metaphysical premise of those philosophies or models that are centered on an objectivist or representational notion of reality, a characteristic postmetaphysical criticism.
So yes, the holarchical lens is indeed valid within its own axiomatic premises, and Lakoff et al. do recognize the container schema as a valid image schema and from which the holararcical lens extends in metaphor. And Lakoff does admit that image schema are based on a whole-part gestalt. It’s just that such an embodied gestalt has a different inference structure that is not based on a particular set theory’s necessary and sufficient conditions but on the graded category structures of our embodiment.
Hence those structures are organized differently in what I’ve come to call hier(an)archical synplexity. I don’t have a full-blown theory of that yet but I’m working on it. My IR article gives a few hints in that the parts of any whole are not fully subsumed into that whole but retain their autonomy and ‘share spaces’ in those intersections. That is explored in a few of the Ning threads which I may go into more detail later. Development yes, as stated in set theory not so much.
To further highlight the differences between Lakoff et al. and Commons et al. on real/false reasoning–or efficient versus deficient reasoning in Gebser’s terminology-- the following is from this Commons source. The very premises of the MHC are literally metaphysical and directly challenged by embodied cognition.
“Here, the ideal truth is the mathematical forms of Platonic ideal. An essential element of science is direct observation and interaction with the world. But Plato set forth a very different doctrine, to the effect that ‘knowledge cannot be derived from the senses’ ; real knowledge only has to do with concepts. The senses can only deceive us; hence we should, in acquiring knowledge, 'ignore sense impressions and develop reason '. In codifying such logical reasoning, Aristotle (384–322 BC) set down rules of inference and recognized the importance of axioms for logic, postulates for the subject at hand, definitions of terms, and the importance of giving logical arguments that start with the postulates.
"The MHC is a mathematical theory of the ideal. It is a perfect form as Plato would have described it. It is like a circle. A circle is an ideal form that exists. Once one draws a circle, something additional and different has been created. The new creation is a representation of a circle, but it is not, itself, a perfect ideal circle. The lines have width whereas a circle does not, and thus cannot perfectly represent the perfect form itself. The representation is not perfect nor can a drawn circle be perfectly round. This distinction between the ideal form and representations of the ideal is important for understanding the MHC and its relationship to stage of performance” (113-15).
Love this juxtaposition of quotes Edward! Commons is good to make the point about the difference between the real and ideal (idea) [which many theorists don’t], but seems to tip his hat as a radical idealist here. I’m not sure this characterizes him generally, but anyone who thinks they can boil most of human behavior down to a mathematical equation must be missing something. So I think we have to try to notice what is missed there, while at the same time appreciating the power of the theory. Fisher’s treatment of the very similar developmental terrain has a much more palatable realism to it. Reality is so complex and resistant to being captured by categories that any model that captures, say 10% , of a situation will seem like the “true” theory, explaining things so much better than the rest of the theories that capture 4%.
Yes, I’ve read, appreciate and commented on Fischer’s more dynamic systems approach to modeling development. I posted all the above to show how Commons’ premises of ideal forms and/or categories as foundation for modeling fly in the face of the graded categories and prototype theory of embodied cognition. As I said above, development yes of course, but it needs better modeling taking into account cognitive science.
This is a good exchange on an important point, and I appreciate your pressing it home, Edward. I also think that Tom’s paper is super-rich and there is a lot more in it that could be discussed besides this “sticking point” around Commons’ metaphysics.
Have at it then buddy!
Well, don’t you agree? Yes, definitely, I’ll post on it myself. But I’m trying here to encourage participation by other readers of it. I’ve already read it in several drafts and provided feedback to Tom on it privately. I’m hoping for wider engagement here.
I agree that others should participate. I thought you were admonishing me for only focusing on that one aspect of Tom’s paper, but honestly that’s the only section I’m interested in. My inquiry is foundational for the rest of Tom’s developmental argument, at least as I see it.
As to Tom’s paper on uncertainty and emptiness, I appreciate what David Loy said of relevance in this article:
"Today the thinker most often compared to Nagarjuna is the French philosopher Jacques Derrida… Derrida is not interested in defending any philosophical position of his own but instead is concerned with showing the limits of language and the difficulties we fall into when we overstep them. Derrida’s work builds on structuralism, which argues that words do not have meaning in and of themselves. The meaning of any linguistic expression always depends upon some other expression, and that ‘other expression’ is also dependent on something else. Meaning is therefore relative and always in flux, part of a chain of reference that never comes to an end. Whatever we think we understand right here and now always presupposes something else that is not present.
“Derrida’s term to describe the relativity and ‘indeterminability’ of meaning is différance, and the way différance functions in his philosophy can be compared to how Nagarjuna uses shunyata, or emptiness. Derrida emphasizes that différance does not refer to some specific thing. It is merely a conceptual tool useful for describing how conceptual meaning is never quite settled, but always ‘deferred.’”
Given the last post, and since Derrida is considered the ultimate postmodern Boogie Man, some questions.
Tom: If Loy has a correct interpretation of Derrida, and from my reading he does for the most part, does this change any of your developmental assessment of postmodernism?
Marco: Given your post in the definitions thread claiming that modernism and postmodernism are the same mental stuff, does the Loy material above change your position?
I read some Derrida in college, but have not studied his work in depth. He is on my list, along with Levinas—for their ethical thought especially. It’s just a matter of when.
However, as far as I can tell, Derrida’s concept of differánce is basically about meaning and language, part of the linguistic turn in philosophy coming out of Heiedegger’s ‘destruction’ of metaphyics and critique of presence. As a practical matter: he is philosophizing.
Foucault seemed to be more on the trail of the integral when he began studying the history of sexuality and the ‘care of the self’, coming out of the ancient Greek ascesis. Here we are moving out of the predominently mental orientation towards some integrated praxis of embodiment (which includes the mental, but with a sense of human proportion).
The other David Loy quote you posted, about the point of meditation not being to “get rid of thoughts” or conceptualization, does square with my understanding of practice.
So but I don’t think my position has changed wrt modern/postmodern. If we are caught in distortions of language, then use language to decontruct the language we are caught in, we are still operating on the mental plane of language. I would ask, what other dimensions, realities, or embodiments are in play, in addition to the linguistic?
What’s going on subliminally? What are the interpersonal dynamics? What is the living context of the utterance? Who is speaking and what do they want? How do our discourse events relate to the unfolding planetary drama? Where are we when we are in cosmic time?