LiteracyOfHumanNature

“Human nature is not a machine to be built after a model, and set to do exactly the work prescribed for it, but a tree, which requires to grow and develop itself on all sides, according to the tendency of the inward forces which make it a living thing.”

“Such are the differences among human beings in their sources of pleasure, their susceptibilities of pain, and the operation on them of different physical and moral agencies, that unless there is a corresponding diversity in their modes of life, they neither obtain their fair share of happiness, nor grow up to the mental, moral, and aesthetic stature of which their nature is capable.”- JohnStuartMill?, On Liberty (1859)

The following is a core framework for understanding human nature. The fundamental element of human nature is that it is an open system, although it may tend to stabilize into certain patterns when environmental and BioPsychoSocial? syetems do the same.

Dr. Clare W Graves observed:

Human nature is shaped by a combination of factors:

This is combined together as a BioPsychoSocial? system. This is standing back and looking at a larger picture than the subsystems that make up the BioPsychoSocial? system.

Standing back and looking at this system of sub-systems, one fundamental pattern was found to emerge:

People are found somewhere on spectrum between the poles of trying to make the environment adapt to them, or people are trying to adapt themselves to their environment.

Furthermore, looking closer, there are different patterns that emerge over time, from the first proto-humans to immediate human behavior in the present.

These patterns were represented by Clare Graves in this hierarchy:

http://clarewgraves.com/theory_content/CG_FuturistTable.htm

Timeline

These patterns were estimated by Graves to emerge roughly in this way:

100.000 years ago: (A-N) First humanoids, express self now for physiological satisfaction

50.000 years ago: (B-O) Forming tribes, creating mythologies, oral histories,advancing language, symbols, music, first experiments with agrculture, sacrifice self to the ways of ancestors.

10.000 years ago: (C-P) Warlords, conquest, discovery, one “Big Man” ruling many tribes, express self now for what self wants, and to hell with everyone else.

5000 years ago: (D-Q) Literature, emergence of monotheism, emergence of science, sacrifice “self” now for later reward

1000 years ago: (E-R) Plurality, individualism, economic and materialistic gain focus, express self now for materialistic gain now

150 years ago: (F-S) Socio-centric, Human right, honesty/transparency, collectivism sacrifice self now so that all may gain now

50 years ago: (G-T) Complexity, interconnections, systems understanding, individualist. Express self now for what self wants, but not at the expense of others.

30 years ago: (H-U) Globalism, eco-consciousness, post-humanism, ??? (still emerging)

“Express self”=trying to make the environment adapt to you

“Sacrifice self”=trying to adapt yourself to your environment.

Examples from complexity theory

Wikipedia:Complexity_theory emerged about 20 years after Graves formulated these theories. Yet, complexity theory is coming to similar conclusions about human nature.

For instance, YaneerBarYam?, of the New England Complex Science Institute, discusses this in his paper, Complexity Rising:

Neuroscience Connections

On Intelligence describes the brain as fundamentally a “memory and prediction” system.

Paul MacLean?’s Triune brain theory:

Neuroscience has found that emotion plays an important role in memory. And, neurosience has found that the neocortical “intelligence” drives complex mental prediction. neuroscience has found that R-complex (“primitive brain”) function can quickly override the whole system,

examples: Wikipedia:Amygdala and adrenaline release function during fight or flight, long term Wikipedia:Cortisol release due to Allostatic load.

Relation to Graves’s theories: People oscillating back and forth in their problem solving between:

“Express self”=trying to make the environment adapt to you

“Sacrifice self”=trying to adapt yourself to your environment.

are driven by self preservation, emotion, and intelligence, all interconnected within the brain, all reacting to external conditions (“existential conditions”), all enabled by a brain system designed for memory and prediction, that is influenced by a complex environment.

Ray Kurzweil’s book “The Singularity Is Near” (pg 192) states that one thing that seperates Apes and Humans from other mammals on a neurological level are the presence of “Spindle Cells”. “Spindle cells” are involvd in emotional intelligence. Kurzweil says that humans have about 80,000, Gorillas have about 16,000, Bonobos about 2,100 and Chimps about 1,800 (he didn’t mention Orangutans) other mammals lack them completely, according to Kurzweil.

(The Wikipedia article states that Chimps have the most, that Gorillas have less than chimps, but agree that only great apes possess spindle cells).

The patterns listed above under “Timeline” may have emerged to due to adaptations and changes in the human neurosystems, where people become progressively better at offsetting Allostatic load:

This ability to become progressively better at offsetting limbic and R-complex overriding is reflected in the increasing complexity of the patterns that Graves observed. It may be enabled by the presence of “Spindle Cells”, which allow the “intelligence” regions of the brain to increasingly be able to deal with the “overrding” tendancy of the emotion and more “primitive” regions of the brain.

Summarization

So, where does this get us?

Briefly: understanding “why” people are doing something, or solving problems in a certain way can help you “tune your transmitter to their receiver”, it can help you see reality from their perspective, from their world view. this can in turn help you communicate with them better.

This can help you design better systems for the way that people learn. This can help you help other people work together in more sustainable ways.

Lion's Interpretation

This is a simplified interpretation, based on some Graves pages, by LionKimbro:

This interpretation is probably wrong, by Graves ideas. This is just a rough idea of the progression, (Lion working to make sense of it,) and explains some of the sorts of things that Graves is considering.

Notes on Notation

Stages are represented by letter-pairs. One letter represents the internal dynamic neuronal systems and internal concept of the ‘self’ (“psyche”), the other letter represents the external conditions (“life conditions”):

See Also

PageMaintainer: SamRose

Discussion

I created the original Wikipedia post on Clare W Graves, and it was modified by a few different people over time. I find the language very useful, so I’ve quoted it above.

I’m sorry; I haven’t responded yet. I’ve been reading through all of the examples from Dr. Graves Research.

Wow, this is really intense.

I’m going to be thinking about this for a while.

I think that Graves’ theories can help inform SharedAwarenessSystem, and OrganizedCulture, and possibly other pages here. Graves primarily looks at “why” people are doing what they are doing. He asks the question: “Who is doing what to whom, and why?”, and that is probably the fundamental line of inquiry he followed for everything he did with these theories.

So, for SharedAwarenessSystem, we can ask “why” our awareness system works the way it does? What problems of existence are the people who make up the SharedAwarenessSystem trying to solve? Why is it designed the way that it is? Why does it focus on the things that it focuses on, and why does it tend to ignore what it tends to ignore? What are the value systems at play within the people who make up the system? What technologies are they using, and why? Why were those technologies designed the way that they were? What problems of existence were those designers trying to solve?

Same thing for OrganizedCulture. Why are people organizing in the way that they are organizing? What problems of existence are they trying to solve?

I’ve added my notes while researching; I hope it isn’t disrespectful to appreciation for Graves.

The questions you just asked are very interesting. My response is: “I don’t know, but those are very interesting questions.”

I suspect that the answers are extremely complicated; I don’t know if a levels explanation quite makes sense. I’m not saying that it doesn’t, either.

I’ll be thinking about these ideas and questions, though.

Cool! I will try to go through what you have and fill in what I know. (I will be gone for about a week here soon, but I’ll be back and back into CommunityWiki even more then).

Graves work is still open-ended. It’s more of a beginning than an “end”. I personally believe that his theories are the best starting point for creating a real LiteracyOfHumannature?. Yet, I believe that we have learned many things since Graves created these theories in the areas of anthropology and archaeology, primatology, neuroendochrine systems, media ecology, evolutionary psychology, neuroscience, complexity, systems theory, and group dyanmics, and much of that new understanding has never been fully reconciled with Graves’s work, although I think that it can be.

But his basic questions, and the basic core dynamics that you summarized above I believe are important for a LiteracyOfHumanNature.

So, I introduced these theories and this model here in the hopes that it might give at least a partially useful framework for exploring human nature and human systems.

Lion, I noticed your comments on Slashdot. I thought I’d tell you little bit about what I know about Clare W Graves’s experiments with his students. This is the really short version of “how it happened”.

Back in the late 1950’s, Graves was teaching psychology at Union College in NY. His students kept pointing out conflicts and inconsistencies in the different models of the leading psychology thinkers of that time. So, Graves decided to start out with a clean slate and create a new model of psychology from the ground up. He did this by asking his students, who were a diverse group of people from all over the world, to create a conceptualization of a “muture adult”. Then, he asked them to defend their conceptualizations against one another in group settings. He also asked them to defend their conceptualizations against the leading “authorities” of the day. he also performed several psychological battery tests and intelligence tests on all of the subjects. Graves did this over many years (somewhere around 7 years, I believe). Each year, he did his own analysis of all of the data that he gathered on all of this, but he also handed all of the data over to what he called “independent scorers” (people who were experts in this area, but did not know exactly what Graves was trying to do) and literally told them to “quantify this in any way that you can”. And the artifacts that emerged from their quantifying were the “levels of existence” that Graves describes in his theory. The dynamics that are summarized at the beginning of this page are the result of the total combination of Graves’s observations.

Graves’s method for creating these theories might be compared to something like Society Mapping, where the “map” itself emerges as patterns that tend to emerge from people asked to solve a problem.

First: Society Mapping – I think that’s really cool. In fact, I’ve written (somewhere, perhaps in just my personal note files) about how important I feel collaborative organizing / categorization software is. That is, software (or a medium) that makes it super-easy for people to organize ideas together.

As for Graves:

I appreciate your explanation; I very much wish the original artifacts were on the Internet. Sadly, they are not, but no matter.

What I feel, personally, that I (ask about / want from) the theory, is:

  • “Is this an open, or closed model?” That is, could we open up some new levels, say, in between two others? (open) Or could we put some new levels on the side? (open) Or is this an actual description of, say, 99% of observed ideologies? (closed) It’s far harder to come up with something closed, but if you have it, the system is far more useful.
  • “What are the regions, abstractly?” Looking at it, I see that the different nodes answer questions like: “Do I believe that there’s a higher order, ethically guiding everything.” “Do I construct my own sense of ethics?” “What are my obligations to others?” “Why am I doing what I am doing?” (and so on) What, specifically, are the questions under consideration? How do the nodes answer those questions? And further, do I believe that the questions and their answers are sufficient for closure?
  • “How can I quickly pidgeonhole mindsets, into the categories? What things am I looking for, or not looking for?” Furthermore, “What would I do differently, knowing what I’m looking for?” Obviously, I’d set my sighte\s on the “highest level” that I could comprehend. And, I’d have tools for deconstructing perspectives people were holding, though they may be SelectivelyOpenMinded about some other perspective, for example. But what are the specifics of that; What does it mean doing or thinking, specifically?
  • “What are the limitations of the model?” For example, I don’t believe he has constructed a “spiritual ladder” that an individual can just climb. I do see some things in life that are ladder-ish. I do note that Graves himselves notes that infering a ladder from this would be a mistake. I note his emphasis on environment. Are there other limitations?
  • “What value am I missing here?” Is there something that you see in particular, that you would like to make sure that I see? It doesn’t have to be hard-and-solid; It can also be an intuition.

It is surprising to me that so many of the observations seem to fit nicely into a limited analysis. Did he just select papers that fit the mold nicely? Did interaction with the professor prepare people to answer in the ways that they did- to think along specific axis? I am skeptical, because I think if I had not already seen existing answers, I believe I would have answered very differently.

For example, I might have spoken in terms of harmony between physical, emotional, active, mental, spiritual lives. I might have spoken in terms of virtue ethics (Love, Courage, Friendliness, Responsibility, Care, Attentiveness,) and so on. It is surprising to me that none of the writers wrote in those terms, not predominantly; And it’s not clear to me which of his nodes those things would fit into. After reading his nodes, I think, “Oh, well, yes, in terms of that language, and that framing, I would write like so: …”

So this leads to some skepticism, before I hold this map up as a MetaPhysics that I will consider authoritative. I can see getting into a conversation with someone, and saying “life is like this,” but getting skeptical looks, because they thought something that didn’t really have a place on the map.

This is not to say that Graves’ map doesn’t have closure (which is something I find desirable in a good map.) Again, I don’t know enough about his map to even evaluate. (The pain of evangelical philosophies that don’t put their ideas on the web..! If the Bible were published in 2006, I’m sure only Genesis and John would have been put on the web.) It’s just to say: “I am skeptical from what I see, but I really don’t know, and I haven’t made up my mind.”

It’s clear to me he’s observed something. Not just something, but something on the right track. It’s just not clear to me that he’s covered the whole circuit. Not yet, at any rate. But if I could understand his view a bit better, maybe, …?

Hey Lion, responses follow:

  1. “Is this an open, or closed model?” That is, could we open up some new levels, say, in between two others? (open) Or could we put some new levels on the side? (open) Or is this an actual description of, say, 99% of observed ideologies? (closed) It’s far harder to come up with something closed, but if you have it, the system is far more useful. #

I would say that it depends on who you ask :). However, if you ask me, I am going to delcare it “open”, because that is how Graves himself wanted his model to be seen, based on what he wrote about it. See below about the “levels”.

  1. “What are the regions, abstractly?” Looking at it, I see that the different nodes answer questions like: “Do I believe that there’s a higher order, ethically guiding everything.” “Do I construct my own sense of ethics?” “What are my obligations to others?” “Why am I doing what I am doing?” (and so on) What, specifically, are the questions under consideration? How do the nodes answer those questions? And further, do I believe that the questions and their answers are sufficient for closure? #

Graves said that they core question he is asking is “who is doing what to whom, and why?”

  1. “How can I quickly pidgeonhole mindsets, into the categories? What things am I looking for, or not looking for?” Furthermore, “What would I do differently, knowing what I’m looking for?” Obviously, I’d set my sites on the “highest level” that I could comprehend. And, I’d have tools for deconstructing perspectives people were holding, though they may be SelectivelyOpenMinded about some other perspective, for example. But what are the specifics of that; What does it mean doing or thinking, specifically? #

I would say that the “levels” are less important thna the core of the theory itself. For a long time people concentrated on the “levels” because they were powerful representative artifacts. They appear to actually “predict” the direction of the eveolution of these BioPsychoSocial? dynamics. However, it may be that the “levels” that Graves observed are really only a “rule” for some people in western culture, for instance. It may be that “eastern” culture experienced different “levels”. This not meant to be a categorization scheme, but rather a way to model systems within people. The most important part of Graves’s model, and the part that probably is universal for all humans, is the core that I have outlined at the beginning of this page.

  1. “What are the limitations of the model?” For example, I don’t believe he has constructed a “spiritual ladder” that an individual can just climb. I do see some things in life that are ladder-ish. I do note that Graves himselves notes that infering a ladder from this would be a mistake. I note his emphasis on environment. Are there other limitations? #

A lot of what Graves wrote about “ladders” and “waves” and “tiers” was just his own specualtion. But the core of the model was based on actual scientific research, the core that I outline above. So there are lot limits to much of his speculation. Also, the Clare W Graves website I linked to shows Graves work evolving over many years. So, that is why things seem to change from one paper or publication to the next. But, he always had teh core I outline above. The best way to get a good grasp of Graves’s theory is to read his outline of the theory in Journal of Humanistic Psychology fall 1970, vol 10 No 2 pp. 131-155, or read his recently published book The Never Ending Quest.

  1. “What value am I missing here?” Is there something that you see in particular, that you would like to make sure that I see? It doesn’t have to be hard-and-solid; It can also be an intuition.

I really do believe the best value to be obtained from Graves’s theories are outline in the “core” that I present above.

I believe this core gives us a beginning point for looking at “who is doing what to whom, and why?”

edited to add: The most important parts of the “core” I outline above are the first two points. We can leave aside for now what the nature of individual “levels” are exactly, and what order they emerge in (although realize that Graves did extensive work to come to his conclusion that these “levels” tended to emerge in teh way that he describes they did). The first two points are the most important, IMO.

I want to respond more, later, but very briefly:

  • “man’s nature is not a set thing, that it is ever emergent, that it is an open system, not a closed system.”-Clare W. Graves

How does this square with the nodes? The nodes seem pretty articulated, and seem to “want” to express closure or completeness. The “topmost node” is pretty wide-open, what would exist beyond it?

What room is there for other nodes? Or are we talking about alien intelligences, (or TransHumanism,) at that point?

Or does he view the nodes as just a handful of the possible states out there?

  • ”…in response to the interaction of external conditions with internal neuronal systems, humans develop new BioPsychoSocial? coping systems to solve existential problems and cope with their worlds. These coping systems are dependent on evolving human culture and individual development, and they are manifested at the individual, societal, and species levels. Graves believed that tangible, emergent, self-assembling dynamic neuronal systems evolved in the human brain in response to evolving existential and social problems.” -Quoted from the Wikipedia:Clare W. Graves entry.

I need this in a little more PlainTalk; Here’s an attempt:

  • People mature in ways that fit the worlds they find themselves in.
  • Their maturity reflects their own personal growth, the development of their culture, even their entire species.
  • That “maturity,” is, in fact, the sum development of the neural (brain-chemistry,) mental (thoughts-in-the-head,) and social (peoples-relationships-with-one-another) “coping systems” that have developed.
  • That is, people build systems in their head, in response to the evolving problems and opportunities of the world.

How is that?

I still need to feel out the thinking, to see how it fits for me. On the surface, I agree strongly with it. But: are there any horrible consequences of this thinking? (Borganism- That there should be only one organism, death-to-multiplicity, for example? I don’t know yet.) Arguing from consequences is usually a bad idea, but so is just sucking up a foundational idea without putting it to tests- if I find a bad consequence, I can then see if I can track it back to an error in the foundation that I hadn’t noticed. (Then again, I can be moved to re-evaluate the “bad consequence.”) I haven’t thought about this long enough, to give fair trial to the idea.

Incidentally, I have been exploring Virtue ethics, lately, and the concept of Eudaimonia. I intuit a connection between these ideas, and what Graves is talking about. “Virtue ethics, by contrast, focuses on what makes a good person, rather than what makes a good action.” – Wikipedia.

The question of “Law” came up. It’s not clear to me that Law should try to map Virtue too closely, since what is legal is not necessarily virtuous, and what is illegal is not necessarily bad; that’s clear. And I’m not sure we should seek a match like that. The connection I see, is that a lot of the explanations about maturity have to do with “who gets to set rules,” and so on. So it’s a layer floating outside the “rules” framework.

Lion wrote: It is surprising to me that so many of the observations seem to fit nicely into a limited analysis. Did he just select papers that fit the mold nicely? Did interaction with the professor prepare people to answer in the ways that they did- to think along specific axis? I am skeptical, because I think if I had not already seen existing answers, I believe I would have answered very differently.

Sam: I know you wrote this a while ago, but can you expand on what you are talking about here? Graves identified eight different “nodal” levels initially.:

A-N B-O C-P D-Q E-R F-S G-T H-U

Then, he later added “entering” and exiting phases between them, eg bo/CP or E-R/f-s

The Letter pairs represent two interacting forces: The Existential Conditions and The Dynamic Neuronal systems

Graves actually didn’t come up with these levels totally on his own, or from his own observation. That is what is fascinating to me. What he did was, for over 15 years, give the data that he collected to successively different groups of blind “scorers” (people who had knowledge in the area of psychology, but did not know what Graves’s experiment was, or how he was conducting it). He literally told them to “quanitfy this (data) in any way that you can”. And the patterns that emerged from that became the “levels”.

For example, I might have spoken in terms of harmony between physical, emotional, active, mental, spiritual lives. I might have spoken in terms of virtue ethics (Love, Courage, Friendliness, Responsibility, Care, Attentiveness,) and so on. It is surprising to me that none of the writers wrote in those terms, not predominantly; And it’s not clear to me which of his nodes those things would fit into. After reading his nodes, I think, ”Oh, well, yes, in terms of that language, and that framing, I would write like so: …”

The writers, the students and other people that he did his studies on, did not have access to read each other’s writings until after they were done writing them. So, no essayist knew what the others were writing.

Graves did have people who wrote about “Love, Courage, Friendliness, Responsibility, Care, Attentiveness”. He identified this focus as “F-S”. (see a table of levels here: http://clarewgraves.com/theory_content/CG_FuturistTable.htm )

Here is an audio clip of graves talking about dealing with F-S.

Although, when Graves did this research in the late 1950’s thru early seventies, this was mostly a way of thinking of younger generations. Older people tended to be centered around thinking in what Graves identified as D-Q and/or E-R. And, so did many younger people.

As you mention, the http://clarewgraves.com site does not contain a comprehensive body of work that allows you to accurately judge this theory. Instead, that site is more of a historical archive, most of it collected by a great guy that I have had the pleasure of chatting with a few times, name Bill Lee.

So, the http://clarewgraves.com site shows how Graves’s theory evolved from his first early work in the 1950’s, to his later theoretical work in the early 1980’s. but, as you mention, it is tough to wrap your head around his ideas based on following the rather cryptic progression.

For a long time, the over best comprehensive description by Graves of his theory was “Levels of Existence: An Open System Theory of Values,” The Journal of Humanistic Psychology, Fall 1970, Vol. 10. No. 2, pp. 131-154.

Then, in around 2001, Bill Lee put together ''Clare W. Graves: Levels of Human Existence'' from his own recordings and transcriptions of Graves’s talks about the theory. Clare W. Graves: Levels of Human Existence also had better in-depth looks and descriptions about how Graves came up with his “data”, what it was made up of, and what his methods were. (and, Clare W. Graves: Levels of Human Existence also included The Journal of Humanistic Psychology article mentioned above).

People who were direct students of Graves had talked for years about the fact that Graves had actually written a book about his theory, that included concise answers to many questions about his data and methods. This book was recently rescued from different dusty office back corners and barns, carefully pieced together, restored, and published with Graves’s wife’s permission. It’s titled ’''The Never Ending Quest''. This is probably the best currectly existing source of material for trying to understand or work with this theory.

The thing about Graves’s theory is that we have learned a lot about complex systems, and genetics, and human neurofunction and neuroscience since Graves stopped working on his theories. So, a lot of that new knowledge has not yet been updated into Graves’s work. But, the core part of his theory, as illustrated atthe top of this page, still is the best description of the dynamics and reality of human psychology to date, IMO.

Lion also wrote: I want to respond more, later, but very briefly:

  • “man’s nature is not a set thing, that it is ever emergent, that it is an open system, not a closed system.”-Clare W. Graves

How does this square with the nodes? The nodes seem pretty articulated, and seem to “want” to express closure or completeness. The “topmost node” is pretty wide-open, what would exist beyond it?

What room is there for other nodes? Or are we talking about alien intelligences, (or TransHumanism,) at that point?

Or does he view the nodes as just a handful of the possible states out there?

The word “node” or “Nodal” in Graves’s theory refers to being centered in a “level”. Most people are not highly “Nodal” in their thinking, but rather operate in different roles in their lives with a unique admixture of these states that Graves identified.

I would say that, for someone doing research on or with Graves’s theory, that other levels beyondbetween or in addition to those found by Graves (the A-N, B-O, C-P, D-Q, E-R, F-S, G-T, H-U levels) are definitely possible. Graves said himself that his theory was open ended. I believe it is open ended with regard to what levels exist and do not exist. For instance, there is evidence that Asian cultures may think about things in a profoundly different way than Western cultures see:[Nisbett, The Geography of Thought http://www.amazon.com/Geography-Thought-Asians-Westerners-Differently/dp/0743216466]. Thus, Graves’s observations of these cultures may have produced a different set of “levels”. Or, the same set, but in a different chronology of emergence in history. Plus, some of us interested in Graves’s teories are discussing and exploring the idea that Graves’s theoretical “earliest” level “A-N” (“express self now for physiological satisfaction now”) may actually also have levels within it. Recent findings in comparative neuroanatomy of different mammals shows that they possess and experience complex emotions, intellegences (see: Butler, HodosComparative Vertebrate Neuroanatomy: Evolution and Adaptation. Work by primatologists also shows that animals like baboons (see Sapolsky) and other primates, and possibly dogs, dolphins, and other creatures also possess complex social structures. So, although Graves originally focused his work on “Adult, Human” subjects, recent directions in science suggest that more can be learned by expanding the perspective, but applying the central principle: The Existential (“life”) Conditions interacting with The Dynamic Neuronal systems. I believe this can be applied to Adult humans, to human children, to elephants, to squid, to chimpanzees, to any intelligence that operates with dynamic neuronal systems.

Revisiting

I’d engage you more on LiteracyOfHumanNature, but, frankly speaking:

  • It feels so big, enormous, and un-documented on the Internet, that I have a hard time engaging with it.
  • It doesn’t strike me as intuitively obvious: There are a number of statements that it involves, that feel like MetaPhysics, that it is hard for me to take in at once.

I can agree with two of three challenges:

  • human nature isn’t set
  • it adapts (“copes”) in response to the world
    • as individuals, and as societies, and as a species

The third challenge is hard for me, and where I am “stuck.”

Even understanding what is meant is very hard:

Quoting literally: …the emergence within humans of new BioPsychoSocial?? systems in response to the interplay of external conditions with neurology follows a hierarchy in several dimensions, though without guarantees as to time lines or even direction: both progression and regression are possibilities in his model. Furthermore, each level in the hierarchy alternates as the human is either trying to make the environment adapt to the self, or the human is adapting the self to the existential conditions.

I have a very hard time turning that into PlainTalk.

Here are some fragments I can tassel out:

  • brains, and systems living within brains
  • there’s a hierarchy of some sort
  • something about trying to change the environment, vs. changing the self
  • there’s a very intentional thing about saying, “But this hierarchy doesn’t predict the future, or make you do things.”

If this core is truely the most important thing, …

…then, I’m a little confused. The first two things strike me as obvious. If there’s an inspiring conclusion from those two things, I need to be walked over to it.

The third thing is very poorly worded: I don’t understand it clearly.

I worry that the thing being described is so complex, that there are no easy “cutting points.” I don’t see how I could use this, to change things.

It’d be like saying: “Well, the world is this immensely complicated open thing made out of (in some parts:) roads, wires, muscle, brains, empty space.”

Then, how do we advance mankind? Our conclusion would be to study how to make roads, or the physics of wires, or the capacities of muscle, MRI graphs of brains, or spaceships. But I don’t think I’m getting special knowledge out of knowing about “this immensely complicated open thing.”

I need to see the cutting edge here.

So, I guess two main questions are:

  • “What’s that third point?”
  • and: “Where does this get us?”

Lion, you are totally right. On the third point, there is a lot that is compressed in there. A lot that needs “unpacking” and conversion to PlainTalk, and hopefully that will help you get some actual value from this.

I will also add a fourth point, that will hopefully introduce a way to apply this viewpoint.

  • What people are saying and doing is important. BUT, it is not as improtant as why they are saying or doing it. To apply this theory, ask the question “who is doing what to whom, and why?”

So, above is an attempt at explaning point three.

So, where does this get us?

Briefly, understanding “why” people are doing something, or solving problems in a certain way can help you “tune your transmitter to their receiver”, it can help you see reality from their perspective, from their world view. this can in turn help you communicate with them better.

This can help you design better systems for the way that people learn. This can help you help other people work together in more sustainable ways.

Also, lion wrote: The first two things strike me as obvious. If there’s an inspiring conclusion from those two things, I need to be walked over to it.

One inspiring conclusion for me about the first thing is that there there is no “pinnacle” to achieve, no top of a glorious mountain, or peak of a pyramid to reach. Actually, it is the opposite. YOu turn the pyramid on it’s head, and extend the bottom of the base out into infinity. That is the direction of the evolution of human nature.

One inspiring conclusion about the second thing is that we can understand part of “why” people solve problems the way that they do by looking at the brain. The neuroanatomy, and the active neuroendochrine systems. We learn more and more about the way the brain works, and we can go back and compare this with the patterns that Graves observed.

Lion, I jotted down a lot of stuff real fast. Feel free to respond to it, but also know that I am going to coem back and tie it together in a way that makes more sense. I was running into some computer issues, and other tasks taking me away from the computer. But, I am getting close making this all understandable and useful, I promise :)(plus, your questions help me think about ways to put this into PlainTalk).

Oh, man.

That’s:

A) Incredibly awesome.

B) Huge.

It’s going to take me some time to think about this, and give a good response.

The danger is that I think too long, and work too hard on a response. So, I’ll try and give a partial response, in the interest of keeping things moving, within a couple days.

Another thing is that I think some of it is still in the realm of “poorly written” on my part, and I think I have only “walked you over to” some of the value, and have only accomplished PlainTalk with part of this. Your responses are good, because they show me where I may be going off the deep end with complex technical language and jargon. My real goal is to actually give people a “literacy” or way of thinking about this that they can grok, and as you say, some useful insights that they can take away and apply. So, I will of course keep returning to this page. And, I encourage others to debate, criticize, confirm, or expand, of course.

Neuro anatomical convergence between cetaceans and primates.

Whales contain as many or more Spindle cells as humans do.

I’m with Lion that this is huge, hard to cope with. And that a rigid ladder scheme doesn’t seem appropriate.

I’d like to contribute two other sources that underline the importance of the “why” question in a very general way. KarlPopper’s “life is solving problems” and Christopher Alexander’s general PatternTheory of living organic systems (a pattern is the solution to a problem in a context, so for anything existing there is a “why”).

What irritates me is the constant talk about “neuronal aspects” which imho doesn’t actually contribute to the phenomenological screening of human orientation and motivation. It seems to contradict the “man is not a (closed) machine” idea, which seems essential to all holistic thought systems.

The “ladder scheme” is an artefact of observation, it is not a universal pattern. other patterns may possibly be observed to emerge over time. This is the pattern Clare W Graves claimed to have observed in his data.

The talk here is about dynamic neuronal systems, which beyond the shadow of a doubt do contribute to the way that your brain/mind system processes information about the world, formulates world-views, etc. Not just neuronal systems, but also human endochrine systems (the chemicals produced by your body). I am sorry, but human biology, and neuro anatomy, and neuro-chemisty is a MASSIVELY HUGE factor in “phenomenological screening of human orientation and motivation”.

The fact is that there are some close to mirror-image similarities in the neuro-anatomy of all humans, and there are a few observable similarities in the very core basic behavior of all people. But, this does not mean that human minds operate like machines, because they are dynamic, complex adaptive, emergent, evolving, living systems. Yet, we cannot ignore or dismiss the biological realities, if we want to understand the system.

This theory laid out above does not focus only on the biological influences/aspects of human nature. It also focuses on the external environment, the social, the cultural. The total of internal and external forces is the “system” being observed. Yes, it is complex (and so is human nature), yes, it is a pain in the ass to wrap your head around (ditto for human nature), yes, the theory and models are unfinsihed (and so is the evolution of human nature). Yet, there is nothing else that currently exists, that I know of, that does a better job of taking into account the forces that shape human nature.

I like that you introduce Popper and Alexander, and it seems that most thinking based on non-linear systems theory resonates around “why”, because of the emergent complexity on many scales, there is always a “why”.

The core patterns that Graves observed that he did believe would be found to be universal were the “Express self” and “Sacrifice Self” motivations/“locus of control”.

These were the first patterns that were universally observed in Graves’s data, and the patterns that Graves observed in virtually all other competing theories of psychological development:

http://clarewgraves.com/theory_content/compared/CGcomp1.htm

Graves first started his research in attempt to disprove Maslow’s work, btw. Maslow eventually conceded that “Graves had it right” and that Maslow himself was wrong in his own theory about human nature, which is more widely accepted.

Sam, when I criticise the reference to neuronal ideas in that context, then not because I think they are not relevant, quite to the contrary. I just think that the table is more a valid intellectual construction, a result of thorough categorization, than something derived from neuronal research.

It looks to me like a mapping of concepts, not like a description of a state or a development.

Well, you make a good point, because the technology to research brain activity did not exist when this theory was created (1950’s-1980’s). Most of the connections made to brain activity and neuro-endocrine systems are conjecture by myself, and others. However, it is a well founded conjecture, IMO. I’ve seen enough pertaining to what we’ve learned about human brain function to be very confident that neurology and neuro-endochrine systems are a major factor in the patterns that Graves observed in his observations of people.

So, there’s not yet a proven conenction, but there is solid evidence that certain observable behaviors emerge in humans when faced with different external conditions, ansd there is more knowledge being built up about how this plays out within the brain.

In any case, I think I should update this page to reflect the important point that you make. To seperate the actual theory from the conjecture that I am adding onto it.

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