“Stage theory… Is BS?” — pt. 5

a mystical möbius — curating facts, ideas, text, and media to create a contemplative space.

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Bateson’s “Stage theory… Is colonial BS” critique hits target

Stadial theory/Eugenics—systematizing superiority

Last week, we saw that the old saying about not being able to see the forest for the trees may well apply to those unable to perceive the problematic nature of stadial theory (e.g., Integral and Spiral Dynamics [SD] devotees). Are those who are too close to these models simply missing a “key detail”?

Last week, an NPR program included a brief obituary for philosopher Charles W. Mills (1951-2021). Speaking of the larger Western context, the author of ‘The Racial Contract,’ “… Mills pointed out that those liberal frameworks [Western and, especially, American philosophy] missed a key detail: White supremacy.”

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OK, again, it’s problematic that stadial theory and racist ideology are rarely far apart.

“Abductive processes?”

Let’s consider another one of Nora Bateson’s points. 

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Bateson talks about the “abductive process” that is missing from (mechanistic) stadial theory. She also makes a distinction between “abductive reasoning” and ‘abductive processes.’ Merriam-Webster has an excellent page that clarifies the concepts of deductive, inductive, and abductive reasoning, see here:

‘Deduction’ vs. ‘Induction’ vs. ‘Abduction’

Meanwhile, I found a paper, “Abductive Reasoning, Interpretation and Collaborative Processes,” by Claudia Arrighi and Roberta Ferrario that relates to Bateson’s notion of abductive processes. How do I know that? I asked Bateson if the paper relates to her meaning.

“Somewhat,” was her reply. Very professorial, specific yet cryptic. [*grin*]

My sense is that Bateson sees abductive process as a collaboration, i.e., an opening to abducing provisional possibilities — a generative space for a kind of ‘grace’ process. 

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Anyway, the paper looks at how we gain understanding through communication. We find a C.S. Peirce (1839-1914) quote that shines some light on our question:

Abduction is the process of forming an explanatory hypothesis. It is the only
logical operation which introduces any new idea; for induction does nothing but
determine a value, and deduction merely evolves the necessary consequences
of a pure hypothesis.
 
Deduction proves that something must be; Induction shows that something
actually is operative; Abduction merely suggests that something may be.
Arrighi and Ferrario write: “Abduction is one of Peirce’s four steps of scientific investigation; it has been called a ‘logic of discovery’, even though it is not an argument for validating scientific hypotheses.” Peirce’s four aspects of scientific inquiry:
        1. anomaly observation,
        2. abduction of hypothesis,
        3. inductive testing, and
        4. deductive confirmation.

The ‘anomaly’ that SD and Integral devotees ‘observed’ was Bateson’s provocation: “Stage theory is colonial BS.”

Echoing Uwe Wirth’s approach, Bateson’s notion of abductive process introduces a principle of charity [grace] into an economy of discourse (i.e., a priori assumptions like, for SD: ‘stage theory is helpful’) — [cf., paper, Sect 4].

Abductive processes open a generative space making reconciliation of Graves SD and/or Integral with Bateson’s provocative claim a possibility.

Arguments from other times

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Legacy insights of Ludwig Feuerbach (1804-1872) and Anaïs Nin (1903-1977) intersect in Bateson’s critique of stadial theory.
 
So, think of the universe of ‘what you know’ as a bubble you’re in. Feuerbach said that, to you, “God” is the sum of your highest ideals projected on the inside of the bubble. Feuerbach identifies our limit in knowing ‘God,’ or knowing anything, really, e.g., our limit is the sum of our perception-understanding, or what we bring to any proclamation-speculation-revelation. Nin said:
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Bateson rightly raises the concern (here) that we’re bound to build constraints on possibility whenever we identify discreet stages, because anything we name is limited by our perception/understanding. Bonnitta Roy raises the same concern (here). In other words, the ’emergent pathways’ (that are outside of the stage conception) are removed from the realm of possibility, as the stadial lens doesn’t ‘see’ them. 

“development” & industrial production intersect

One of Bateson’s most potent concerns is the epistemological basis of our stratified, linear, goal-oriented education paradigm —  i.e., human labor optimization (here). In other words, how did we know to do it that way? Answer: pseudoscientific stadial theory said so. 
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At the time we innovated our current educational design, our pressing societal concern was how to grow our industrial economy; i.e., how do we create production-optimized workers? Fredrick W. Taylor (1856-1915) et al. and his “scientific management” did pioneering work on measuring and ranking humans for industrial ends; and those thinkers were a vector for modernist epistemologies like pseudoscientific stadial theory, which they applied to scientifically measuring human capability and effort for efficiency. This coupling of goal-oriented language and education still influences the present generation. Bateson’s concern is that it’s far too limiting of possibilities and becomes determinative. 

tl;dr

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Stadial theory is mechanistic; it limits human possibility because it’s clumsy and awkward.

Rectifying Graves: subtract stage theory; add loopy dynamics and abductive process.

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Next week: “Stage theory… Is BS?” — pt. 6. Come and see. 

[this post approx. 825 words (about a 3 min. read)]

Your thoughts? 

I never know what I’ve said till I hear the response. What did you hear me say?

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8 thoughts on ““Stage theory… Is BS?” — pt. 5

  1. This new post is helping me further understand why the entire Bateson idea/provocation has been so difficult for me to grasp. The abduction process is at play for me and is taking some time to sift through my prejudices, blindspots and assumptions. Thank-you for that discussion since personally it is very helpful. I can feel a shift in my understanding of the idea and the possibilities it affords.

    One sentence from the post sounds profound and I’ve read it several times yet I am not sure of the meaning and am hoping you can further expand on it. You wrote, “My sense is that Bateson sees abductive process as a collaboration, i.e., an opening to abducing provisional possibilities — a generative space for a kind of ‘grace’ process.” Would you be so kind as to elaborate on “abducing provisional possibilities” and “generative space for a kind of ‘grace’ process”?

    Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. hey now, Shasta Mike,

      Thanks!

      Yeah, for clarity purposes, the ‘principle of charity’ enters my thinking in this context through the Arrighi and Ferrario paper and resonated with me in a way similar to what Bateson was saying felt to me. So, for me Peirce’s piece that, “Abduction is the process of forming an explanatory hypothesis. It is the only logical operation which introduces any new idea,” mashed-up well with Bonnitta Roy’s critique and helped me form my reading of Bateson’s meaning re abduction missing from stage models.

      > One sentence from the post sounds profound and I’ve read it several times yet I am not sure of the meaning and am hoping you can further expand on it. You wrote, “My sense is that Bateson sees abductive process as a collaboration, i.e., an opening to abducing provisional possibilities — a generative space for a kind of ‘grace’ process.” Would you be so kind as to elaborate on “abducing provisional possibilities” and “generative space for a kind of ‘grace’ process”?

      OK, well, if what I’ve written does all that for you, then my goal of creating an open space for readers to enter has been reached. I’d be silly to mess with that. 😉

      I do feel your question is very fair, it’s just that I don’t want to contaminate your contemplation on it with my provisional comment here right now. Anything I could add here now would only be provisional because I’m still contemplating all of this, too.

      I’d invite you to contemplate the meaning of what has struck you as possibly profound and generate a provisional hypothesis on it. I’d love to hear that.

      Thanks for writing!

      peace and peanut butter,
      michael

      Like

      1. Fair enough! I have felt the state of grace less than a handful of times and while I try to not “chase” experiences, that is like nectar to a bee for me. haha So, my ears and interest went on high alert as soon as I read it and wanted to know more.

        My experiences with Grace have been associated with Forgiveness so this is potentially a different approach/process. I can imagine a collaborative process where two people could come to a new understanding that also includes or is enveloped inside Grace. If so, hey – sign me up! Potentially, a more beautiful and wonderful way to achieve an academic breakthrough. That is not something I would have ever dreamt possible, but – who knows? I look forward to the possibilities.

        My Grace idea mentioned above seems a little out there to me and likely not what you were intimating or looking for. I was not sure what you were suggesting hence the question and request for elaboration. And, my experience is that authentic spiritual experiences fit more into the less said, the better, category so no rely is expected or needed.

        Liked by 1 person

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