I posted the following in the Yahoo Adult Development forum and am cross-posting here. I'll keep you apprised of some key responses, provided I get any: 

Building on the post below* regarding Lakoff's embodied reason, he seems to call into question the type of abstract reasoning usually found at the formal operational level. This appears to be false reasoning based on the idea that reason is abstract, literal, conscious, can fit the world directly and works by logic (also see for example this article ). If formal reasoning is false wouldn't this call into question some of the assumptions of the MHC? That perhaps this "stage" is a dysfunction instead of a step toward post-formal reasoning? 

Now Lakoff has his own hierarchy of how embodied reason develops: image-schematic, propositional, metaphoric, metonymic, symbolic. (See for example "Metaphor, cognitive models and language" by Steve Howell.) So I'm wondering how the MHC takes into account Lakoff's work here and how it answers his charge of false reason? Terri Robinett noted in his Ph.D. dissertation (at the Dare Association site) that "work has already begun by Commons and Robinett (2006) on a hierarchically designed instrument to measure Lakoff’s (2002) theory of political worldview." So perhaps you can shed some light on this? 

* This is the referenced post: 

Since Michael brought up Lakoff as perhaps being "at right angles to the stage dimension" I read this by Lakoff this evening: "Why 'rational reason' doesn't work in contemporary politics." He distinguishes between real and false reason, the former being bodily based and the latter existing in some sort of objective, abstract realm. Very interesting indeed. Here are a few excerpts: 

"Real reason is embodied in two ways. It is physical, in our brain circuitry. And it is based on our bodies as the function in the everyday world, using thought that arises from embodied metaphors. And it is mostly unconscious. False reason sees reason as fully conscious, as  literal, disembodied, yet somehow fitting the world directly, and working not via frame-based, metaphorical, narrative and emotional logic, but via the logic of logicians alone."
"Real reason is inexplicably tied up with emotion; you cannot be rational without being emotional. False reason thinks that emotion is the enemy of reason, that it is unscrupulous to call on emotion. Yet people with brain damage who cannot feel emotion cannot make rational  decisions because they do not know what to want, since like and not like mean nothing. 'Rational' decisions are based on a long history of emotional responses by oneself and others. Real reason requires emotion."

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Read Salon's recent Lakoff interview here. Some excerpts follow. There is a lot to comment upon, forthcoming. 

"People thought that when I was talking about framing that I was talking about words. This is what Frank Luntz keeps saying, 'Words that Work.' The reason he can do that is that on the right, the think tanks figured out the frames before he came along. All he had to do was supply the words for the frames, whereas we have to think out the whole thing. Moreover, the assumption was that there was no difference between framing and spin, which is utterly ridiculous. You do framing every time you talk, every time you think, because frames are what you use in thinking—they’re neural structures." 

"[W]hen you start talking about the communications system that the right wing has set up, people think, 'Well, we’re Democrats and progressives, we don’t do that. We don’t set up a real communications system; that would be underhanded, that would be propaganda.' There’s a difference between saying what you believe in, getting your ideas out there, and propaganda to say what you believe. You tell the truth, that’s not propaganda." 

"[T]hought is part of the world. That when you’re thinking, it’s not separate from reality, it’s part of reality. And if your understanding of the world is reflected in what you do, then that thought comes into the world through your actions. And then through your actions, if many people have the same ideas, those ideas are going to spread, and they’re going to come back and reinforce themselves, because they will change the world."  

"Hypocognition is a very big deal. There is an assumption that we have all the concepts we need. We can express anything we want, and this is there, officially, in a lot of Anglo-American philosophy—it ‘s called the principle of expressability. It says that we have all the concepts we need, because concepts are assumed to come right out of the world, in an Aristotelian fashion: The world gives us our concepts, we have all the concepts we need, and therefore we can express anything in natural language using those concepts, because words just express concepts. 

"All of that’s false. Words don’t express concepts that way, concepts aren’t like that, etc., and the principle of expressability isn’t true. What’s important here is that we don’t have all the ideas we need, and reflexivity is one of them. Hypocognition itself is an idea that we need." 

"[I]n the brain, there’s a hierarchy of frames, which is there in neural circuitry. When you strengthen something lower in the hierarchy that implies strengthening things up higher in the hierarchy, which is the way that neural system works. So that is why conservatism has come as far as it has in the last 30 years. The conservatives have been using their language, getting it out there on all the issues, and progresses have done the opposite. 

"The reason for this is really interesting, because progressives think that they have to speak to the other guy in the other guy’s language. You’ve got to speak their language for them to understand it. It’s exactly the wrong way. Because as soon as you use conservative language, it activates conservative frames, which activates the conservative moral system, which strengthens it, and weakens your own."

"Around the world, people study the grammar of languages, and every grammar has a way that expresses causation, direct causation only, or slightly indirect causation, where there might be one intermediate cause, or something, but every language expresses direct causation. No language has in its grammar to express systemic causation. The reason for that is clear. When you’re a child, you learn direct causation. There is no way that, as a child, you’re going to learn systemic causation. And once you learn, the structure of the world that you acquire as a child has everything to do with your conceptual system, and the kinds of concepts expressed in the grammars of the world. So what happens is you have to actually learn what systemic causation is. 

"That’s really important to understand if you’re going to understand global warming denial. Because the deniers are just going to use direct causation. Direct causation comes out of a lot of conservatism. This is spelled out in my book “Whose Freedom?,” where it turns out that conservatives tend to think in terms of, in a strict father situation, the kid does something wrong, immediately their job is to spank them or hit them or do something painful to make him regret it and try to avoid doing that thing—it’s direct causation. Similarly you have Republican policies about immediately sending troops and having shock and awe right away, and so on, in all military situations. That is a case of direct causation, and many other conservative proposals involve direct rather than systemic causation, and require not thinking about what the system really requires."  

"[Y]ou not only have two moral systems, but there is a test that shows that one moral system fits what’s true about the world and the other does not. And that’s a big deal. I hadn’t really thought that through back in 2004, but one of the things that Obama particularly has said and that all progressives intuitively know, even if they don’t say it, is that there’s a difference in the view of democracy between conservatives and progressives.

"And the person who has best expressed that is Elizabeth Warren. [...] And almost nobody aside from Elizabeth Warren ever says it. But it’s out there, it’s behind all the issues, and the point of it is that those public resources permit freedom, they allow you to be free to start a business, they allow you to be free to be healthy and have health care—health care allows freedom; you have cancer and you don’t have health care you’re not free. Having safe food allows you to be free to eat, not worry constantly about whether you’re going to be poisoned." 

"This is crucial in our society and it’s absolutely central, it needs to be said every day and that’s the next mistake. The Democrats think they only have to worry about messaging during an election. Messaging is constant. Why? Because it’s what changes people’s brains. It is what gets those ideas out there."


Framing is not spin; its neural structure. In the interview, and not excerpted above, is that many regressives take marketing in college. That field is heavy on the scientific framing research. Many progressives are more into political science or liberal arts degrees, heavy on Enlightenment reasoning but light to non-existent on the cognitive science of framing. The latter even confuse framing with marketing spin and manipulation, noted in the excerpts above, hence ignoring it to their detriment. They don't get 'real' reason. Nor ironically do many developmentalists.

Framing based on real reason understands that 1) yes there is a hierarchy but that 2) appealing to the lower levels is what reinforces the higher abstract levels. Liberals and developmentalists, still caught in Enlightenment reason, tend to think in the reverse, that just espousing higher abstract ideals will 'trickle down' and change the more direct embodied and emotional responses. Granted there is some top-down causation and it's not all bottom-up, but with framing it is apparently the latter.

As to the grammar of languages only addressing direct or slightly indirect causation, I was re-reading this relevant post, excerpted below:

Also of interest is this passage on Heidegger's deconstruction of metaphysics, indicative of my earlier ruminations about how our language presupposes ontological premises:

“In particular, of course, it is their scandalous reversal, their radical overturning of anthropocentrism, of Cartesian egoity, their radical displacement of the speaking subject, hence of the subject-object structure and its ontology, reflected in rules of grammar, and seeming to introduce an unjustifiable metaphysics” (54).

Such languages developed from the ego-logical perspective, which imposes its strict dualistic rules and categories not only on language but on nature. It's a metaphysics not only of presence but of such abstract disconnection to its roots in image schema and metaphor. It even creates such distinct categories of the latter type into 'art,' which is unrelated to everyday language. Lakoff and Johnson, among many others in the cognitive linguistics movement, show that even everyday language is dependent on these embodied schema that connect us to our world.

So it seems a matter of rearranging our grammars to fit that embodied paradigm, to change how we speak and write in a manner more conducive of ecological awareness. Instead of saying “I must protect the rainforest” we might acknowledge “I am part of the rainforest” (69), and we both need stewardship. Language is an outgrowth of the world, as is thought, and when put in ecological perspective is just an effective means of connecting to and transforming that world and its mystery as any other mode, from meditation to ritual performance.

An exercpt from Corbett's IW article on the epistemic fallacy relevant to this thread:

"IT may be based on the socio-historical delusion of the West that its own relative cultural trajectory of ego development is an objective universal. Of course, cross-cultural studies can be used to either support or refute the developmental model of the ego, but even if we grant cross-cultural validity to the model this would still leave the historical fact of global western imperialism and its influence on the world's cultures unexamined. Moreover, even aside from the certainty of the influence of western global hegemony on the cross-cultural formation of ego development, there is still the issue of the measuring instruments themselves as projections of the perceptual characteristics and theoretical constructs of the surveyors rather than the subjects themselves, making the developmental model 'like a self-fulfilling hall of mirrors'. If this is the case, then the developmental model doesn't so much measure a linear hierarchical scale of development as it does an ideal of what it takes to become a well-adjusted and successful person within the system of the western enlightenment tradition" [my emphasis].

Also see this post.

The implicit and explicit conceptualization of Reason play a key role in the issues of this thread.  Having been delving into Descartes lately it is obvious to me that he does not introduce the separative dualism that is ascribed to him but, rather, becomes the historical site at which people begin assuming that a separative dualism has been introduced.  The figure of Descartes both indicates and conceals individual responsibility for making such a presumption.

Something similar operates with the discussion of Reason in the Lakoff-sense.  There is nothing unreasonable about the study and applicable of neuro-moral frames.  Such does not in any sense undermine or present an alternative to the Reason proposed by key Enlightenment thinkers.  However it does present an alternative to a common and narrow interpretive presumption about Reason that many people associate with the classical Enlightenment.  

What we call the shift from Modernism to Pluralism involves a shift in the presumption and discussion about Reason moreso than in the nature of Reason.  

The characterization of Serres as opposing Geometric Reason likewise embodies a limiting assumption about Geometric Reason -- a limitation in the context of the system which is making the distinction rather than in the system being inspected.  For many practical purposes this makes little difference but there may be areas in which it is crucial.  

A kind of Lacanian distinction (i.e. the subject-who-enunciates vs. the subject-who-is-enunciated) may be operating.  The metaphysical assumptions which appear at the site of Geometry are not necessarily implicit in Geometry but quite possibly make explicit by their projection on the part of one whose constructive efforts of thought are "contaminated" by the attempt to correct their own metaphysics by means of an external entanglement.  

Although that is not a terrible strategy...

There has been quite a lot of empirical research into formal operational reasoning, and it supports my presentation of what Lakoff would call 'false' reason. L&J are also accurate in how this sort of abstract reasoning is at root of of many western metaphysical, philosophical traditions. Whether or not Descartes is guilty of it I couldn't say, since I've never studied him in any depth.

There has also been quite a bit of research into post-formal reasoning, and it is of a different sort than formop. Granted I have some differences with what we might call an integral cognitive enactment, and how that might differ and be similar to some versions of post-formop, but that doesn't negate the voluminous research into post-formal reasoning as distinct from formop. Or the pretty much agreed upon characteristics of formop.

What intrigues me is the situation of post-formal reasoning presenting what it finds of itself within patterns of formal reasoning.  There is a very strong contemporary tendency to present post-formal as a critique of formal but I observe a difference in temperament in classical sites of the potential emergence of post-formal reasoning.  

Those who are attempting to produce or to culturally secure post-formal reasoning today are frequently inclined to note the failures and limitations of formal operational processing... but it is viable that success in post-formal is experienced subjectively as the depth-confirmation of key validities which power form-op.

George Lakoff: The Embodiment Hypothesis. Keynote address recorded March 14, 2015 at the inaugural International Convention of Psychological Science in Amsterdam.

A little bit about real/false reason in the last 15 minutes, but just a surface explanation. The entire talk was of that type, just giving a history of embodied cognition and not really going in depth on any of the phases. A good overview for those not familiar with the field, but not that useful in this thread where many of the specifics have already been discussed above.

Edward, this is an awesome display of understanding by Lakoff - good stuff.

I don't have time to watch it all now at the coffee shop and I'd like to give it more of my full attention. Later. This is so packed that a person could, obviously, spend a long time getting as much detail and understanding as one wants (those who aren't experts like him already.)

Thanks for posting this.

theurj said:

George Lakoff: The Embodiment Hypothesis. Keynote address recorded March 14, 2015 at the inaugural International Convention of Psychological Science in Amsterdam.

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